North Texas SC returns to Arlington for the MLS Next Pro Game of the Week against Dynamo Dos tonight at 8 pm.
The Texas Derby has evolved into a deeply competitive matchup between FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo. With both sides developing pro-level second teams, the rivalry has become a point of pride for the entire organization. MLS Next Pro pieced together a video preview you can watch here: www.mlsnextpro.com/video/gotw
Before jumping into tonight’s matchup, let’s take a quick look at last week’s match against San Jose II.
NTX played well early in the match. In the 18th minute, Pablo Torre created an opportunity out of nowhere, assisting Isaiah Parker for his first goal of the season.
From there it was the Eduardo Blancas show. A misplayed pass from Paul Amedume set Blancas up for his first goal, and SJII overwhelmed NTX early in the second half for Blancas to score once again.
The score was now 2-1.
Beginning with this week, the league implemented two rule changes.
The first of which moves injured players off-field. That player treatment lasts three minutes, giving the other team an 11-10 player advantage. North Texas had the advantage in the 23rd minute but were unable to capitalize.
After receiving two soft yellow cards, Hope Avayevu got sent off at the end of the first half. The second rule means Avayevu’s suspension would be carried out during the next matchup between the two. That being said, we won’t face SJII again this season, so his suspension will be carried out tonight instead.
After three halftime subs, Coach Pa-Modou Kah looked for an offensive response to being a man down.
“We tried to set up ways to attack the other team with a man down. We were close in a couple of chances in the second half, but it is difficult playing with 10 men. The heart and desire that my players showed to compete makes me really proud,” said Kah.
Despite Kah’s strategy, the team would suffer a 3-1 defeat, their third loss in four matches.
The Big Issue
The problem for North Texas these past few weeks has been defensive miscommunications.
They’ve struggled to play team defense as they had earlier in the season and the entire defense has seen constant rotation.
This is largely because the team’s best defensive players continue to get called up to the USYNT and FC Dallas. Nonetheless, last week’s unfortunate loss finally saw the return of goalkeeper Antonio Carrera and star defender Nolan Norris.
The Texas Derby
“My expectation is to win and this is the biggest game of the year for me,” said Carrera, he continued, “Houston and Dallas have always had this rivalry, this hate for each other. Every time we both step onto the same field it’s going to be a war.”
The previous matchup between the two didn’t feature Carrera, who was away competing with the USYNT. A game that featured numerous mistakes ultimately resulted in a 3-2 loss for North Texas.
In his midweek press conference, Kah stated: “This is a great test for us, it’s a state rivalry and it means a lot. We lost the first game but we focus on what is going on now and we forget about the past. Our boys are ready to come out the gates flying after the result in the last match.”
Both teams spent a good portion of the season at the top of the league table but now sit in the 3rd and 4th spots respectively.
Today’s matchup will not only have playoff implications but serves as a point of pride for the North Texas players.
The league leader in assists Avayevu will face his suspension tonight, but Kah feels confident he can adjust the game plan accordingly.
Star players like Carrera, Norris and Bernard Kamungo will likely start once again in the most important game of the season so far.
Make sure to tune in at 8 p.m. tonight and catch the game on https://www.mlsnextpro.com/.