For the fourth time in as many trips, Forward Madison FC is returning home from North Texas without a point.
Ronaldo Damus' 59th-minute goal after a misplay in the penalty area by defender Connor Tobin was the difference in North Texas SC's 2-1 victory over Forward Madison in Saturday's season opener in Arlington, Texas.
The Flamingos have played at North Texas four times and have lost them all. The most recent before Saturday was last October in the USL League One semifinals.
On Saturday, Damus restored North Texas' lead after Justin Che's turf-bound pass from the right side slid underneath Tobin's right-footed clearing effort. Damus, who led the league with 16 goals last season, fired home to break a 1-1 tie.
"We made one mistake in the first half; they punished us," Forward Madison coach Daryl Shore said in a phone interview. "We made a couple mistakes in the second half; they punished us for one. I'm not disappointed with the way we played, just disappointed that we made a couple errors that cost us."
The game was the first for both teams since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports in March, weeks before the USL League One season was to begin. The delay in the season's start led to a reduction in games on the schedule from 28 to 16.
North Texas had 71% of possession and seven shots on target to just three from Forward Madison, which got a 30th-minute goal from new signing Wojciech Wojcik.
As part of an impressive performance at both ends of the field, FMFC defender Jiro Barriga Toyama did some of the heavy lifting on Wojcik's goal. He ran through the defense and delivered the ball to Paulo Júnior to the right of the penalty area.
Paulo Júnior pushed the ball to the front of the net, where Wojcik dragged it into the net with his right foot to equalize at 1-1.
Forward Madison paid for a tentative start when North Texas' Benjamin Redzic scored in the 11th minute on the first attempt at goal for either team.
Redzic danced around FMFC defender Christian Díaz on the left side of the area, and his right-footed shot took a deflection off a defender and got past goalkeeper Philipp Marceta.
Barriga Toyama helped generate chances for Forward Madison and was strong in the defensive end in a notable first-half performance.
His turnaround left-footed shot from the left side of the penalty area in the 21st minute was FMFC's first try. Goalkeeper Luis Zamudio palmed it down.
Barriga Toyama won a free kick in the 26th minute by drawing a foul to the left of the penalty area. North Texas headed away J.C. Banks' lob into the goal mouth.
Don Smart set up Barriga Toyama in the penalty area in the 38th minute but his shot went high of the net. So did Wojcik's effort at chipping the ball over goalkeeper Luis Zamudio three minutes later.
Barriga Toyama, who started with the team last season playing the left wing, emerged to Shore late last season as an option at left back.
"I think he showed tonight that he can be a shut-down left back that can also get forward into the attack and really be dangerous," Shore said. "If you're going to say that we had a man of the match tonight, it's definitely him."
Forward Madison's lineup included seven of the 14 players who appeared in the final game last season, a 2-0 loss at North Texas in the playoff semifinals. North Texas, meanwhile, had just one player returning from when it won the 2019 league championship.
But North Texas' group of young players had a big offensive push in the second half, keeping Marceta busy in his first official game for the Flamingos.
The goalkeeper made two point-blank saves on the goal line from a corner kick shortly after halftime, the first on a Lamar Batista header and the second from Alex Bruce on the rebound.
A Redzic free kick left Marceta with no choice but to lunge and punch the ball over the bar.
He got some help from Barriga Toyama in the 84th minute, when the defender's sliding challenge in the penalty area denied a Damus scoring chance.
That came seconds after Forward Madison's last good chance to tie, after a free kick taken from about 35 yards out deflected to Tobin in the penalty area. But Tobin couldn't get good position on the ball and his header went wide.
In North Texas' first game at Globe Life Park, the reconfigured former home of the Texas Rangers, the teams kneeled around the center circle during the national anthem and then observed a moment of silence in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Forward Madison FC 1 0 — 1
North Texas SC 1 1 — 2
First half: NT — Redzic (Batista), 11th minute. FM — Wojcik (Paulo Júnior), 30th.
Second half: NT — Damus (Che), 59th minute.
Saves: FM (Marceta) 5, NT (Zamudio) 2.
Possession: FM .712, NT .288. Shots-on goal: FM 8-3, NT 15-7. Corner kicks: FM 1, NT 7. Fouls: FM 12, NT 16. Offsides: FM 1, NT 3.
Yellow cards: Alisson, NT, 63rd minute; Bennett, FM, 78th.
Forward Madison FC — Philipp Marceta; Jiro Barriga Toyama, Connor Tobin, Jalen Crisler (Jamael Cox, 63rd), Christian Díaz; J.C. Banks, Eric Leonard, Gustavo Fernandes (Eli Lockaby, 89th); Paulo Júnior (Alex Monis, 74th), Wojciech Wojcik, Don Smart (Louis Bennett, 74th).
