North Texas has been one of League One's most successful teams thus far, winning the title in 2019 and finishing third in 2020 / Photo courtesy North Texas SC
2019 League One title-winner North Texas SC has showcased some of the best young talent in American soccer during the last two seasons. 2019 standouts Tanner Tessmann and Bryan Reynolds have moved on to the FC Dallas First Team and AS Roma in Serie A respectively. 17-year-old Justin Che, the youngest selection to last year’s League One All-League First Team, is also currently on loan at Bayern Munich II.
League One’s all-time leading scorer Ronaldo Damus and 2019 League One Most Valuable Player Arturo Rodriguez departed North Texas for the USL Championship this offseason. For most teams, the loss of that much talent might be worrisome, but Head Coach Eric Quill has a knack for knowing which players are ready to step in and fill the shoes of those moving on.
North Texas was League One’s highest-scoring team last season and finished third, joining Greenville as the only clubs to achieve top-three finishes in each of League One’s first two seasons. As the club aims to make it three-in-a-row, North Texas brought in a trio of signings from South American clubs during the offseason. Forward Alejandro Santana Viniegra and defenders Juan Jose Parra and Christian “Kazu” Ferreira will bring fresh energy to the side, joining proven returners like Alisson, Alex Bruce, Gibran Rayo, and Derek Waldeck.
Alejandro Santana Viniegra, Forward: Mexican youth national team player with experience in the top two flights of Brazilian soccer.
Juan José Parra Barrientos, Defender: Joins North Texas on loan from Colombian top flight side Independiente Medellín.
Christian “Kazu” Ferreira, Defender: Brazilian youth international who joins North Texas on loan from Coritiba FC in Brazil’s Série A.
Thibaut Jacquel, Forward: Former standout with USL League Two’s Lionsbridge FC and Campbell University.
Justin Che, Defender: Loaned out to Bayern Munich II.
Ronaldo Damus, Forward: Joined the USL Championship’s Orange County SC.
Arturo Rodriguez, Midfielder: Joined the USL Championship’s Phoenix Rising FC.
Brecc Evans, Defender: Joined the USL Championship’s Memphis 901 FC.
Carlos Avilez, Goalkeeper: Signed with South Georgia Tormenta FC.
Alejandro Santana Viniegra, Forward
A lively striker with a full bag of tricks, Viniegra joined North Texas from Brazilian side Cruzeiro Esporte Clube during the offseason. The 18-year-old will have big shoes to fill following the departure of former League One Golden Boot winner Ronaldo Damus and former League One MVP Arturo Rodriguez, but he’ll be in an environment that has helped young players thrive in past seasons. Viniegra holds both Brazilian and Mexican citizenship, and played for the Mexican U-20 national team in November 2020.
A tough defensive midfielder, Alisson is instrumental for Head Coach Eric Quill’s side in breaking up opposition play. In 2020, he led the team in interceptions and tackles won while ranking third in duels won and second in aerial duels won. For a side that likes to attack in numbers, it’s often up to Alisson to provide the first line of defensive cover, and it’s a job he did well last season.
Eric Quill (3rd season)
Quill joins Greenville’s John Harkes as the only head coaches entering their third seasons with the same club in League One, and given the records of those two, experience sure seems like an advantage. Quill led NTSC to a League One title in 2019, then had to incorporate multiple new faces in 2020 - and did so excellently, overcoming a sluggish start to finish third. He’ll have an even tougher task this year with the departure of so much talent, but expect North Texas to be as well-drilled as always.
80 The number of regular season goals North Texas has scored in its history to date, by far the most of any League One club. In 2020, the team topped the scoring charts by pouring in 27 goals in 16 games. Their 2021 season may be defined by the new attackers’ ability to score at a similar rate, but filling the shoes of a departed Golden Boot Winner and MVP won’t be easy.
4-2-3-1: C. Shutler; C. Ferreira, J. Parra, M. Maldonado, D. Waldeck; Alisson, I. Almaguer; H. Kodzo Avayevu, B. Kamungo, G. Rayo; A. Bruce