“Tough Game” Features Alex Bruce Brace in North Texas SC win

North Texas Soccer Club is well into their preseason as they took on the SMU Mustangs for their penultimate preseason game. With the USL League One season starting on March 28th for North Texas SC, Eric Quill is looking to fine-tune his team as they hope not only to develop the up-and-coming FC Dallas stars but repeat as league Champions.

North Texas SC forward Alex Bruce crossing the ball while facing two SMU defenders. (Courtesy of North Texas SC)

The Game

With the season fast approaching, North Texas SC started the game off imposing their gameplan in the opening minutes.

While Derek Waldeck was listed in the starting lineup though he was quickly substituted for Bryan Reynolds in just the 4th minute.

North Texas SC XI in the first half vs. SMU

In those opening minutes, newcomer Alex Bruce scored the opening goal to give the development club the lead over the Mustangs. North Texas SC continued to have plenty of control over the match throughout the first half.

Only two changes were made at the start of the second half: Luiz Zamudio for Carlos Avilez and Alisson for Philip Ponder. The 60-minute saw a flurry of changes which resulted in a new lineup for North Texas SC.

North Texas SC lineup after 60th substitutions vs SMU

Alex Bruce went on to score his second goal of the game after Ronaldo Damus ran down the left side of the field and crossed the ball right into the feet of Alex Bruce.

Things got a little heated between both teams as some players were “suggested” to be substituted during the game after serious game infringements. SMU grew as the match progressed and did have a couple of chances to reduce their goal deficit, though they had no luck in putting the ball in the back of the net.

The match ended with North Texas SC coming away with a shut-out and an Alex Bruce brace.

Thoughts & Takeaways

Coming Together

When it comes to a preseason game, the result is not the most important takeaway of the game. This game demonstrates that despite coming away with a result, the score did not describe how any side played. Regular viewers of North Texas SC know that the product on the field is not the standard quality of play.

“It looked like preseason,” Eric Quill said of the match. “It’s a tough game where there are a lot of moving parts. Guys just getting together for the first time, kinda like we were last year…It was sloppy at times but I am proud of them.”

Soccer games are typically categorized into the two halves that split the game. While this preseason game doesn’t necessarily have two halves, it can be split into two chunks that match the lineup changes: the first group featuring North Texas and FC Dallas regulars and the second group consisting of newer players.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suspect that the starting lineup is one that could feature for the opening game of North Texas SC’s season. The main focus of the USL League One team is to give FC Dallas players minutes who are not finding regular minutes with the first team while developing said players. Many of these players have played with each other or have the flexibility and skill set to slide into a roster that doesn’t upset the balance and fluidity of the gameplan.

“I was just telling the guys in the locker that the fluidity is not going to be there at this point because they’re a lot of new guys that are just playing with the likes of Edwin [Cerrillo] and Thomas [Roberts] for the first time,” Coach Quill said when talking about the balance and fluidity that the first-team players have on the team.

Naturally, with the addition of these first-team players comes a higher quality game. The new players such as Alex Bruce, Anders Engebretsen, and Juan Manuel Alvarez all are getting used to their new teammates but are performing well and making a positive impact with their new team. Though, when a new group of players who have not played with each other are placed in a competitive game (the purpose of a preseason game) there are going to be moments where the quality of play is not at its best or full potential. Such was the case when the second squad was brought on.

“There’s going to be a lot of miscalculation and missed timed running and just trying to get to know each other’s profiles,” Coach Quill remarked about some of the disconnection in the run of play. “So it’s just amazing what playing together over and over again can achieve but we just didn’t have that today.”

“When we didn’t look the part is when guys want to take extra touches. For me, that’s how you know the guys don’t understand each other and haven’t played together is when they have to take extra touches. They just don’t know who’s around them and why they are around them and what they can do with them if they just shared [the ball] with each other.”

This shouldn’t concern anyone who was caught off guard regarding the quality of play. It’s completely normal and working through these awkward moments is the purpose of a preseason game. It gives the players time to understand the game philosophy in a competitive environment and allows the players and coaching staff to learn about, adjust, and become familiar with the tendencies and capabilities of their fellow teammates.

Bridging the Gap

Not only is this a growing moment for the players but also for Eric Quill and his staff. This year, Coach Quill is listed as an assistant coach for FC Dallas. This is to reinforce the idea of North Texas SC being a bridge between players with high-potential and the first-team. The coaching staff wants to make the transitions for the players as smooth and seamless as possible. Viewers of North Texas SC should expect to see more and more of Luchi Gonzalez’s game philosophy appearing with North Texas SC.

“I was with them in preseason when it first started, so it’s been valuable for me to see from every facet from their preparation and the tactics in which they want to implement,” Eric Quill about being an FC Dallas assistant coach. “[I’m] able to bring it over to the second team because that’s the goal.”

“The goal is to prepare these guys and have second-team players ready when their number is called and have it be seamless,” Quill continued. “They know how to press when they go there, they know what the philosophy of style of play is and moving it and combinations. That’s what the valuable piece for me being with them is I get to be first hand and see it for my own self. With Luchi and having dialogue and discussing and reflecting and bringing it into the second-team locker room.”

While it wasn’t the prettiest of games for North Texas SC, it was a necessary game for the club to have. It is better to lack in fluidity and have a disconnect between players during preseason than during the regular season. Preseason is designed for moments like this match and the coaching staff did well to put their players in an unfamiliar situation to help them grow and develop as players.

North Texas SC will play The University of Tulsa for the final preseason game on March 14th, two weeks before their first USL League One against South Georgia Tormenta FC on March 28th.

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