A strong start helped North Texas SC defeat FC Tucson, 3-1, Friday night at Kino Sports Complex.
Coming off of a bye in Week 27, North Texas came out on the front foot in Tucson in search of an early goal and broke through from a set piece in the 12th minute. Arturo Rodriguez served a low free kick from the right side near the corner flag into a mass of bodies inside the six yard box. Rodriguez’s service pinged off a few bodies before finding the back of the net, ultimately coming off Tucson’s Jordan Jones before crossing the line.
Following the own goal, the visitors pushed for more and the game opened up as both teams pressed high into their opponent’s defensive third hoping to regain possession in favorable positions. North Texas succeeded in that mission and connected on a swift counterattack to make it 2-0 in the 38th minute, with Oscar Romero cleaning up a poor clearance following Jonathan Gomez’s cross from the left flank.
Jones halved the deficit just before halftime, this time finding the back of North Texas’ net after Kyle Venter headed a long corner kick service back across the face of goal for Jones to run onto. The goal was Jones’ tenth of the season.
Rodriguez was at the center of it all as North Texas added a third in the 65th minute. The midfielder exchanged passes with multiple teammates down the left flank before finding Romero with a cut back to tally his league-high tenth assist of the season.
With Friday’s win, North Texas finishes the regular season with a league-best 56 points and +22 goal differential. The victory over FCT was North Texas’ 17th of the season; second-place Lansing Ignite FC has twelve heading into the final day of the season. North Texas will host the No. 4 seed at Toyota Stadium in the first round of the USL League One Playoffs next Saturday, October 12.
Tucson finishes the year in eighth place with an 8-11-9 record. Once considered a strong playoff contender, FCT will finish at least seven points out of the playoff places depending on Saturday’s results.