FRISCO, Texas – With plenty of new faces on display, North Texas SC claimed an impressive 1-0 win over USL Championship side El Paso Locomotive FC in its first preseason fixture of the season Saturday afternoon. Mauricio Fazio scored the game's lone goal with a well-taken finish in the second half.
“[I’m] super proud of the guys,” head coach Eric Quill said postgame. “I mean, it was a game where we have players that are coming in as trialists and coming in to help us out because our numbers are low. [We had] all these walks of life to come together and play well. The physical goal was to make sure we got the guys to the 60-70-minute threshold and if there is quality with it, that is a bonus.”
The initial starting 11 included Carlos Avilez, Pedro Conceição, Alisson dos Santos Correa, Nicolas Scargle, Imanol Almaguer, Diego Guttierez, Gibran Rayo, David Rodriguez, Anders Engebretsen, Oscar Romero and Alex Bruce. Conceição was forced off early in the first half, though, with what the coaching staff hopes is a dead leg and nothing long term.
“I always want our mentality to be right, but I thought our soccer was really good today,” Quill said. “I mean, we missed some really good chances and those chances came off of really good soccer, movements and quick passing combinations. So, from that standpoint, I’m just extremely pleased, based on the fact that this is only week two. So, if we keep building like this, I think we’re on a good path and trajectory for Mar. 28.”
Much to Quill’s point, North Texas controlled much of the game out of the back and in the midfield. The USL League One side did not look out of its depths against the Championship opposition. In the first 45, it was Engebretsen and Rodriguez who looked the sharpest. Over the full 90, one could certainly argue that the two battled each other for Man of the Match.
“Anders was magnificent,” Quill said. “He can run, but with his running, he made good decisions. He was a handful when he played as a winger. He was great playing out of the back, which he doesn’t do. We asked him to do something that was not normal for him and he took it in stride and was still very effective. So, I think this kid is going to surprise a lot of people with how fast he is going to turn heads.”
The Norwegian, who recently signed after spending the first part of preseason with FC Dallas, will look to tie down a consistent spot as the team’s right winger, although he did interestingly play the second half as a right back.
“He is growing every practice,” Quill said. “His mentality is one of a high-level professional, so I really think, as the season goes on, more and more people are going to be Anders Engebretsen fans.”
The team will start again with training on Monday, as it prepares for the next preseason fixture against the Tulsa Roughnecks on Feb. 25.
“We got special players here that are just good human beings,” Quill said. “When you have a good culture and good human beings in your locker room that are understanding what this is all about, people tend to just fall in line and they just love being here. So, it is just a group that is coming together fast and the chemistry is really good early on, so I am just really pleased with where we are.”