North Texas SC — Luis Zamudio; Derek Waldeck, Justin Che, Lamar Batista, Grady Easton; Juan Álvarez (Gibran Rayo, 72nd), Alisson, David Rodriguez (Diego Hernández, 90th+5); Ronaldo Damus, Benjamin Redzic (Collin Smith, 90th+1), Alex Bruce.
Catch up on Forward Madison FC signings, other news since the end of the 2019 season
Forward Madison FC reworked some of its roster since finishing in fourth place and losing in the playoff semifinals in its inaugural USL League One pro soccer season in 2019. Then the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the 2020 season for nearly four months. Here's all the news that happened since last season ended.
Wilt, who joined the USL League One team as it was launched in May 2018, will work with communities to develop supporters groups in new USL markets and assist existing teams with fan engagement.
Forwards Don Smart and Paulo Júnior, midfielder J.C. Banks and goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre will return for a second season with the USL League One team, the Flamingos announced Wednesday.
Leonard played in all 29 USL League One games in 2019 and finished in the top 10 in the league in tackles (61), duels won (182) and interceptions (54).
Díaz played left back and right back in the Flamingos' inaugural season, scoring two goals in all competitions.
The Flamingos will open their second season with a road game against Richmond Kickers.
The 28-game league schedule was unveiled Friday, with the Flamingos playing six opponents three times and five others twice.
It'll be the team's second exhibition against a top-division German team.
Forward Madison FC re-signed 25-year-old midfielder Brandon Eaton, who spent two months sidelined with a knee injury last year but impressed the coaching staff with his attitude during rehabilitation and his performances when he came back.
A former Madison College and Madison 56ers player, he made the inaugural roster last year through an open tryout.
Wojcik, 27, led USL Championship team Hartford Athletic FC in scoring last season with seven goals in 31 league appearances.
"We think we may have found a diamond in the rough with Mike," Forward Madison coach Daryl Shore said.
Crisler won a spot on the roster with his play during Forward Madison's combine earlier this month.
The team on Thursday accepted a transfer bid from USL Championship side Miami FC for Brian Sylvestre, who played most of the minutes in Forward Madison's inaugural season.
Barnes, 25, didn't appear in any USL League One games in 2019 but saw time during exhibition matches against Hertha Berlin and Minnesota United.
Schneider, 27, played at Madison La Follette and the University of Wisconsin before starting his pro career.
Lockaby, 24, started 22 USL League One games for Richmond last season.
The Shorewood native, who started last season with Memphis 901 FC in the USL Championship, is the third player from Wisconsin on Forward Madison's roster.
Trimmingham, 23, was a guest player in the Flamingos' friendly against Minnesota United. He played the rest of the season with FC Miami City in USL League Two.
Tobin, the team's captain in 2019, took six to eight weeks to decide whether he had another season left in him.
A one-year affiliate relationship will include the Fire playing an exhibition game at Breese Stevens Field at a date yet to be announced.
Forward Madison originally was scheduled to open its league schedule March 28 at Richmond Kickers, with the home opener April 11 against Toronto FC II.
The third-division pro soccer league will attempt to reschedule teams' full, 28-game slate if the season is able to start in mid-May.
Marceta, 27, played last season in the German fourth division and was on trial with MLS' Seattle Sounders FC this preseason before landing with Forward Madison.
Forward Madison said in a release that the teams will attempt to find a date to play in 2021.
A $10 purchase through the team's online store will get buyers a commemorative Match for Madison ticket and their name on a mural that will be installed at Breese Stevens Field.
A look inside the design process after the team on Saturday unveiled its alternate kit, with three shades of blue and two shades of pink swirling in a hypnotic design.
The workouts starting Wednesday aren't necessarily an indication that a return to play is drawing nearer for the pro soccer team, but it's a step to get players ready for that possibility.
Second-tier USL Championship is planning to resume its season from a COVID-19 hiatus on July 11 after its board of governors approved the provisional start date on Thursday.
The league board of governors approved a return-to-play framework during a Friday meeting.
Forward Madison FC is among the teams that may not be able to play in its home city because of local restrictions on mass gatherings.
The league lifted the ban on full-team workouts, but Forward Madison is still limited by Dane County restrictions.
The team will conduct workouts at the Woodside Sports Complex in Wisconsin Dells starting Friday.
The pro soccer team will play its 10 home games at Hart Park after considering around a dozen venues in and around Wisconsin.
The third-division pro soccer league announced home openers for the 11 teams that will play in the 2020 season.
The team opens July 25 at defending champion North Texas SC, followed by its first home game in Wauwatosa on July 31 against runner-up Greenville Triumph SC.
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