At 7 p.m. tonight, North Texas SC will take on the San Jose Earthquakes II.
This marks the first ever game between the two in a match that will showcase the defensive strengths of both sides. The game will also serve as the Earthquakes belated home-opener.
North Texas’s high scoring offense has so far had to compensate for a defense that’s played below expectations. This is in-spite of goalkeeper, Antonio Carrera, playing well so far, allowing 1.7 goals less than his XGA (expected goals allowed) through three games.
Although the team’s defense ranks second in the league in both interceptions and defensive duels won, they’ve yet to secure a clean sheet this season.
When talking about the teams’ first potential shutout, Defender Chase Niece said, “Defending is a team effort; the backline takes a lot of pride in it. We are continuing to instill into our character and into our blood as just having pride in defending and not giving up goals.”
They’ll need to limit any goal-scoring opportunities tonight, as they’ll likely get very few chances to retaliate. San Jose boasts a defense capable of slowing down the league’s best offenses, and have only allowed a single goal through two games.
This is in large part thanks to 16-year-old standout Emmanuel Ochoa. Just last week, Ochoa was elected the ‘Rising XI’ goalkeeper of the competition for the Generation Adidas Cup hosted in Frisco, Texas.
This competition showcases the best young talent a variety of teams have to offer, all the way from Manchester United, to River Plate of Argentina, and our local FC Dallas youth.
Ochoa however, has now re-joined his regular side, and looks to impress once again.
San Jose is a strong defensive side, that usually relies on set-pieces to score. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sat back tonight and attacked on the counter, or relied on fouls and corner kicks.
Both of San Jose’s center-backs are as good offensively as they are defensively. We’ll likely see a rotation of Niece, Lucas Bartlett, and Paul Amedume throughout the 90-minutes. With much of the lineup looking to remain the same, aside from some midfield changes.
Blaine Ferri is the only part of the midfield that looks secure in his role as Derek Waldeck recently lost the captains arm-band to Bernard Kamungo. Santiago Ferreira has looked a step too slow so far.
It looks like the team will also struggle to finish crosses against such a sturdy defense, so we’ll likely see a strategy similar to last game’s second half.
At the end, I think we’ll be looking at a battle for control of possession, and likely a low-scoring affair. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one ends 1-0 for NTX.