Welcome to our continuing series of Meet the USASA features where we annually profile the clubs representing the United States Adult Soccer Association in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Advancing from the four regional tournaments, these often unknown clubs have great stories to tell and each year, our goal is to allow fans to get to know them as they attempt to become this year’s Cinderella story.
North Texas Rayados may be a young club having been formed in 2011. What the club lacks in age and tradition, though, it more than makes up for with results.
In just a few seasons, the Rayados have become a fixture at the top of the North Texas Premier Soccer Association, including finishing the Spring 2013 regular season with an 8-1-1 record. They have also become a force in USASA Region III, qualifying to the US Open Cup in both of their first two attempts. This year the Rayados cruised through qualifying with a 4-0 record, outscoring their opponents 17-2.
Much of the club’s success can be attributed to familiarity between teammates. In the summer of 2011, Richland College players Raul Herrera and Tito Salas got a group of friends together to form the club. Nearly all were recent college graduates, and several played with Herrera and Salas at Richland. This season North Texas has added some new faces, but Herrera, the goalie for the club, says that familiarity still exists.
“The core is still there,” Herrera said. “We’ve added two or three guys that are still in college…some youth…some young blood. But we’ve gelled. We’re a very complete team this year. We’re a deeper team, and we’re more dedicated.”
NTX Rayados, which takes its name from the Mexican Primera Division side FC Monterrey, was an instant success in the NTPSA, although it took some persuasion to get into the league’s top division. The club had to get many references and recommendations in order to convince NTSPA officials that Rayados belonged in the first division. Once in, however, NTX shot straight to the top, going 20-1 over two-plus seasons. In the most recent campaign, the Rayados claimed the regular season title with an 8-1-1 record.
The club has carried that success into US Open Cup qualifying play. Based in Dallas, NTX competes in USASA Region III. In its first attempt to qualify last year, the Rayados went 2-1 in group play to clinch its spot. They did even better in 2013, going 4-0 to qualify both for the Open Cup as well as the USASA National Finals.
After defeating the South Texas side Islanders FC 6-1, NTX took out the Oklahoma club Los Lobos by a 4-1 scoreline. Having won its group, North Texas advanced to the semifinals, where it defeated CD Motagua 4-0. With a spot in the US Open Cup secured, the Rayados went on to win the Region III final over Red Force from Florida 3-0.
Herrera said, “The scores are very misleading. Red Force is the best amateur team I’ve ever played against. We won because we’ve got a well-rounded team. We’ve put in a lot of dedication and sacrifice.
Now NTX will attempt to do the only thing it has failed at in its young life as a club—beat a PDL side. In its first Open Cup match last year, the Rayados fell to the PDL squad El Paso Patriots 3-1.
“It was a long trip last year. A lot of the guys didn’t know what they were getting into. We have to be a little more serious and a little more prepared. Hopefully this year we’ll get the right result,” Herrera said.
That right result would have to come at the expense of the Austin Aztex, who qualified for the Open Cup by coming in second place in the PDL Mid-South Division last summer. The winner will host the Wilmington Hammerheads, a third-tier professional club playing in USL Pro.
Despite that tantalizing potential Second Round match-up, the NTX Rayados are focused solely on their initial opponents.
“Austin is the only thing on our minds right now,” Herrera said. “We can’t think of the Second Round until we take care of business right now. I know Austin is a strong team. They finished at the top of their division for a reason. It’s going to be a challenge.”