North Texas Soccer Club and FC Tucson, two teams looking to solidify a playoff position, faced off at Choctaw Stadium. While the first half didn’t yield any goals, North Texas SC and FC Tucson played to a 1-1 draw, extending North Texas’ unbeaten streak to 9 games.
Devin Benton made his first start with Thibaut Jacquel and Imanol Almaguer returning to the starting eleven.
The first half saw both sides exchange attacking chances that didn’t challenge either keeper. While scoreless, both sides demonstrated their attacking potential.
Devin Benton and Bernard Kamungo made way for Derek Waldeck and Kazu respectively at halftime.
Nicky Hernandez replaced Thibaut Jacquel in the 57th minute.
Gabriel de Morais was substituted in for Imanol Almaguer in the 62nd minute.
Kazu gave North Texas the lead and got his 6th goal of the season in the 77th minute.
The lead didn’t last long as Deri Corfe made it level in the 81st minute.
Blaine Ferri made way for Alex Bruce as the final North Texas substitute in the 82nd minute.
North Texas SC and FC Tucson ended, once again, in a draw with a score of 1-1.
Thoughts & Takeaways
North Texas and FC Tucson, arguably evenly matched sides, played a more patient game in comparison to their typical quicker playstyles.
Both sides opted to cycle the ball backward before moving up the field quickly. The attacking energy came in bursts with balls being played between lines and into space.
“We’ve been playing really well as of late so this performance was disappointing,” Eric Quill told 3rd Degree. “It was not sharp and the intensity just seemed to be lack so we have to figure out the solutions as to why that was. For a squad with this talent, that’s not the type of game we want to play.”
The slow pace allowed for players to find space and move into position for more complex passing combinations
Over the course of the season, North Texas has improved its team and individual defending abilities.
One of the biggest improvements has been the way North Texas forces their opposition out to the flanks and limiting forward progression through the middle.
“I believe we have been playing really good defensive soccer,” Quill said of his team’s defensive work. “I think that is the difference between now and 2019 and 2020 is that we are defending really really well. I’m proud and it’s hard work.”
The success that North Texas had forcing Tucson out wide was in part to how Maldonado, Almaguer, and Ferri shaped defensively.
“I think collectively that if we want to win a championship that we have to work off the ball,” Ferri explained. “We all love to have the ball and it’s very fun but at the same time when we don’t have the ball, that is the other half of the game. We have to work 110%.”
By occupying the middle, the midfield trio was able to mark any central attackers allowing Gomes and Ramirez to aid defensively out wide.
While much of the improvement for North Texas has come from their ability to play as a team, against Tucson, the players displayed the team’s cohesion and individual confidence.
Though, there were moments within the game where extra touches and passes weren’t contributing to the overall development of an attack opportunity.
“We were over passing and balls that had too much weight,” Quill said. “We made choices where we were trying to clip balls into the 18-yard box instead of playing a pass. If we put away our chances early, it could’ve been a different game.”
During the attacking phase, the passing combinations were more elaborate because of player position and individual passing skill. While this extra movement did keep the Tucson players moving, it also came at a detriment to the North Texas attack.
North Texas has 26 points in 19 games and sits in 6th place. North Texas SC heads back on the road to face Chattanooga Red Wolves on Wednesday, September 8th at 6 PM.