Christian Okeke of NTX Rayados was named TheCup.us Player of the Round after scoring two goals against OKC Energy. Photo: NTX Rayados
NTX Rayados forward Christian Okeke’s second super sub performance in as many weeks earned him TheCup.us Player of the Round honors for Round 2 of the 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Okeke earned, and then converted, the 90th minute penalty that forced extra time and then scored the go-ahead goal in extra time to help his side take down the United Soccer League’s (USL) OKC Energy at Richland College in Dallas, Texas.
The award is voted on by the staff at TheCup.us and a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters.
It was a very wide open vote within 12 different players receiving consideration. Finishing second in the voting was Emery Welshman of FC Cincinnati who scored a hat trick in an extra time win over Detroit City FC (NPSL). Other top vote getters include Kyle Gurrieri of the Ocean City Nor’easters (PDL), Franck Tayou of FC Wichita (NPSL), and Andrew Weber of Sporting AZ FC (UPSL).
Rayados, an open division qualifier, have qualified for the US Open Cup for seven years running, but the win over OKC was their first-ever again a professional side. Just as Rayados are no strangers to the tournament, Okeke is no stranger to providing a spark off the bench when his team needs it most. He scored the extra time winner in Round 1 against Fort Worth Vaqueros after entering the game as a second half sub. He also came off the bench to score the game-winner in Rayados’ final qualifying match back in November when they came from behind to defeated CD Motagua New Orleans 2-1.
Rayados midfielder and co-founder Tito Salas, who does everything – including coaching – for the team, knew Okeke would get the job done.
NTX Rayados huddle up at their Second Round match in the 2018 US Open Cup against OKC Energy FC. Photo: NTX Rayados
“Just like Round 1, Okeke went in and changed the game completely. No difference in either game, the game plan was the same. We all knew he had to come in and win it for us.”, said Salas.
Okeke, who was named a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-American as a high school junior in 2012, spent the first two years of his college career at Bradley University before returning closer to home in Wichita Falls. There, he joined up with Rayados teammates Alberto Rodriguez (who also scored twice against OKC), Christopher Escalera, and Jose Antonio Hernandez Hurtado at Midwestern State University. As a senior, he scored nine goals in 22 games and was voted a NSCAA Second Team All-American. Like many players on the Rayados roster, he played in college and now finds himself relishing the opportunity to continue playing at a competitive level. He says playing with his former college teammates just makes it all the more special.
“I’m extremely blessed to be playing in this competition with these types of players. It means a lot, especially, to play alongside people who I grew up playing with,” said Okeke.
Okeke and Rayados will look to continue their magical 2018 run in Round 3 when they FC Wichita on Wednesday night back at Richland College.
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