NTX Rayados overcame multiple deficits in extra time and, quite possibly, a wrongly overturned penalty kick during the ensuing penalty shootout to defeat Dallas Elite FC 4-3 on penalties after a 4-4 draw. The Rayados advance in their quest to qualify for an eighth consecutive US Open Cup. Reece Wilson, a former Rayado who moved to New Orleans for work in 2013, led the way for NTX with a pair of goals and the penalty that was overturned (more on that later).
The visiting Rayados seemed to have taken control in the second half with goals from Brandon Pfluger and Reece Wilson in the 57th and 67th minutes, respectively, but hosts Dallas Elite FC fought back with a 74th minute goal from Joel Wilson Martinez-Gutierrez and a literal last second penalty kick that was earned and converted by Alexander Molano in second half stoppage time.
Then things really got interesting.
Five minutes into the first half of extra time, Dallas Elite midfielder Oscar Romero picked up a red card. The hosts held their own despite being a man down and the score remained 2-2 going into the final 15 minutes of extra time. Then, in the 108th minute, Dallas left wing back Jorge DeLeon did his best Ronaldo impression and beat Rayados defender Cedric Nickerson one-on-one on the left side of the box, cut toward the end line, and hammered a shot from point blank range that left Rayados goalkeeper Emmanuel Frias Ramirez helpless.
Nickerson, however, would get his revenge six minutes later with a goal of his own that tied the game up 3-3. Four minutes later, however, DeLeon did it again, but this time he provided an inch perfect cross that midfielder Victor Umanzor was able to get on the end of for the easy finish; with two minutes and stoppage time left, the hosts seemed to have won playing with 10 men.
But Reece Wilson and the Rayados were not done.
They earned a corner kick in stoppage time and midfielder Sam Garza whipped a desperate cross into the box. Wilson was able to get his foot overhead and redirected the ball into the back of the net. 30 seconds later, the referee blew the whistle and the game went to penalty kicks with a 4-4 scoreline.
Then things REALLY got interesting.
Dallas Elite went first and both sides converted their initial penalty. Dallas then had its second shot saved and its third missed while Rayados converted both of theirs. With three rounds in the books, NTX led Dallas 3-1. Then Dallas midfielder David Balyeat had his penalty saved and Reece Wilson stepped to the spot and converted his spot kick to send NTX through.
Or so he – and the entire Rayados team – thought.
The ball appeared to go into the goal and Wilson celebrated as if he could not have been more sure of anything in his life. But the ball ended up on the outside of the net and referee Lorenzo Hernandez, after conferring with one of his assistants, overturned the initial call of “goal” and declared that a goal had not, in fact, been scored. The game-winning goal was taken away.
In the fifth round of penalties, Javan Toledo, who played for Rayados during their epic run to the Fourth Round this past spring in the 2018 Open Cup, scored from the spot and watched his former teammate, Alberto Rodriguez, miss his shot for Rayados, who finished the round leading, 3-2.
A sixth round of penalties was needed and Dallas Elite missed their shot and Rayados’ attempt was saved, forcing a seventh round of penalties. Both teams converted their seventh chances before Martinez-Gutierrez had his eighth round shot saved and Rayados fullback Kevin Ellis scored his to, at long last, send the visitors through. Rayados were one step closer to continuing their incredible streak of Open Cup qualifications. Among open division local teams in the Modern Era (1995-present), no one has a longer qualifying streak than NTX Rayados with seven, and only one amateur team (Reading United AC of the PDL with 10) has more.
Ellis may have scored the winning penalty, but he saw the bigger picture of what happened quite clearly.
“I’m glad we got the win,” said Ellis. “I didn’t expect it to go to PKs and that long of PKs and that much drama in PKs. I’ve been with the team since the start so it’s good to keep us going forward, rather than losing and going home.”
He was also quick to praise his team’s opponents, calling them the best opponent he can recall facing during qualification.
“This was our toughest qualifying game yet.”
His teammate and player-coach/team founder Tito Salas, who also happens to be Wilson’s brother-in-law agreed.
“Definitely. We knew this … we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Toledo wasn’t the only former teammate Salas and company had to be prepared to face. Dallas goalkeeper Eduardo Cortes Sanchez, who, if you’re keeping score at home, saved two penalties during the shootout, was Rayados’ starting keeper this past spring during their 2018 Open Cup run. Salas was just as in awe of the evening’s events afterwards, but he had been confident before the ensuing chaos.
“I really thought we would win it in 90 minutes … (but) we got a little comfortable,” said Sanchez. “They were a man down and I thought to myself ‘We got this’…and they scored first (in extra time).”
Dallas Elite were quick to exit the field and only coach Berti Generes could be reached for comment. He didn’t have much to say, but somehow still managed to succinctly sum everything up.