How about a soccer formation where your opponent can’t score? Well, neither North Texas Rayados nor Houston Dynamo could in last week’s U.S. Open Cup match.
North Texas Rayados went to Houston Dynamo showing a hyper-defensive 5-3-2 formation that worked so well the home team couldn’t score for the first half. But neither could the visitor in this U.S. Open Cup fourth-round match, so I guess you could say it was successful.
That changed in the second half. But the final score, Dynamo 5-Rayados 0, but it doesn’t tell the whole story, nor of the three goals coming after a 70thred card to key Rayados defender Jose Burciaga.
NTX Rayados showed why every year in U.S. Open Cup competition they’re the best amateur squad on any pitch. They mostly faced Houston Dynamo depth players and starters from their USL Rio Grande Valley club. Yet they were facing daily players from pro teams, all.
North Texas Rayados players hold CVs from colleges and even MLS academy teams. But they pay their bills with day jobs, not playing the beautiful game. And they are not your average amateur team.
So for the first 45-plus minutes, they showed Houston a 5-3-2 formation that reminds classic comedy fans of a George Carlin bit, when the comic asked:
If God is all-powerful, can He make a stone so big that He himself can’t lift it?
In fact, NTX Rayados did just that against Houston Dynamo in the first half.
The Houston Dynamo personnel, too, bore some responsibility for this June 6 U.S. Open Cup game going scoreless that half.
The Dynamo worked mostly from the 4-3-3 that head coach Wilmer Cabrera teaches so well. But with a mix of USL players, Dynamo depth players and a few starters, they took the entire first half to find their most effective places in the formation. During that first half, Cabrera remained uncharacteristically calm.
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Second half fireworks
In the second half, Rayados decided to try and win it. That’s because they had a great deal at stake. Should they have scored and gone back to their successful 5-3-2 in defense of their lead, they would have become the only amateur squad to make the fifth round of this tournament.
So everyone noticed a friskier look from NTX Rayados in the second half. Cabrera got more animated on the sideline and, by the 55th minute, Houston Dynamo found some leaks in the visitor’s ship. They started sinking it.
Memo Rodriguez and debuting Aldo Quintanilla placed pairs of goals — one of the Rodriguez scores came on a penalty kick, with Rayados goalkeeper Eduardo Cortes diving right and the ball skimming left.
Madias Zaldivar, subbing into his Dynamo debut also netted a goal, while Arturo Alvarez claimed two assists in his first Houston appearance, with another for Luis Gil.
Rayados brought in the heavy artillery. That started with midfielder Christian Okeke subbing in the 53rd minute. His job: pull off the goal and let his team shut the Dynamo down again.
Rayados co-founder and defender Tito Salas gets asked why the squad doesn’t start Okeke. He answers, because that’s Okeke’s role and the team’s game plan. It’s what got them to the fourth round of this year’s U.S. Open Cup.
But this game, Okeke didn’t get off a shot.
North Texas Rayados will get another shot, though. They’ll earn it after fighting their way through another season in the North Texas Premier Soccer League.
If next year’s opportunity in the Open Cup comes against Houston in the fourth round, be watching for Okeke in the second half. He’ll be moving quickly.