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North Texas Two Step – The Music Ends

NTSC’s 2021 season burns out long before its legend ever will.

Since we last met, North Texas SC fell for the final time in their history in USL League One to the Chattanooga Red Wolves. It was 2-1 in the end after NTSC fought back from a goal and a man down to force extra time, but Chattanooga finally got a clear look at goal and put away a scramble in the six-yard box late in minute 113.

With that, NTSC fades away into the offseason and potentially oblivion. All reports suggest FC Dallas will no longer field a team in USL1 going forward, instead preferencing the new MLS U23 league. Will the second team retain the NTSC brand? It seems unlikely. More to come soon about which players I’d expect to see back with the club next year.

After that, though, you’ll be seeing much less of me. This will be the final North Texas Two Step I write, and I don’t expect to post more than sporadically otherwise. Thanks to everyone who ever took the time to read what I’ve written. I hope it’s been worth your while.

Burnt Ends

• Chattanooga’s opener, a NTSC own goal, was, as most goals, a string of poor plays by the defense: Nicky Hernandez’s lazy reception creates a turnover for the Red Wolves, Smith lets in a cross too easily, and Benton can’t get his feet right after getting bumped. That said, it was a nice reaction by NTSC up until Lucas’ red. I count twenty total Chattanooga passes inside NTSC’s half in the 20 minutes between the own goal and the red card, compared to about three times that amount for NTSC in the Red Wolves’ half: NTSC had them pressed back.

• And then the red card happened and it got really ugly. NTSC had basically no control of where the game was played for the rest of the match. A quintessential Red Wolves game apart from the fumble by their defender that led to Bernard’s breakaway.

• Derek Waldeck was, yet again, immense for NTSC in a game where they went down to ten men early. He was the only NTSC fullback that had any success preventing crosses, he held down the fort as a CB in the first half, and he worked the ref brilliantly. I’ll take that guy in my corner any day.

• Chattanooga actually struggled to make clear chances after the first frantic moments following the red card until NTSC visibly ran out of gas with ten to twenty minutes remaining in the second half. Despite that, Coach Quill made zero subs between 61’ and 105’. Chattanooga didn’t break through until after that run, but it felt like NTSC took on unneeded pressure by not bringing in fresh legs sooner.

Both red cards were the right calls. Lucas’ elbow to the Chattanooga striker’s head endangered the player’s safety and used excessive force. On the other side, Collin Smith deserved his yellow for failing to respect the required distance during the throw in, but you can’t peg guys with the ball from two yards away no matter how annoying they’re being. Honestly, the Chattanooga player probably should have been given a straight red instead of a second yellow.

• Was NTSC too “keyed up” for this one? Bernard got into a few early scuffles, Lucas’ red card was him playing out of control, and Eddie Munjoma got uncomfortably close to earning his own red card in the minutes afterwards. Over the course of the year, NTSC averaged 0.29 red cards per game, which would have been the highest rate for any club in the Big Five European leagues in 2020-21. In 2020, their red card rate was well above average too. Eric Quill’s a coach that demands intensity, but maybe there’s a downside to that approach.

• Alisson was brought in around the sixtieth minute to replace DJ Benton at CB. Both were erratic, but let’s remember that they’re likely fifth or sixth string options there. CaiserGomes has been injured for a while – wouldn’t it have been nice to have him available? And he’s one of many on this team that have picked up issues down the stretch: Gomes, Alisson, Almaguer, Nicky, Hope, Shutler, Gabriel, and Bruce all missed runs of games. USL1’s non-existent injury reporting requirements don’t make it easy to connect the dots, but I wonder if there’s a relationship between NTSC’s injury issues and their much-touted switch to a more intense conditioning regime mid-season?

NTSC conceded nine corner kicks to Chattanooga, the most they have given up in any game over the past two years (tied with the game against New England in August of 2020). That should illustrate (i) how extraordinary the pressure was NTSC that bore for long stretches of the second half and extra time, and (ii) how few CKs NTSC normally gives up. Doesn’t nine feel super low to be a record?