Over the first 13 games of the North Texas SC season, the team was nearly unstoppable. It scored 28 goals in these 13 games and was never shut out. North Texas’ offense was fueled by Ricardo Pepi and Ronaldo Damus, the two leading scorers in the league. Arturo Rodriguez, who is tied for the lead in assist in USL League one was also key to their early season offensive prowess. NTSC was the proverbial unstoppable force and it built up a sizeable lead at the top of the table.
However, the offense has begun to falter. Although North Texas was able to record a 2-0 win away from home against Richmond, it has been held to two 0-0 draws during its last two games at Toyota Stadium. While some bad luck has contributed with North Texas hitting the post twice in the last game, there is no doubt that what was once an inexorable offense has run into a rough patch.
It’s clear that teams are defending differently against North Texas than they did earlier in the season. The first three games of the season, opponents averaged 16 tackles a game and 19 clearances. Last game, South Georgia Tormenta FC made 28 clearences and 29 tackles en route to a 0-0 draw.
Midfielder Arturo Rodriguez noted that team are taking a different approach when playing at Toyota Stadium: “It’s difficult when a team sits back and stays close together because we aren’t able to find the spaces to breakthrough,” he said. “We had some opportunities last game that we didn’t take advantage of.”
Captain and defender Brecc Evans also highlighted the importance of taking their chances when opponents set up defensively. “We need to put [our chances] away if teams are going to play in a low block against us. When we do get them, it is important that we are clinical in front of goal.”
Over the course of the season, North Texas SC been clinical, finding the target with 43% of its shots. But in the two 0-0 draws, the average accuracy was only 28%.
Head coach Eric Quill also noted that things have changed at the moment for North Texas. An improved defense that has kept four clean sheets in five games is a point of pride, but Quill emphasized “we don’t want [to lose our improved defense], but we don’t want it to be at the cost of what we do going forward… We want to be killers in front of goal.”
Since NTSC has struggled at home to find a winning goal against low blocks, there is a fear that teams have found a blueprint to frustrate the number-one team. “Maybe people are starting to take that on and make it their approach,” Quill said when asked about two consecutive teams coming to Frisco and focusing on defending deep. “But the bottom line is that we have to be better against those lower blocks.”
Rodriguez also believes that they can improve, and one way they can do that is by scoring the first goal. “It is important to score first because the other team will sit back and [we get] the motivation to score more goals” When scoring the first goal, North Texas is 9-1-1, collecting 28 points from a potential 33.
While North Texas has dropped 4 points in its last two home games, there’s still an 8-point gap at the top of table. The offensive struggles it’s facing are a new challenge, and how it fights through this trial will be key to maintaining its position as the top team in League One.
North Texas SC is having a special $5 ticket offer for its home game on Friday against Greenville Triumph SC at 7 PM. Click HERE to purchase tickets.