Jake Keegan scored his fifth goal of the season in the 86th minute of Friday night’s contest to help Greenville Triumph SC earn a 1-0 win over North Texas SC in a rematch of the 2019 League One Final at Legacy Early College.
Greenville had a chance to jump out to an early lead when Alex Morrell picked up a loose pass from a North Texas defender and was clean through on goal in the third minute. Morrell rounded the goalkeeper, but fired his shot into the wrong side of the side netting as Brecc Evans slid to attempt a goal line clearance. The sliding effort may have prevented an early Triumph goal, but it forced North Texas captain was forced off with an injury less than five minutes into the match.
With its captain on the sidelines, North Texas struggled to settle into the match and took only one shot in the first half, a Thomas Roberts effort from outside the 18-yard box that deflected off of Brandon Fricke and out for a corner kick in the 26th minute.
Despite missing Evans, the North Texas defense kept Greenville off the scoresheet through the first 45 minutes, thanks in large part to a fantastic double save by Carlos Avilez in first half stoppage time. The chance came after Aaron Walker curled a cross towards Keegan who nodded it on frame. Avilez tipped the header onto the bar and quickly closed down Lachlan McLean to deny the rebound from three yards out and send the sides into halftime tied at 0-0.
The visitors looked more dangerous on the other side of the break and created two quality opportunities to break the deadlock through Collin Smith and Arturo Rodriguez, but both midfielders fired their shots wide of the target ten minutes apart.
North Texas continued to press for an opening goal as the second half wore on, but struggled to challenge goalkeeper Dallas Jaye. Substitute Ronaldo Damus flicked a header wide from Rodriguez’s in-swinging corner kick in the 84th minute. Jaye earned his league-leading eighth clean sheet of the season without making a save in the match.
Greenville finally found a breakthrough in the 86th minute as Cesar Murrillo and Paul Clowes broke up play in midfield and found Morrell on the right flank. Morrell served a low cross into the penalty area and Keegan connected with a first-time shot to beat Avilez and give the home side the lead.
With the win, Greenville extends its lead at the top of the League One table to ten points, while North Texas SC remains in ninth place with six matches left to play. Triumph SC’s magic number to reach the League One Final is now down to six points heading into Saturday’s matches.
GVL (86'): Keegan (fifth), assisted by Morrell
Greenville Triumph SC: October 2 v. Orlando City B (H)
North Texas SC: October 3 v. Fort Lauderdale CF (H)