Substitute Kyle Hyland powered home a header in extra time to propel Oklahoma City Energy FC past crosstown rival Rayo OKC, 2-1, in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup.
Hyland, who may have been the smallest man on the pitch at the time, said fullback Kyle Harris did a good job getting up the line and whipping a ball into the box, just over leaping striker Wojciech Wojcik.
“I was able to get my head on it and it went in,” said Hyland, who entered the match in the 62nd minute.
The goal proved to be the match-winner in the first ever matchup between Energy FC, a third-year USL franchise, and Rayo OKC, which is eight games into its first season in the NASL. It was also Rayo’s first-ever U.S. Open Cup game.
The match drew 4,385 fans to Rayo’s home, Miller Stadium in the Oklahoma City suburb of Yukon.
Energy players were jubilant after the game, which ended with Rayo fielding only nine players after two late red cards.
Energy coach Jimmy Nielson said his team was “extremely weak” for much of the first half, but found its footing after going behind on a 43rd minute goal by Rayo’s Billy Forbes.
The Rayo winger pounced on a rebound, smashing the ball past Energy goalkeeper Cody Laurendi, after a nice interplay on the right wing by Georgios Samaras and Kosuke Kimura.
Samaras played a ball into the middle of the box to fullback Richard Menjivar. Menjivar’s shot was saved by Laurendi, but Forbes was there to capitalize on the loose ball.
Nielson said going down 1-0 seemed to galvanize his team.
“I think we were a little bit too impressed” with the NASL side, the coach said.
The Energy responded quickly with a goal just before halftime. Fullback Kalen Ryden carried by ball along the end line and placed a perfect ball into the box for Sebastian Dalgaard to bury in the back of the net.
In the second half, the Energy seemed to be the better side, but neither team was able to add to its goal tally.
The stalemate continued in the first period of extra time, as Rayo goalkeeper Daniel Fernandes kept the game tied with a diving 99th minute save to prevent an Energy header from nestling in his net.
Hyland scored early in the second overtime period, then Rayo saw a ball glance off the inside of the post off a set piece two minutes later.
It was the home team’s last threat however, as the Energy was able to fend off Rayo’s long-ball attacks.
The USL side was able to hold possession to bolster its defense in the game’s dying minutes, forcing Rayo to attempt some questionable tackles to win the ball back.
Midfielder Derek Boateng earned two quick yellows in the 115th minute for a late tackle and some harsh words for referee Daniel Radford.
Rayo captain Michel was sent off a few minutes later, drawing his second yellow card for a tackle inside the Energy’s goal box. The foul sparked a brief scuffle that resulted in a yellow card for Energy keeper Laurendi.
After the final whistle, Energy players celebrated in front of a large knot of traveling fans, while Rayo players trudged back into their locker room.
Rayo coach Alen Marcina said his team dominated the match, but was not able to capitalize on its scoring chances.
“In my humble opinion, the better team lost,” Marcina said. “We put ourselves in this position by not burying chances.
“You’ve got to them them in the back of the net. You’ve got to be clinical.”
The stats kept by the NASL show both teams managed 19 shots, but Rayo had six shots on target to Energy FC’s five. Possession was relatively even, with Rayo managing a 53-47 advantage.
With the win, Energy FC advances to plays FC Dallas, its MLS affiliate, in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. FC Dallas will host the match June 15 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.