An FC Wichita first-half defensive change sparked a second-half rally to tie the game up at two in the Third Round U.S. Open Cup match against NTX Rayados at Richland College in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday night. But the comeback just wasn’t enough as Rayados super-sub Christian Okeke grabbed the 86th-minute goal to give Rayados the 3-2 win.
Some defensive miscues in the first half left Wichita exposed early and Rayados was able to take advantage. In the fifth minute, a run down the Rayados right flank resulted in a ball played behind their strikers. Unfortunately for Wichita, the ball fell to trailing NTX midfielder Adrian Ramos. The shot was partially blocked, which handcuffed Mark Weir in the Wichita net, and he was unable to corral the wickedly bouncing ball.
In the 28th minute, Rayados found more on a breakaway, this time on a driven over the top long ball. NTX striker Christopher Escalera beat the defense to the ball and flicked it past the outrushing Weir to take the 2-0 lead.
After the two-goal deficit, FC Wichita’s Blake Shumaker went to his bench and made a defensive change, bringing on Matt Clare and shifting Benjamin Andoh to left back from the wing, effectively making two changes with one sub.
“We brought a little bit more pace in,” said Shumaker about the change. “Matt went in to play [left wing] and it gave us a veteran presence on the ball and also a little bit of speed in the back. And Ben settled in and did really well on that flank.”
As a result of the two changes, Wichita saw a flurry of chances to end the first half.
Just 15 minutes into the second period the changes finally paid off. Wichita made a drive right down the center of the defense. Striker Frank Tayou laid the ball off to his left where Nelson Landaverde’s trailing run left him open for the finish. And just like that, the lead was cut to one.
As the half continued, Wichita struck again in the 65th minute, tying the game at two. A driven corner kick into the box came off a Rayados defender for an own goal. Andres Ochoa was perhaps the nearest Wichita player and was credited with the goal.
All knotted up, the game began to get more physical as both teams jawed at each other on the field and on the sideline. As the players tired, tempers flared, and fouls started flying at a higher rate. The referee started resorting to yellow cards to keep the game in check.
After multiple chances came at both ends, the deadlock was broken in the 86th minute. Christian Okeke, who scored the Rayados game winner in the previous round, again found pay dirt. A splitting pass through the Wichita defense sprung Okeke in the box and the NTX striker drove the ball home for the game-winner.
With the lead restored to Rayados, the chatter between the teams intensified until things boiled over in the 89th minute. In a single sideline incident, Sergio Lara of Rayados received a second yellow for yelling at the Wichita bench. Rayados’ head coach and Wichita sub Kiren Laking were also sent packing.
“In general the benches were going at each other and the players were a little bit hostile,” Shumaker said afterward. “The field is only 100 yards long, so you got a bunch of guys with attitudes and tempers and that’s escalating based on that the size of the pitch is 10 to 20 yards light.”
The sideline incident wasn’t the end of the action though as Wichita nearly gave up another goal late in added time. Then in perhaps the strangest moment of the night, Wichita’s Teylor Cubero was subbed on only to be red carded less than a minute later. It was a game that had just about everything, even a 24th-minute penalty kick save by Wichita’s Weir.
“We don’t feel like they are a better team than us,” Shumaker said lamenting the result. “So it stings a little. Our goal was ultimately set on getting to the next round and playing an MLS team. Absolutely I’m pleased with the guys, I think we have a great group of guys.”
With the loss, FC Wichita is out of the 2018 U.S. Open Cup while NTX Rayados move on to the Fourth Round.
Contributor: Buzz Carrick/NPSL.com
Photo Credit: Craig Marcho/3rd Degree