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North Texas Two Step – Frustrating Games, Harsh Lessons

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NTSC continues to drop earn-able points, but there are bright spots for this young team.

North Texas SC

Since we last met, North Texas SC collected a single point from two games: a 1-1 home draw against Tucson where they spent 70+ minutes with 10 players, and a 1-0 road loss at Greenville, beaten by the league leaders at the very end of the game. With those results, I’m willing to call the young side’s championship hopes officially gone. These frustrating games served as harsh lessons for NTSC’s young players. Lessons like “don’t retaliate when an opposing player throws an elbow – it may cost your team points”. “Don’t stop playing even if you expect a foul to be called for you – it may cost your team points”.

Neuroplasticity

When talismanic LCB Brecc Evans went off with an injury in the first few minutes of the Greenville game, Quill brought on RB Kevin Bonilla in relief on the right side so the starter there, Alvarez, could shift into midfield to replace Alisson, who slipped back into the LCB spot.

Consequently, NTSC found itself in the same situation as the first team in the game at Atlanta: forced to build down the right side while a right-footer deputized on the left. Of course, instead of FCD legend Matt Hedges, NTSC has 16-year-old academy player Justin Che at RCB, and he bore the bulk of the build-out until NTSC changed formations/tactics in-or-around the 58th minute. As you can see in the below pass maps, Che (#46) was tasked with much more progressive play than Alisson (#27) with predictably mixed results.

Outside of possession, NTSC seemed to miss Evans’ leadership in the back in defense as well. As an illustrative point, Greenville got more crosses off against NTSC than any other team had managed so far in 2020. Of those crosses, Greenville completed 44%, the highest such rate NTSC has conceded this year, suggesting issues of positioning, awareness, and/or organization in the center of defense.

Should Evans be out for a few games, Quill will be banking on either Che growing up quickly or an as-yet-unimpactful veteran (like Ponder) stabilizing the issue.

Hail to The Chef

Assuming you are reading this on the day it comes out, today is Beni Redzic’s 18th birthday. Let’s talk about Beni Redzic, shall we?

The academy winger has been electric for NTSC when he’s played this season, leading the team in both chance creation and body count. Like a hummingbird, Redzic is unworried by the laws of inertia that apply to the rest of us, changing direction so suddenly that he can regularly cook defenders off the dribble, leaving them flailing their legs at thin air. Hail to The Chef:

He was excellent, incisive, dangerous as a U17 attacker in ’17-’18 (especially showing well at the 2018 GA Cup), but then, in the next season-and-a-half playing up with the U19s, he seemed to plateau. There were key games (like the 2019 U19 DA playoff final) where he started on the bench. He played too deferentially even as recently as last December. Hopefully, then, you can understand why I was shocked to see him start in NTSC’s first game this season with his hair on fire, defaulting to what I called “hero ball” and cutting the defense apart in the process. Credit is due to Eric Quill and his staff, I think, for giving Redzic the confidence and freedom to be aggressive and play like he’s one of the best players on the field.

Looking forward to next year, if he keeps going like he has, Redzic will earn a look with the first team (and maybe a first team deal) in preseason. Conveniently, he’s a decent stylistic comp to Mosquera (right-footed LWs who aren’t the fastest, but create chances through their dribbling and passing and movement). Assuming Mosquera leaves, bringing in a DP LW and promoting Redzic would leave a well-balanced set of wingers.

As a question for you, dear reader: is it bad that, in that scenario, Redzic would, like Tanner Tessmann, skip straight to an MLS contract without ever signing professionally with NTSC? Does that de-legitimize the second team?

Burnt Ends

  • Kevin Bonilla, a former FCD academy player who is playing with NTSC on an amateur contract, wears #19. On the one hand, that might be a big deal: no one wore the number for FC Dallas after Zach Loyd changed out of it following the death of Bobby Rhine until Paxton Pomykal asked to honor the club legend. On the other hand, FCD academy players wear the number every year. Maybe the club sees the second team as more like the academy than the first team?
  • Oscar Romero has left NTSC. As an older player and a rotational piece, he was never an obvious fit for NTSC’s strategy, especially in 2020. That said, it makes me sad to see him go. Romero was a key leader in the team, worked hard on the pitch, and was impactful in big moments when he did play. Best of luck to him going forward.
  • One of the very nice things about the Greenville match was watching how hard FC Dallas Homegrown players Ricardo Pepi and Thomas Roberts worked for their team. The amount of sprinting those two do off the ball, both on defense and on offense, is a testament to their work ethic and desire to get back into the first team’s immediate plans. As an example, watch El Tren (Pepi) doing his best impression of a runaway freight train below, busting out maniacally on the counter and blazing past defenders with his lanky stride. It looks eerily like (dare I say it?) Erling Haaland’s signature move, and it’s exactly what I want to see from the club’s big striker prospect, especially while he’s down with the second team.