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Heat tied with Rayados at press time in Open Cup

Heat tied with Rayados at press time in Open Cup

By Zach Smith Laredo Morning Times

 

Leon Taylor walked up to the penalty spot knowing a goal would send the Laredo Heat to the second round of the U.S. Open Cup for the third straight year. He missed.

 

 

Fortunately for him, the NTX Rayados goalkeeper moved forward before Taylor shot giving him a second chance to win the game. He confidently buried it to give the Heat a 4-2 win and set up a match against the Austin Aztex on May 20 in round two.

 

 

“It takes a lot of out you mentally and physically because some of those players were in there for the full 120 minutes,” Taylor said. “But when you do things like this and go long minutes and overtime and PKs, it makes your team closer and makes us play better.”

 

Of the 20 other U.S. Open Cup games played Wednesday, six of them went to penalty kicks. It was the most in a single round of the modern era of the domestic tournament.

 

 

The first 40 minutes of the game were slow with much of the play in the midfield. Angel Hernandez had two quality chances in the last five minutes of the half. The first he sent over the bar after a counter attack and another free kick from just outside the 18-yard box went wide right just before halftime.

 

 

Miguel Alvarado had probably the best chance of the half when he chested the ball down nicely right in front of net and volleyed it on frame, but there wasn’t enough juice on it and the NTX keeper easily corralled it.

 

 

With less than a minute to play in regulation, second-half substitute Salvador Luna had a chance to win it for Laredo. He got in behind the Rayados back line and was one-on-one with the keeper before sending his shot just over the bar.

 

“I just thought that one little touch would do it,” Luna said. “But I kicked it hard and I felt angry about that because I could finish the game in the 90th minute, but we have a good team and we won the game in the end.”

 

 

Neither team pressed very hard in the extra 30 minutes before penalties. Even though it was the Heat’s first official game of the season, they were by far the most in shape team and used their substitutions at better times. NTX used all three subs before added extra time, while Laredo made two changes in the waning moments of the game.

 

 

The Rayados missed two of their first three penalties and Lara, Hernandez and Martin Moreno made three straight before Taylor eventually sealed the deal.

 

 

“Starting your season with a win is always a confidence booster,” Heat defender Francisco Lara said. “It was a good test and a good eye opener for us because that’s what we’re going to expect with the PDL teams this season.”

 

 

Austin and Laredo have a history. In 2013, the Aztex and Heat were still in the same division of the PDL, and Austin beat Laredo in the conference final before going onto win the 2013 PDL Championship.

 

 

Lara said the biggest challenge will be overcoming that Austin is a team of full-time professionals that train throughout the year but added the team is confident and not afraid of what comes next.

 

 

“We have players with experience that are quality,” Lara said. “It’s just another football match, so we just take it one step at a time. It’s nowhere that we’ve never been.”