FRISCO—North Texas SC learned a vital lesson in perseverance on its first multi-game road trip.
Last Tuesday, the team embarked on a six-day trip which would see it play two back-to-back away games without ever returning home to Texas. Head coach Eric Quill and co. flew north of the border to play Toronto FC II before departing to fly to Richmond, VA to face the Kickers at City Stadium—at least that was the plan.
The trip started about as poorly as possible as North Texas SC suffered its first-ever loss to Toronto FC II, 3-2. To make matters worse, the team’s flight to Richmond was delayed and subsequently cancelled forcing the team to drive the remainder of the journey, renting three mini vans to carry the party of over 20 players and staff the five-hour trek to Richmond.
Such a travel fiasco on the back of the club’s first loss would seemingly be the worst possible preparation ahead Saturday’s match against fourth place Richmond Kickers. However, Eric Quill’s young team responded admirably in the face of its biggest obstacle yet.
"Honestly, I don't think it affected us as much as I thought it would,” said defender Cesar Murillo on how the team dealt with the defeat and flight cancellation. “If anything, I think it brought us together. During the five hours in the vans, I think the team could've taken it one way or the other and I think we took it the right way. We built team chemistry and we bonded together which really showed on the field."
The team’s added chemistry was certainly apparent on the field against Richmond as North Texas ran out 3-0 winners to retain first place in USL League One. Not only was it a convincing score-line, North Texas’ fluidity in attack (particularly in the second half) was remarkable—especially considering the average age of the starting XI was 18.4-years-old to Richmond’s 25.6.
Facing a team with an average of seven more years of experience is never easy, particularly considering the chaos of the three days leading up to the game. However, a key component of North Texas SC and head coach Eric Quill’s philosophy is educating young players on how to handle the off-the-field issues associated with being a professional athlete.
“This was an abnormal road trip,” said head coach Quill. “Two games where you don't come home, so that amount of time was really valuable for us to spend together and get to know each other and obviously going through the travel mishaps. We preach flexibility and adaptation and they did beautiful. It was not ideal but there was no complaining and there was a lot of laughter.”
Thankfully for coach Quill, his message wasn’t lost on his players.
"To be honest, for me and for all the guys, it was just like a bonding trip,” said defender Hector Montalvo. “Coach even said it, before we left to Toronto, he said, 'this is where the teams get closer and there's going to be a lot of mishaps and a lot of things we can't control but we just have to fight through it and get six points.'”
While the team wasn’t able to get all six points from the trip, they got something perhaps even more valuable.
“I think everybody felt validated for the work they put in and how long the trip was,” said Quill. “The guys just get along really well. Chemistry is maybe more underrated than anything else in a game and we have talent along with chemistry, it's a pretty lethal combination for success."