For the seventh year in a row, North Texas Soccer and North Texas Premier Soccer Association’s NTX Rayados entered the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with the goal of besting a professional side and etching its name in Open Cup history.
In its last six attempts, the amateur side were successful once. In 2014, NTX Rayados defeated Austin Aztex of the Premier Development League on kicks from the mark after the match was tied 4-4, but a hard-fought 4-2 defeat at the hands of the San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League would follow in the next round.
Based on previous matches, it would have been easy to dismiss the North Texas side this year ahead of its first-round match against National Premier Soccer League team Fort Worth Vaqueros. While the match at Richland College was considered a home match for the Dallas-based squad, you would hardly have known by the number Vaqueros jerseys and the rowdy fan section, which five minutes into the match had plenty of colorful words for the referee after a foul was called outside of the upper left corner of the Vaqueros penalty box. The jeers were quickly silenced after Rayados midfielder Lucio Martinez buried the ensuing free-kick. Vaqueros would knot things up before halftime, and the two sides would need extra time before Christian Okeke netted a late game-winner.
Okeke would make habit of scoring late goals of great importance as the forward scored in stoppage time against USL side OKC Energy in the second round to bring the score of the match to 2-2. Okeke, Martinez and Roberto Rodriguez would all find the back of the net by the time extra time was over to win 5-2. Okeke was later earned Player of the Round honors for Round 2. Okeke would then score his third game-winning goal against FC Wichita in addition to goals from Adrian Ramos and Christopher Escalera.
Sergio Lara competing at the 2014 National Championships with FC Dallas 97
This run isn’t too bad for an amateur team that isn’t able to put together any sort of consistent training sessions considering soccer takes a back seat to family, work and school for some of these players. NTX Rayados is an amateur side, but that certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t talented. NTX Rayados midfielder Sergio Lara is a former North Texas Soccer State Cup champion and scored three more goals than anyone in his age group at the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships, where his FC Dallas 97 Premier side reached the finals. Lara was named to the National Championships Best XI team, a group that included 2016 MLS Draft #1 pick and current Manchester City player Jack Harrison and FC Dallas 97 teammate Kamar Marriott.
Rayados will play Houston Dynamo in the fourth round on Wednesday, June 6 in Houston.