Denton’s NPSL team is ready to return to the NPSL for the 2021 season, with the Diablos boasting two Roja League titles since the 2019 NPSL playoffs.
Take it from Diablos co-owner Damon Gochneaur, who says “We’re super excited to return to NPSL action, and continue the championship run the club has been on in the Roja Summer and Winter leagues.”
Head Coach Ramon Raya returns alongside a number of players who featured in the club’s 2020 Roja League championships, either with the senior squad or with the junior Estudiantes side. Raya will be making his NPSL coaching debut, with inaugural coach Chad Rakestraw departing the Diablos organization after finishing 1st and 2nd in the 2020 Summer Roja League.
Joining Raya is new assistant coach, Fleur Benetar. Benetar played for the University of North Texas in the late 90s before joining UNT as an assistant coach in 2001. Since then, she’s helped create and coach the women’s soccer program at Texas Women’s University, coached for Hebron High School, and served as an assistant with the University of North Texas.
Returning players include captain Eoin Wearen, Carlos Flores, Adan Garcia, Julian Barajas, Antonio Perez, Brandon Cerda, Jasub Flores, and Brock Pope. These players all have been with the Diablos organization since the 2020 Roja League Summer season, and all have helped the club lift trophies already. The team is feeling confident, with Gochneaur saying “We’re really excited about the strength of our squad this season. We’ve got some key pieces with championship pedigrees returning, and added some new pieces that we’re really excited to watch make their debuts this weekend.”
The Diablos look to hopefully win the Lone Star Conference, after losing to the Vaqueros on penalty kicks in 2019. They’ll also be participating in the yet-to-be-announced Summer Roja League season, and had previously qualified for both the cancelled 2020 edition and postponed 2021 edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Should the Open Cup be rescheduled for the fall, and the original slate of qualified teams be included, the Diablos will make their Open Cup debut at last. However, it’s not an immediate expectation nor even something Gochneaur hopes for at the moment, saying “We’ve already quit thinking about the travesty that is the 2021 US Open Cup, and have set our sights on the things we can control, putting together the best season we possibly can this summer, and allowing that to help us qualify for the 2022 Open Cup.”
Damon’s sentiments are echoed among the loyal Harbingers supporter’s group. Jim Greene, a founding member of the Harbingers said “Feels like 10 years between the playoff game vs the Vaqueros. But a lot has happened since then. The Roja League was awesome, as the Diablos/Estudiantes experienced some trophy love, but that didn’t feel the same as what they did in 2019.”
“I’ll be interested to see what happens with the 2021 Diablos starting this Saturday,” Greene continued, “as some things have changed, and some things will never change. Somos Diablos.”
Another founding member Randy Hart added, “I’m ready to be back in NPSL and to see what Damon has up his sleeve this season.”
With COVID restrictions affecting the usage of UNT facilities, the Diablos plan to continue using the Vela Soccer Complex in Denton for their home games, where they previously hosted matches for The Roja League.
The Denton Diablos NPSL season begins on Saturday, May 15 at 7 p.m. at the Vela Soccer Complex, as the Diablos host Katy 1895 FC.