In a rematch of the 2013 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the North Texas Rayados of the USASA traveled south to take on the PDL’s Austin Aztex, hoping to avenge last year’s 2-0 opening round loss.
Unlike most Hollywood films, the sequel was far better than the original by a wide margin as the Rayados fell behind three times, and equalized each time, including the third time in second half stoppage time. In the extra session, North Texas finally took the lead in the 118th minute, but before the celebration could begin, Austin gave them a taste of their own medicine, equalizing in the final minute of extra time to force penalty kicks.
North Texas won the PK shootout to advance to Round 2 for the first time in club history. They have earned themselves another road game as they will travel to San Antonio to take on the NASL’s Scorpions in Round 3 on May 28.
This was the second match for the host Aztex in 2013 after opening their season last Saturday with a convincing win over the Houston Dutch Lions. They came into their Open Cup debut without Devin Cook Perales, who had been sent off in last year’s Open Cup game against the Wilmington Hammerheads and was forced to serve his suspension. The game would be a homecoming of sorts, as former Aztex Super-20 midfielder Shane Dockery who would be playing for the visitors, along with Richland College teammates Flavio Guzman and Jamie Lovegrove.
As the match got underway, the Rayandos suffered a setback when Javan Toledo had to be replaced by Fernando Garza after the starting midfielder sprained his ankle in the 6th minute. The Aztex tried to take advantage of the replacement and nearly scored in the 8th minute when Adam Black narrowly missed his shot off to the right of the goal.
In the 22nd minute, Aztex striker Sito Seoane’s shot was saved by Rayados keeper Raul Herrera. Three minutes later, Seoane found a way to produce a goal, as he delivered a corner kick to the head of Adam Black who put the Aztex up 1-0.
To their credit, the Rayados were able to pick themselves up and press hard for the equalizer which nearly came in the 34th minute when Raul Rodriguez’s free-kick was saved by Aztex keeper John Kaschak. The match started to get a bit chippy as the visitors continued attacking. In the 41st minute, Austin’s Chuy Cortez and North Texas’ Kevin Ellis were booked for some off-the-ball pushing and shoving.
The visitors would get their equalizer in the 43rd minute when Fernando Garza would burst through on the Aztex goal and slot his shot into the net between the goal post and Kaschak’s outstretched foot. The Rayados nearly took the lead deep into first half stoppage time, but Kaschak came up with another big stop on Garza’s attempt on goal.
As the second half got underway, there was more hard play in the midfield. Reece Wilson of North Texas and Austin’s Kalen Ryden were each booked for committing hard challenges. Aztex head coach Manuel Buentello decided a larger attacker was needed so he took off smaller striker Cortez for the larger Tucker Hume in the 53rd minute. The substitution changed the momentum for the home side and they took the lead in the 57th minute when Tony Rocha hit a through pass for Seoane and the forward was able to score. Less than 10 minutes later, Austin nearly added to their lead when Hume had his header on goal saved by Herrera.
They would regret not scoring when the Rayandos equalized again in the 67th minute. Wilson would take advantage of a defensive mistake by Aztex winger Josh Alcala and break through on goal to easily slot home past Kaschak.
In the 71st minute, the Aztex’s Jeff Harwell was brought on for Alcala and the Rayados’ Eduardo Cortez came on for Luis Salas. The substitutions caused a bit of confusion in the Rayado’s defense in the 79th minute. Harwell was able to get through them and hit a pass for Tucker Hume to power home to put the Aztex back into the lead 3-2.
Just when it looked like the Eberly’s Army home fans would be celebrating the victory, an incredible stroke of bad luck twisted the match in a new direction. In the 88th minute, Aztex midfielder Jacob Powell made a hard challenge and although he came up with the ball, the referee ruled he had made the tackle with his studs up and over the ball. Powell was shown a straight red card for the foul and the Aztex were reduced to 10 men. Although they tried to bunker in and hold on for the end of the match, just as the final whistle was about to blow, the North Texas equalized. Shane Dockery got behind the Aztex defense and found himself one-on-one with keeper Kaschak whom he easily beat and rolled the ball into the empty net.
As the match went into extra time, both sides would have their opportunities to score in the first half, though neither side came close to hitting the goal. It was the Rayados who broke the tie in the second half of extra time when midfielder Fernando Garza gave North Texas their first lead of the game at 4-3. To the hosts’ credit, they did not quit and in the final minute of the stoppage time, Harwell sent the game into penalty kicks when he poked home a loose ball that the Rayados defense failed to clear.
Compared to the 120 minutes that proceeded it, the penalty kick shootout was a bit anti-climactic as the Aztex had one of their spot kicks saved and one bounce off the post. The Rayados made all of their attempts to send themselves through to the next round and off to San Antonio to face the Scorpions.
Aztex coach Manuel Buentello, who took over for Paul Dalglish this season, could only shake his head and curse the bad luck that had befallen his team. Rayados player-coach Tito Salas has his team in position to make a run in the tournament, but no matter what happens in San Antonio on May 28, the club can be proud of being a part of one of the most exciting games in recent Open Cup history.