North Texas SC is now back on top of the USL League One standings. On Wednesday night in Toyota Stadium, NTSC matched up against Forward Madison FC in NTSC’s seventh game of the season. The team is now officially a quarter of the way through its matches this year, and the club looks unstoppable. They now have a two-point cushion, as well as at least one game in hand on the three next teams behind them in the standings.
NTSC went with the same backline as when they faced Lansing on Saturday. In the midfield, Bicou Bissainthe replaced Gibran Rayo, and Ronaldo Damus replaced Oscar Romero on the wing. Up top, Ricardo Pepi was placed back into the starting lineup in place of Johan Gomez. In the 59th minute, Julian Hinojosa subbed in for Bicou Bissainthe, in the 71st minute, Gibran Rayo subbed in for David Rodriguez, and in the 81st minute, Johan Gomez subbed in for Arturo Rodriguez.
The momentum of the match began heavily in favor of NTSC.
Right at the beginning, in the 3rd minute, a ball launched into the attack from the left foot of Alfusainey Jatta was flicked on by Ricardo Pepi to put the speedy Ronaldo Damus in behind the Madison defense. Damus put the ball into the back of the net to open the game’s scoring.
Only a few minutes later, in the 8th minute, NTSC found its second goal of the match. NTSC had a buildup of twelve passes which brought the ball across the field from the right side to the left, back to the right, and back to the left again. The ball found its way to Imanol Almaguer, who found space to charge towards the opposing backline and play the ball the Arturo Rodriguez in the box. Arturo Rodriguez played a low cross to find his brother, David Rodriguez, at the top of the box. David’s first-timed shot went in off the crossbar.
When it started to look like this game would be a walk in the park for NTSC, the momentum shifted the way of Forward Madison FC, who scored in the 15th minute. A ball across the face of goal by Barriga Toyama found Don Smart at the back post, who scored to make the game 2-1.
In the 30th minute, the Rodriguez brothers combined well again in the attack. After a couple of passes back and forth between them, David Rodriguez executed an excellent turn and was able to take a shot in a dangerous position in front of goal, but his shot sailed harmlessly over the goal.
Ronaldo Damus almost headed in a goal in the 58th minute off a beautiful cross by Tanner Tessman, but his header was blocked by a defender.
Tanner Tessman had another nice pass that created a dangerous opportunity for NTSC in the 62nd minute. His nice pass from inside his own half at the edge of the center circle sprung Kevin Bonilla on the right side. Bonilla dribbled dangerously into the box and played the ball to David Rodriguez, who pulled his shot just wide of goal.
Imanol Almaguer made the game 3-1 in the 70th minute. He started the play with a switch-field ball to Ronaldo Damus. Damus then played the ball to Julian Hinojosa. Hinojosa played the ball in the middle, which found Almaguer after a nice dummy by Arturo Rodriguez. Almaguer struck a long-ranged bullet low and past the outstretched arm of the Madison keeper.
Damus did not stop there, and had two opportunities in the last ten minutes of play. In the 83rd minute, Damus used his speed to create a shooting opportunity for himself in the box, and his shot was saved. In the 86th minute, Damus latched onto a long clearance by Johan Gomez. He skillfully cut the ball across his defender and unselfishly played it to Pepi, who had space in the box. Pepi failed to capitalize on the opportunity, however.
We earned our 6th win in 7 games and kept the unbeaten streak alive to reclaim 1st place in @USLLeagueOne last night with a 3-1 win over @ForwardMSNFC!— North Texas SC (@northtexasSC) May 23, 2019
Check out all the highlights and goals from the game! ⬇️#WeAreNext | #NTXvMAD pic.twitter.com/EHwkN1DrUi
Not a one-trick pony
NTSC’s first four goals were all scored by Ricardo Pepi. Nobody else on the team scored in the first two matches. Then Pepi went on national team duty with the USMNT U17’s. NTSC continued its winning record, and showed that the team was more than just Pepi. When Pepi returned on Saturday against Lansing, NTSC looked like it was headed towards its first loss until Pepi’s awesome free kick strike in addition to his movement, strength, and quality helped re-energize his side to rally to a draw with a nice goal by Arturo Rodriguez.
Coming into this match against Forward Madison, seeing Pepi with five goals in three appearances made it easy to put high expectations on the young striker. Pepi ended up having an off-night, which is normal and okay. What was important was that other players stepped up. Instead of forcing balls to Pepi and putting the responsibility solely on his shoulders, NTSC worked as a team of all 11 players on the field, like they did in Pepi’s absence. Players such as Ronaldo Damus, David Rodriguez, Arturo Rodriguez, and Imanol Almaguer delivered for this team. This team is looking unstoppable at the moment, and is very exciting to watch.
North Texas SC will have its next match on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 against Toronto FC II.