Arturo Rodriguez was a force all night as North Texas SC played to keep its postseason hopes alive. As his side looked headed for a 0-0 draw with Forward Madison FC and the end of its playoff chances, Rodriguez made a fantastic run to get on the end of a flicked header in the dying moments of the match.
As Rodriguez charged towards goal, he was pulled down inside the box and awarded a penalty. The reigning MVP stepped to the spot and confidently slotted the penalty past Chris Brady in the 99th minute to earn a road victory and preserve North Texas’s playoff hopes.
The match started slow as rain poured down and the two sides felt each other out. The first chance of the match came in the 19th minute as Wojciech Wojcik created space at the top of the box before striking a low, left-footed shot on frame that Carols Avilez collected at his right post.
Don Smart forced Avilez into another save ten minutes later with a well-struck shot from 20 yards out. The 21-year-old goalkeeper did well to get two hands to the dipping strike to keep it out.
North Texas’s first scoring opportunity of the night came from a free kick just outside the box in the 42nd minute. Rodriguez struck the dead ball on frame, but Brady collected it with ease at his right post.
The visitors continued to turn the screw before the halftime whistle and Derek Waldeck found Dominick Hernandez with a cross at the near post, but Hernandez couldn’t turn it goalwards and his right-footed effort narrowly missed beating Brady.
Rodriguez showed off a fantastic piece of skill in the 64th minute, holding off several defenders before finding Gibran Rayo with a pass near the penalty spot. Rayo struck a shot that looked like it was headed towards the top corner before it took a deflection off a Madison defender and went out for a corner kick.
The reigning league MVP continued to be a menace in the attacking third and found Edwin Munjoma with a cutback at the top of the 18-yard box in the 71st minute. Munjoma connected with a first-time shot, but it drifted wide of Brady’s left post.
Rodriguez created yet another scoring opportunity four minutes later, picking out Rayo near the back post after a short corner routine. Rayo put his first-time shot on frame, but Brady did well to make the save and not give up a rebound on the slick turf.
Substitute Noah Fuson produced Madison’s most dangerous scoring chance of the second half when he connected with Michael Vang’s out-swinging serve from a free kick by the near sideline, but his header fell harmlessly wide of Avilez’s goal.
The win keeps North Texas alive in the USL League One Final conversation heading into Saturday’s full slate of matches. NTSC needs to win and both the Richmond Kickers and Union Omaha to drop points in order to clinch a place in the Final on October 30.
NTX ( 99'): Rodriguez (third), unassisted
Forward Madison FC: October 24 v. New England Revolution II (H)
North Texas SC: October 24 v. Tormenta FC (H)