Sebastian Mendez’s 85th minute penalty kick helped D’Feeters Kicks SC edge Southwest FC, 2-1, in a “Win & You’re In” match to advance to the 2022 US Open Cup for the first time in club history.
After its previous qualifying win, Southwest had every reason to assume that it would be clear sailing in its final match. Fresh off a 6-1 opening round win over the San Antonio Runners and a massive 7-1 win over GAM United (Colo.), the El Paso club looked ready to host their third straight home game againt D’Feeters at Eastside Soccer Complex. DKSC had a much tougher run in its previous match, winning in extra time with a penalty kick 2-1 over the Houston Hotshots-Greenspoint FC. But when Dallas-based DKSC arrived in El Paso, all bets were off.
“I’m proud of the effort of the guys that traveled to El Paso and left it all on the field,” said D’Feeters program director Edgar Hernandez Jr., who helped coach the team with his brother Dominick with their father Edgar Hernandez Sr. not available to coach the team. “We were missing our stud striker, Oscar Romero, this time through injury. We also had one of our starting center backs serving a one-game suspension. We had a lot of factors playing against us leading up to the game as we only made it to El Paso with one field player as a sub. The team knew we were up against a good squad as they had won their past two rounds by large margins, but our guys came out motivated. Our possession, passes, runs, and tactical awareness were on point. We took advantage of our opportunities and made sure we controlled the tempo of the game once we went up.”
The weather was chilly for those in the audience, but just right for those flying around the field in warmups. Under the El Paso lights, the match kicked off with both clubs throwing aggressive tackles at each other.
It seemed both clubs were intent to press and counter-press relentlessly throughout the first half. In the first 30 minutes, chances were there but no points were on the board.
That changed soon after as DKSC’s Steven Chavez put the ball past the Southwest keeper to open the scoring. The road goal was the product of consistent pressure on the El Paso backline. It wouldn’t last long, however, as Southwest FC would even up the score just five minutes later as Danny Chairez scored for the home side.
DKSC seemed to have brought just the first 11 on the trip, as the bench was empty except for coaching staff, which would have seemed to be a big detriment to their pressing approach, but you wouldn’t have guessed that in the second half. If anything, it seemed the home side seemed to slow a step or two. That was especially true on the left side as run after run would free up behind the wing for DKSC, offering chances for crosses into the box. Southwest seemed too slow in attack, not having many solutions for the visiting defense. Not enough shots were put on frame.
The match seemed destined to end in a draw until a penalty kick call was made with about five minutes remaining in regulation. Mendez stepped up to the spot and after multiple stutter steps, he buried the ball past the goalkeeper who guessed correctly but was unable to get a hand on it as he dove to his right. This would prove to be the game-winner. The win was entirely earned as DKSC was the aggressor throughout the evening and should be a tough out when the competition proper begins next spring.
“This win is very special for the program,” said Hernandez Jr., who is the brother of FC Dallas midfielder Nicky Hernandez. “This is the first Open Cup qualification for the club in our first qualifying run. These are the special moments we have been building towards. The program has received a lot of support from the local soccer community to get where we are now and we know that. We wouldn’t be where we are without that support. We are excited for this upcoming Open Cup!”