FRISCO – North Texas SC faces its toughest test yet as it hosts second place South Georgia Tormenta FC on Saturday in the biggest match of the USL League One season thus far.
The two teams have been head and shoulders above the rest of League One for much of the season, with one of the two clubs holding down top spot ever since Week 2. North Texas has been the dominant force offensively scoring a league-high 30 goals, while Tormenta’s strength has been its defense which has earned the most clean sheets in League One.
Tormenta is the only League One team North Texas hasn’t faced yet, and Saturday’s inaugural meeting promises to be a tense affair.
"Probably up to this point, yeah I would say so,” North Texas head coach Eric Quill said on whether Saturday’s match is the most significant so far. “They’re the last opponent we haven't faced, it just so happens we're [number] one and two and we get them in our home field, so we want to definitely keep our home-field streak alive and utilize that advantage. I think the guys are looking forward to this matchup. Anytime you get one and two in a tight race, the emotions are high and the competitiveness should be at the forefront."
Saturday’s game had the potential to be a battle for first place in League One. However, Tormenta lost its previous two matches, depriving it of the chance to overtake North Texas at Toyota Stadium. Regardless, North Texas is entering the match as if it were the championship game.
“I think we have to take it as a final,” defender Cesar Murillo said. “It's first against second, we have to separate from the table and it's like a final. We need to give everything out there. They're coming here, playing in our home stadium so we have to take advantage of it and get the win."
North Texas has wowed the league with a free-flowing attack that’s averaged two-goals per game. In contrast, Tormenta’s success has been built on a steely defense which makes Saturday’s game a classic battle of attack vs. defense.
"Hopefully, not in a stalemate,” Quill said how his team would fare against Tormenta’s staunch defense. “You never know, does offense prevail or does defense prevail at the end of the day? I think we're going to have to be very good on both sides. I've said it before, this second half of the season we need to concentrate more on our defense and get these shutouts which we're starting to do. We want to be balanced on both sides. I don't know which one wins out, hopefully it's offense."
Should North Texas be victorious on Saturday, it will extend its lead over second-place Tormenta to 11 points—a dominant position at the midpoint of the season. However, North Texas’ squad isn’t ready to look that far ahead just yet.
"We have to focus game-by-game,” Murillo said. “We have to take every game as a final, and obviously, this game is one against two and we're going to take it more as a final but we shouldn't look toward the end of the season, we have to look toward this Saturday first."