Chisholm Trail Clásico Brings “a Different Flavor” to American Derbies

By Daniel Cermak/

The Chisholm Trail was once a major cattle trail that ran from Fort Worth, through Denton, and
beyond to Kansas City. The trail still exists to this day in the form of interstate 35, though the
cattle travel over trains as opposed to on foot. The historic element of the trail, along with the
nature of the clubs, made the name “Chisolm Trail Clásico” an easy choice for the derby
between the NPSL’s Fort Worth Vaqueros FC and Denton Diablos FC.

“We turned it to our fans and asked A. should we battle for a trophy and B. should we name this
derby,” Damon Gochneaur, Denton Diablos FC Founder and Co-Owner, said. “They came back
and said yes and yes, and the Chisholm Trail Clásico was the name all the supporters decided

“We didn’t want a generic rivalry name, we wanted something with a little class, creativity and
history,” Fort Worth Vaqueros FC General Manager Tobias Lopez said. “So we took it to social
media, came up with four or five variations, then let the supporters decide.”

Just because the supporters are on different sides during the match, off the field, the Panther City
Hellfire (Fort Worth) and the Denton Harbingers (Denton) have bonded over the newly formed
derby, from combining to decide the name of the derby and the prize at stake, to sharing a few
drinks before the opening match. Before the first leg of the Chisholm Trail Clásico, Fort Worth
and Denton supporters peacefully packed the official Denton Diablos FC bar before the match,
where the two groups met each other and talked soccer. The comradery might have ended there,
but the mutual respect remains evident.

“As an owner, (having the backing of the supporters) is validation for the crazy idea and vision
and dream that I have, and it’s extremely humbling to see other people share that passion,”
Gochneaur said. “(Our home bar) was filled with over a hundred Vaqueros and Diablos
supporters, just talking soccer, then they got on opposite sides of the stadium and battled against
each other for 90 minutes…we feel so humbled by their support.”

“That opening game in Denton, with the two supporters groups chanting back at each other in the
kind of way you’d want the supporters groups to interact created a great environment,” Lopez

The stakes of the Clásico extend further than mere bragging rights or even points in the Lone
Star Conference table: based on aggregate scoring between the two matches, the winner receives
a prize fit for champions and Texans alike: a championship belt that features a massive silver belt
buckle along with the respective team logos on the inner plates and the logos of the supporters
groups on the outer plates, all bound on neutral white leather.

“We got the same people who make the WWE belts and had them do it,” Lopez said. “All the
fans have gotten a kick out of it, it’s been a hit. If we just got a generic cup, who cares, you
know? But we are always looking to be unique and innovative, and Denton shares those ideals.”

“The more we floated (the belt) around to the capos and our supporters, they all fell in love with
the idea,” Gochneaur said. “Denton’s a little different, Fort Worth’s a little different, we didn’t
just want another silver goblet, we wanted something that represents the different flavor of our

Fort Worth currently holds on to a 4-3 aggregate advantage after the high-scoring first leg, with
the two teams set to settle the series in Fort Worth on Saturday, June 1.

Despite the temptation to focus on the unique prize at stake, Denton Diablos FC Head Coach
Chad Rakestraw refuses to get distracted by shiny objects.

“The big thing for us is if we can get that win against them, not only would we have a chance to
be even with them or to win the belt, but we’ll have a chance to win the conference,” Rakestraw
said. “That’s what the main focus is for us.”

Fort Worth midfielder Jamie Lovegrove is also focused on the conference table, but knows the
importance of taking home silverware whenever the opportunity arises.

“Any kind of silverware to open up the season is good for us, but last year we finished second (in
the conference) and this year we want to get first,” Lovegrove said. “But obviously the belt is a
bit different and we’re really hoping to bring it back to Fort Worth.”

Despite being behind on aggregate, Denton is maintaining their poise and confidence heading
into the decisive second leg in Fort Worth.

“We’re going down there excited and full of hope,” Gochneaur said. “We’re young, naïve, a
first- year team and we haven’t been beaten down, we have nothing but faith that we are going to
go down there and pull out a 5-4 victory or a 3-1 victory and flip the aggregate scoring and come
home with the belt.”

“For us it’s about better cohesive defending, and I think we’re there now,” Rakestraw said. “We
solidified and locked down who our guys are going to be going forward and I think that will
really help us.”

The Vaqueros, leading in the clubhouse, are doing anything but sleeping on the potent Diablos
attack, especially after the first-year squad beat established NPSL foes in Laredo and Katy in the
past week.

“They’re a very good team, they’ve proven that in the last couple of matches with some of the
teams they’ve beat,” Lovegrove said. “We have to make sure that we come out, try and hopefully
get a goal in the first twenty minutes, and then be patient, wait for our chances and take those
chances when we get them.”

“They are very capable offensively, we fortunately got the fourth goal (in the first leg), but you
don’t want to rely on getting four goals every game, so we have to get tighter at the back,” Lopez

said. “We’ll have to continue (our scoring) output and get better at the back, that’s what it’s
going to take. They want the belt just the way we do.”

With the two teams honoring their cities’ histories while battling over one of the most unique
prizes in all of soccer, the Chisholm Trail Clásico represents the creativity and passion present in
local soccer, and should be circled on every soccer fan’s calendar.

Photo Credit: Hannah Reinmiller and Daniel McCullough

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