By Denton Diablos FC
And just like that, another NPSL season is underway. Coming off a historic 2021 NPSL season that witnessed the Diablos climb the ultimate summit and seize their first-ever NPSL National Championship just eight brief months ago, the humble little club from Denton set its sight on a return trip to the national championship game. They kicked off their 2022 NPSL season against Irving FC in the friendly confines of the University of North Texas Soccer Stadium. With an absolutely gorgeous pitch and evening temperatures in the high 80s, a crowd of just over 500 fans, along with the players and staff, enjoyed beautiful conditions to get things underway.
The Diablos saw seven returning starters from their national championship run in the starting XI against Irving. Denton head coach Ramon Raya introduced several new faces into the match. Davis Mays and Brayan Padilla made their Diablos debuts, while David Abonce and Alex Estrada made their NPSL debuts after representing the Diablos in the U.S. Open Cup back in April.
The first half was extremely high energy as both teams employed the high press and looked to exploit the spaces behind the back lines, but neither team was able to generate the opening goal through the first 25 minutes of play. The first significant action of the evening would come from the center official, who in the 26th minute went to turn and run and seemed to experience an injury to his achilles as he immediately fell to the ground writhing in pain. The Diablos medical staff quickly attended to the injured official, and within five minutes, the fourth official had assumed his duties and the match was back underway.
It wouldn’t take the Diablos long to find the back of the net after resuming play. In the 38th minute Irving committed a foul roughly 40 yards from the Irving goal. Padilla endeared himself to fans when he was able to serve an in-swinging ball with his left foot that found a streaking Mays all alone behind the Irving defense, and a deft touch with his left foot was enough to slip in the Diablos’ opening goal of the 2022 campaign.
Not to be outdone, Brandon Cerda slipped in a streaking Julian Barajas down the right hand side, before Barajas returned the favor, finding Cerda at the top of the 18-yard box. Cerda slipped by one defender before putting the ball on his lethal right foot, and whipped in a nasty shot from inside the box. The ball took a fortuitous deflection and nestled in the back of the net, giving the Diablos the dangerous 2-0 lead in the 43rd minute.
The Diablos took the 2-0 lead into halftime with Raya pleased with the scoreboard, but feeling like there were plenty of things to work on and correct.
Again, the Diablos wasted little time in the second half, with Cerda winning a header just inside Irving’s half to Adan Garcia, who collected and slipped in a streaking Sam Coad in behind the Irving defense. Coad then beat his defender to the line and cut him inside before being chopped down by the Irving defender, winning his team an important penalty kick. As cool as the other side of the pillow, Carlos Flores collected the ball, set his spot, and buried the penalty into the left hand corner beyond the Irving keeper’s outstretched hands, giving the Diablos their final goal of the night. The 3-0 win over Irving FC gave Denton a valuable three points in what is expected to be one of the most competitive conferences in the country.
The Diablos currently sit in first place in the Lone Star Conference standings, and will take the return trip to Irving on Sunday, May 15. The next home game for Denton is Saturday, May 21 at UNT Soccer Stadium. This will be leg one of the 2022 Chisholm Trail Clasico vs. the Fort Worth Vaqueros. Doors open at 6:30, and kickoff is slated for 7:30.
Photo Credit: Daniel McCullough