After developing a bad habit this season of conceding late in games, North Texas may have finally exorcised those demons in a 1-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2.
Nolan Norris stepped in at CB in the absence of the suspended Henri Santos (Yellow Card accumulation) and Amet Korca starts again for NTSC. Tomas Pondeca continued his streak of starting as a central midfielder, and Anthony Ramirez started on the right wing.
Recent signing, Latauro Taboada, was not with the team due to travel complications, presumably visa-related as this match was north of the border.
North Texas spent the first portion of the game with their ears pinned back, but Antonio Carrera stood tall, denying the hosts an opener in the 11th minute with a huge stop.
After 25′, Jose Mulato picked out a header in the box, but it curled just wide of the post.
Just before the 30-minute mark, Carl Sainte chipped a pass into the box for Andre Costa, whose header was blocked by a Vancouver arm to earn North Texas a penalty!
The captain, Andre Costa, stepped up to take the penalty, but the goalie read it well and denied Costa’s attempt.
Vancouver had a flurry of shots just before the halftime whistle, as a close-in header sailed just wide and Carrera denied two big chances.
The scoreline was knotted at zeros at the half, but after a missed penalty and many opposing shots on target, the challenge that lay ahead for North Texas seemed a difficult one.
10 minutes into the second half, Carrera stood tall yet again, with three huge saves on goalbound shots in quick succession.
In the 64th minute, Carrera denied the home side to make his fourth save of the half and eighth of the match!
Dylan Lacy subbed on for Ramirez in the 79th minute.
With 10 minutes remaining, Sainte ripped a free kick from 25 yards out that rattled the crossbar, nearly the opener.
GOAL! Jose Mulato smashes home a rebound in the box after a great bit of skill and a beautiful pass to set up Hope Avayevu in the box.
Carrera would not be denied in pursuit of his clean sheet, as he denied Vancouver’s close-range effort with just minutes remaining in the 90.
Carrera’s efforts were well rewarded, as his career-high 10 saves and his first clean sheet since the 4-0 thumping of Portland in July.
Quotes and Takeaways
A much-needed 3 points for North Texas, for any glimmer of hope for a playoff spot. Mulato was aggressive all night, and importantly created and finished the chance for the goal with a great dribble and pass into the box.
Carl Sainte‘s ability on the ball has improved tremendously and has put together an impressive highlight reel of slick passes into the box and thundering shots.
Head Coach John Gall called the clean sheet on the road a “bonus” that went alongside the win and credited the player’s “gritty” and hard work.
On Mulato’s game-winning goal, Coach Gall said “He just kept running… he doesn’t miss a beat! I am happy for him.”
“You make 10 saves away from home, you get a clean sheet, and the players in front of him made it very difficult for the opponents to get a clean look at goal.”
Gall echoed praise for Sainte’s performance, “I think [he] was dominant again in center midfield. The amount of work he puts in and the amount of quality that he has… he has certainly been a standout on the field.”
Tomas Pondeca put in another great shift Friday night, and his move from out wide to a central midfielder has been a success under Gall’s leadership.
“We are a possession-based team, we want the ball at our feet. And obviously Tomas’ background, he is very technically gifted, very clean with his feet. He helps us control the game, he is very calm on the ball. He has that little change of speed, and makes some really good threaded passes. Tomas is the type of kid that if I put him in goal he wouldn’t complain. He’s the type of player to help propel this team forward.”
North Texas SC will return home to Choctaw Stadium to face Colorado Rapids 2 on Sunday, September 3rd.