North Texas Rayados prepare for their 2016 US Open Cup qualifying match vs. Austin. Photo: NTX Rayados
For the fifth time in six years, Dallas-based North Texas (NTX) Rayados will enter the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup fray.
“What happened in the off year?” you ask?
Last year, Rayados found themselves in a bit of controversy. It had qualified for the 2016 Open Cup and were all set to host Corinthians FC of San Antonio in the opening round; the visitors were in town and ready to go. But the night before the match was scheduled to take place, US Soccer disqualified the Rayados for failing to compete in a sanctioned league.
NTX Rayados compete in the North Texas Premier Soccer League. It had participated in league play in the fall of 2015, which allowed it to participate in qualifying for the 2016 Open Cup. However, because of a series of injuries and a lack of player availability, the Rayados were forced to drop out of NTPSL play in the spring of 2016. US Soccer discovered this during a roster check with the North Texas Premier Soccer Association and informed the squad about 24 hours before the 2016 First Round match.
The ruling meant the Rayados would miss the Open Cup for the first time since 2011. It seems off the field issues are the only thing that can keep the North Texas amateur powerhouse out of the Open Cup though as on the field it continues to be as dominant as ever.
North Texas are back for the 2017 Open Cup after a pair of thoroughly convincing wins in qualifying. It opened up with a 7-0 victory over Celtic Cowboy Premier and then took down CD Motagua of New Orleans in the second round of qualifying; both home wins. The result against Celtic Cowboy Premier was the first Open Cup-related match since the disqualification. When asked if the ruling had a motivating factor, player-coach Tito Salas was pretty forthcoming.
“For me personally, it left a hole … we’re always looking to improve and test ourselves against the next level in [the US Open Cup],” he said.
The team holds weekly practices regularly and tends to recruit from smaller local-area colleges.
Salas, a former Richland College player, founded the team in 2011 as a means for him and some of his former teammates to keep playing at a high level. He is aware that he and his former teammates won’t be able to play forever though and they want the team’s success to continue on to the next generation.
“We try to keep the youth involved with us,” Salas said. “I think that people around the community see us involved in many different activities as well. A few of us are public school teachers, others are actively coaching within the (Dallas-Fort Worth) metroplex, not to mention the NTX Rayados Youth academy one of our players just started.”
Antonio Rodriguez, who is not on the Rayados Open Cup roster, launched the academy with seven teams from as young as four years old up to the Under-16 level. The team really has a feel of “more than a club”, to borrow from Spanish giants Barcelona. Even though the senior side couldn’t compete in the North Texas Premier Soccer League in 2016, it managed to stay fresh by playing against the likes of Dallas City FC, FC Dallas Academy teams, the NPSL’s Tulsa Athletic, Texas Spurs, and local rivals Legends FC and Liverpool Warriors. They happily play anyone, anytime, anywhere and are always anxious to prove themselves against local peers.
Although they continue qualify for the Open Cup year after year, results in the tournament itself have been a mixed bag. In 2014, NTX took down Austin Aztex (PDL) in a 4-4 match that ended with Rayados advancing via the penalty shootout. The victory was sweet for the North Texas side given that Austin won 3-0 in the previous year. It went on to put up a spirited fight against the NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions, losing 4-2.
The Rayados hope 2017 is the year it can finally string together a run of wins and maybe even shock a MLS side. Open Cup fans might remember Dallas Roma FC’s then-historic run of three wins in 2006 when it took down MLS side Chivas USA on penalty kicks then lost to LA’s other MLS club, the Galaxy, in the Fourth Round.
Much like Dallas Roma FC, NTX Rayados drew the inspiration for their name from a professional club; in this case Mexican giants CF Monterrey. The team simply went by “Rayados” in its first season but decided to add “NTX” in order to broadcast its home base of Dallas.