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North Texas Two Step – Embrace the Pain

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North Texas couldn’t get the result they wanted back-to-back games – what’s going wrong?

Since we last spoke, FC Dallas’ second team, North Texas SC, pulled in two disappointing results, first drawing a game they should have won at home vs Tucson, and then putting in maybe their worst performance of the past two seasons in a 3-0 road drubbing at New England Revolution 2. With these results, NTSC is firmly in the bottom half of the table.

Nietzsche said, “To live is to suffer - to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” Let’s survive, shall we?

Bernard is very good and fun

He’s fast. He’s quick. He’s got great feet in tight spaces. He dribbles where he wants. He times his runs in behind extraordinarily well. He’s the worst enemy of every LB in USL League One. And he hadn’t played at a higher level than high school before February. He’s Bernard Kamungo, and once he speeds/cleans up his decisions, he’s going straight to the top.

I have to admit, this rattles me to my core. How is it that someone with basically no high-level coaching is this much better than all these top talents from FCD or other well-regarded developmental clubs? And if he’s this good now, where can he go with access to pro-level coaching/training/physio/analytics/etc.? And how the heck did FCD, which is supposed to have the metroplex covered with grassroots scouts, miss him until this spring? A humbling thought, for sure.

He’s not perfect of course, but he’s fixing his shortcomings (the speed and quality of his decision-making being by far the biggest issue I’ve noticed) at an alarming rate. At 19, he’s older than the usual superstar prospect at NTSC (three years older than Pepi was in the opening season, for example), but his late intro to a pro setup throws those concerns out the window. Strap in – we might have a rocket ship here.

Eric Quill made his team play to their weaknesses

Prior to the Greenville Triumph game a few weeks back, NTSC was giving up almost two goals a game, near the bottom of the league, despite few obviously systematic issues. Eric Quill shifted troubled CB JJ Parra out of the lineup and NTSC put on two mostly dominant defensive performances to pitch consecutive shutouts. Admittedly, Tucson basically didn’t try to score (see the Burnt Ends section), but it really did seem like NTSC had fixed some of its issues defending in a set block. The new CB pairing, Alisson and Gomes, really looked solid together. However, like a broken wing that’s used to fly too early in its healing process, NTSC fell violently to earth when Eric Quill put too much weight on his squad’s ability to defend in a block in his gameplan against NER2.

When you think of NTSC’s strengths, the first that comes to mind is ball circulation and possession. If nothing else, they can do that (or used to be able to – who knows what this mostly-non-FCD-Academy roster is capable of). At New England, Quill de-emphasized that part of the game, coming out in an aggressive mid-block (that devolved quickly into a very passive park-the-bus situation) that waited for turnovers before playing long balls in behind to Bernard, Kazu, Rayo, or Bruce over and over again, perhaps in response to something they saw on film. NTSC attempted their fewest passes in a game in the last two seasons while relying on long passes to a rare degree.

It didn’t work. North Texas lost the shots and chances battle by about as bad a margin as they ever have. Prolonged pressure from NER2 deep in NTSC’s defensive third led to sloppiness, errors, and goals. For most of the game, NTSC looked like a mentally tired team.

This is a club that, from the very earliest Academy ages, preaches that its players must hunger for and value the ball. Quill played away from that strength. That was a fatal mistake.

Burnt Ends

  • So, Blaine Ferri is now an NTSC player. I called for this specific deal 18 months ago. In Ferri, NTSC gets a still-young local player who was at one point a top-10 talent in his birth year nationally. Is he going to make it to FCD or even add that much to NTSC’s midfield rotation? I guess we’ll see.
  • Last week, I talked about Kazu in possession. In the two games since, he got two starts at LB and continues to look like a very, very interesting option going forward, basically running the left flank for NTSC against NER2 until he was yanked for an awful turnover. Let’s see if Quill keeps rolling with him instead of Waldeck on the left side.
  • Tucson’s game plan was transparently aimed at a draw through defensive possession rather than the traditional parking of the bus. They won 56% of possession but had almost no intent to bother NTSC, playing 130 passes per shot, 3x the next highest mark by an NTSC opponent over the past two seasons. NTSC didn’t make a clearance (another record), indicating just how few numbers Tucson was committing forward. In the end, they got away with it but were probably lucky to do so.
  • I’ve complained about him in the past, but the announcer for the NER2 game is maybe the most aggressively bad example of a bigger issue for USL1. There are other problems, but let’s take name pronunciation as an example: among other things, he kept calling Derek Waldeck “Walldick” and used at least eight (“Vermuth”, “Verfuth”, “Fervooth”, “Fairooth”, “Vurfeth”, “Vermirth”, “Ferhooth”, “Verforth”) different pronunciations of NER2 CB Collin Verfurth’s last name, none of which were correct. The video product is how most fans experience USL1 – it needs to be better / more professional.