North Texas Preps for St Louis
This team is young, explaining the learning curve to dropping points against the best team in MLS Next Pro.
On Friday, North Texas SC Head Coach Javier Cano addressed media, looking back at his squad’s performance against one of the best teams in Next Pro, Colorado Rapids 2.
In fact, Rapids 2 are the lone undefeated team in Next Pro, but that didn’t stop the young side from DFW to take the lead twice against their opponent. For stretches of play, North Texas looked to end the Rapids run. Unfortunately, defensive lapses cost the youngsters, and North Texas had to settle for a point at home after losing the penalty kicks.
Still, there are many lessons to take from the performance.
“The big one - we can beat anyone here in the league. It doesn’t matter if we play with the youngest or the oldest. For Colorado, we were scoring, and they scored,” Cano said to media on Friday. “We had control - we need to improve the defensive aspect. I hope this big chance, the penalty we gave away was a big lesson for our non-experienced defenders.”
Indeed, North Texas continues to field one of the youngest teams in the league, giving academy players a taste of professional soccer. Julian Eyestone, for example, has been a standout keeper but is beginning to experience the growth he will need to undergo to take the next step. Another player worth mentioning is Nayrobi Vargas, who has earned more and more minutes and looks at home at this level.
Coach Cano spoke glowingly about the striker, who scored on Wednesday. “Nairobi is very tough to defend. He is a big guy. He is strong. He is not slow. When he is running, if he is taking the position, it is over. It is like having two players on the field.”
Nayrobi created his first MLS Next Pro simply by pursuing a ball that seemed headed back to the keeper for an easy clearance, but the Rapids 2 defender and keeper didn’t communicate or mis-timed their movements. In the end, Vargas slotted in his first professional goal.
“He anticipated and created the goal,” Cano said. “He is performing well. He is on a good path to keep being with us.”
Turning to St Louis FC who were one of the standout sides in Next Pro last season, Cano is aware that his team is going to need to be focused to get a result. And really, at this point in the season, there likely needs to be urgency to help North Texas start chipping away at the table to move further up the standings. One nugget from the media time was that due to some roster issues, the team won’t be able to take a full 20 man roster.
“They (St Louis FC 2) played last night in Portland, so they have had a very long trip. Same days, less days to prepare the game,” Cano said. “We cannot travel with 20 players. We expect a very open game in the big stadium they have - looking for diagonal balls and to our fullbacks, checking and checking out to create doubts in our defenders.”
St Louis may be below North Texas in the standings, but they are proving capable in recent weeks to start a surge up the table themselves.
“They came back twice. Last week, they came back 2-0 down to Kansas City. Last night, they scored two goals and came back to win it,” Cano said. “Midwest guys never give up. It will be fun for fans.”
At this point in the season, it’s clear that Javier Cano is getting some quality play out of his guys. North Texas has started to wake up offensively, despite a slow start. Defensively, there is work to be done. The rotation on the back line hasn’t helped, and missing first choice keeper Antonio Carrera (with the US U20s) isn’t ideal. But those are excuses - Cano doesn’t seem interested in them.
If he trusts young guys to start, then he expects them to step up.
Truthfully, this is what you want out of a second team - an opportunity for promising young talent to show they have what it takes to step to the next level.
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