FRISCO - After a 4-0 victory over the Richmond Kickers, North Texas SC became the first team to claim home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs. The team’s recent form is exceptional, and any thoughts that they might be cracking under the pressure is in the rear-view mirror. After two consecutive losses, North Texas rebounded to go 5-1-1 over the next seven games and retake a big lead atop the table.
There are a few things North Texas has done in recent weeks to help them rediscover the form that built up a sizable lead in the league earlier this year. It has found a clinical edge in front of goal, led by Ronaldo Damus. Creative players have started to find more space to operate in, leading to a plethora of assists, chances created, and penalties awarded. More importantly, the center backs of North Texas, Callum Montgomery and Brecc Evans have started to develop a real partnership.
“I think that the results speak for themselves,” Evans said. “It has evolved throughout the season, figuring out the little grooves, the problems that used to happen to us, they aren’t really happening anymore. As the season has progressed, we have developed a much better relationship for sure.”
The results do indeed speak for themselves. In the last six games that Montgomery and Evans have partnered in the back, they have kept four clean sheets and conceded and average of .33 goals a game. The positions around the pairing, such as the defensive midfielder and the fullbacks have changed, but it has become more common to see a clean sheet as the season progresses.
“Anytime you are able to get some synergy through multiple games, it is going to be beneficial that those guys have played together now and understand each other,” Head Coach Eric Quill said when discussing the pairing at the back. “They talked about it, and they communicate well with each other, and it helps as a coach to have a solid back line that understand each other’s profiles and understand how we play.”
When Montgomery and Evans are paired at the back, they do more than just keep the ball out of the back of the net. In the last three matches, both center backs have above an 85% passing percentage. Often, Evans and Montgomery are asked to do more than just defend, and they are both excellent on the ball, truly understanding how important ball retention is to a North Texas team that has kept at least 55% possession in their last five wins.
The sense of security that the center backs provide has influenced other parts of the team as well. “It has helped the team because they have done a great job,” midfielder Arturo Rodriguez said. “I think there is a confidence at the back, and when there is confidence at the back, there is a confidence throughout the team.”
“As the season has progressed, playing alongside Callum, everything has gotten better,” Evans said. “Our relationship and our partnership have increased. Absolutely, familiarity is important.”
North Texas now turns its attention to the next game with a big prize in sight-home field advantage for the entire playoffs and securing the number one seed. Considering that North Texas only needs a draw to secure top spot, don’t be surprised to see Montgomery and Evans securing the clean sheet that ensured North Texas end the season as the regular season champions.