NTX Rayados huddle up at their Second Round match in the 2018 US Open Cup against OKC Energy FC. Photo: NTX Rayados
Dallas-based amateur club NTX Rayados scored three times in extra-time and took down the visiting Oklahoma City Energy 5-2 in a wild Round 2 affair on Wednesday night at Richland College. Alberto Rodriguez and Christian Okeke each scored twice for Rayados while midfielder Lucio Martinez added the fifth. OKC got a penalty kick from Philip Rasmussen and another goal from Miguel Gonzalez.
After qualifying for the tournament for the seventh year in a row, Rayados have now won back-to-back US Open Cup games for the first time, and Wednesday’s win is also the first time the club has upset a professional team.
OKC looked the better side early on in the first half, earning a corner kick in the third minute that ultimately went wasted. Three minutes later, a free header was struck right back at NTX goalkeeper Eduardo Cortes Sanchez. The Energy earned another corner in the 12th minute, but failed to capitalize. A hard foul right outside the box by NTX gave the visitors an excellent free kick opportunity, but the shot went straight into the wall. As the first half wore on, NTX gained several spells of possession and the momentum swing back in their favor. In the 29th minute, OKC goalkeeper Matt VanOekel misplayed a backpass and nearly coughed up an own goal, but was able to clear. Then the breakthrough for NTX came in the 38th minute when Victor Pinal was played through and beat the offside trap, cutting back inside the box and playing a centered pass to Alberto Rodriguez, who produced a clinical finish. Rayados took the 1-0 lead into the half.
The Energy came out of the break looking like a team possessed. A free kick less than a minute into the second half went just wide of the goal and they kept up the pressure. In the 50th minute, Philip Rasmussen converted a penalty and a minute after that, Rayados midfielder and club co-founder Tito Salas was booked for a nasty challenge.
Lucio Martinez of NTX Rayados attempts to control the ball against the OKC Energy FC in the Second Round of the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: NTX Rayados
Nine minutes later, Jose Barril played a perfect centering pass to Miguel Gonzalez in the box and Gonzalez struck it first time to beat Sanchez in goal and give the visitors a 2-1 lead. The rest of the second half looked like a stalemate that would see OKC through, but Rayados second half sub Christian Okeke, who scored the winner in extra time in Round 1 against Fort Worth Vaqueros, earned himself a penalty in the 90th minute and converted from the spot to send the game to extra time.
The two side traded chances in the first period of extra time and penalties looked like a real possibility until the 105th minute when Okeke capitalized on an awkward moment of confusion and beat VanOekel to the spot on a 50-50 ball and got just enough of a touch to get it over the goal line.
Three minutes later, Rayados were awarded a second penalty and Lucio Martinez, who scored a fabulous free kick in Round 1, calmly sent the keeper in the wrong direction to put his side up 4-2.
Not to be outdone, Rodriguez created some space for himself in the 118th minute and smashed a rocket of a shot that came off the underside of the crossbar and landed in the goal.
Admittedly, it has not been a great season for OKC Energy. They currently find themselves in last place in the United Soccer League’s (USL) Western Conference standings and coming into the match, they had just one win from nine league games. Rayados, meanwhile, feature a mixed group of old friends and Dallas-raised players who have gone off to play college and who came back home specifically to try and make a run in the Open Cup.
Alberto Rodriguez of NTX Rayados celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the match against OKC Energy in the Second Round of the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: NTX Rayados
Salas, a husband and father of two with a full time day job, co-founded the team in 2011 with Alberto Rodriguez after the two had just finished college and were looking to continue playing at a competitive level. He had plenty of perspective to offer afterwards.
“We have family here (in Dallas). We think about it. We visualize. For us, it’s a win-win situation. It’s a win-win. A 2-1 loss would have been a win for us.”
Asked what the difference in the game was, he only needed one word to respond: heart.
Rayados find themselves in Round 3 for the first time since 2014 when they coughed up a 2-0 lead to the then-San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League (NASL). They’ll look to keep the magic going in Round 3 when they return to Richland College for the third time in as many weeks to host FC Wichita.
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