A year to the day that the Fort Worth Vaqueros squeezed past Denton Diablos in a penalty shootout, the Chisholm Trail Clasico rivals met again in the Roja League. Last year’s shootout loss in the NPSL Lone Star Conference playoffs was the closest that the Diablos had come to defeating their local rivals in the club’s first season. Fort Worth had won the previous two contests – and the Chisholm Trail Clasico belt – 4-3 and 3-1 in regular-season play.
A triple-digit day cooled into the 90s ahead of the evening kick-off at Vela Soccer Complex in Denton. The record holders for the most US Open Cup qualifications – NTX Rayados – lost 2-0 to Denton Diablos Estudiantes in the 6pm kick off to propel the young Denton side to the top of the Roja League. Blake Willis and Kasey Perea got the goals to keep the Students unbeaten.
Lineup & Tactics
Starting with the visitors. The Vaqueros played in what appeared to be a 4-3-2-1 although the midfield was fluid through most of the game. Fort Worth did switch to a firm double pivot in the second half.
Ali Zia kept goal behind a back four of Rio Ramirez, Juan Herrera, Joseph Cervantes, and Garrett DeLong. Cervantes and DeLong switched roles several times throughout the game.
Declan O’Shea played the holding role with Adan Gomez and J.J. Oteze out wide. Billy O’Dwyer and Stephen Gonzales played the attacking midfield roles behind Darren Mitchell.
When I say the midfield was fluid, primarily that means O’Dwyer dropped into a double pivot with O’Shea while the wide midfielders pushed forward into more of a 4-2-3-1. Both are really just specifics of the 4-5-1 but it was interesting that their compressed state saw players moving up the field in view of a breakaway.
Denton coach Chad Rakestraw opted for a 4-2-3-1 with Chase Therrien in goal. Eoin Wearen and Mason Anderson are the center back pairing, flanked by Mariano Benitez and Antonio Perez.
Captain Sam Garza anchors the midfield with Adan Garcia. Ricardo Becerra and Chase Drackett take to the wings, with Harris Partain slotting behind Adrian Pinales.
In typical out-of-league fashion there were a lot of substitutions and the rosters didn’t have all the jersey numbers so I’ll leave those out.
Starting with a goal that should have been. The Vaqueros should have been two up in the opening 15 minutes but for poor finishing.
Denton had its own missed opportunity in the 19th minute as Mason Anderson cleared to the Diablos’ right wing. What looked like a routine clearance for Rio Ramirez somehow evaded the Fort Worth fullback with Chase Drackett taking a deft touch to play himself through on goal. Cutting inside, Drackett took a heavy touch that Ali Zia was able to pounce on.
21′ 1-0 Denton Diablos – It only took two further minutes but Drackett got Denton on the board. Harris Partain won a throw on the right side of the attacking third and took it quickly to Adrian Pinales. Pinales squared the ball to Drackett a little over 20-yards out. With the Fort Worth backline caught flat-footed, Drackett smashed the ball low off his left foot past Zia.
25′ 2-0 Denton Diablos – Antonio Perez started the move out of the back with a delightful pass breaking two lines to Partain. Partain advances and slides the ball out to Pinales on the right. Pinales races down the wing and unleashes a shot from the edge of the box that Zia can only parry back to Partain and watch the rebound go in.
“I thought that we had a good start to it,” said Denton Diablos Head Coach Chad Rakestraw. “I felt like we controlled the majority of the first half. We were able to create some chances and really stretch the field.”
43′ 2-1 Fort Worth Vaqueros – The Vaqueros pull one back right before half time. Billy O’Dwyer lofts a free-kick from close to the left touchline. Stephen Gonzales lost his marker among the chaos at the edge of the box and had a free header that Chase Therrien could only push into the bottom right corner of his goal.
61′ 3-1 Denton Diablos – Ricardo Becerra receives a lobbed ball down the left wing, gets down to the end line. Becerra cuts inside, winning a tussle with Joseph Cervantes but is stopped by a shove from Garrett DeLong. DeLong picks up a yellow card and Becerra converts the resulting penalty.
87′ 4-1 Denton Diablos – The goal of the night came moments after DeLong was sent off for a second bookable offense. The Vaqueros’ defender came through the back of a player for a pretty straightforward card.
Denton’s Alex Giurgila raced down the right touchline before playing a neat chip over the head of fellow substitute Shadrack Yanga. Yanga’s first touch is a square ball inside to Perez, who completes the one-two leaving Yanga through on goal. The Congolese midfielder dummies a shot forcing a defender to fly by and Ali Zia to dive, before chipping over the Vaqueros keeper into the empty net.
Thoughts & Observations
Firstly it was a fantastic game to watch. Soccer isn’t a TV show, it’s meant to be digested live and in person. Local games that are this competitive are a must for any soccer fan.
I’m going to follow up with an article specifically on how the organizers have put on a safe tournament in the midst of a pandemic while MLS is clearly struggling. A Frisco-based company was on site providing instant testing for the COVID-19 virus, with a protocol in place for players as well as limitations for fans.
Kudos to both teams for hosting great quality live broadcasts on their respective Facebook pages. The more eyes on the field, the more opportunities for the teams to generate income and players to gain opportunities to play at higher levels.
Diablos owner Damon Gochneaur provided color commentary on a broadcast with slick graphics and an elevated camera angle. Vaqueros broadcast team Scott Wegener and Jon Carney were on play-by-play as the Fort Worth club boasted a three-camera production with replays.
Harris Partain is an outstanding footballer, and his partnership with Adrian Pinales is a lot of fun to watch. Partain is the younger brother of San Antonio FC’s Hayden Partain and was the all-ACC first team in his senior year at the University of Tulsa last year.
I was astounded to hear that Pinales was 35-years-old, such was the pace of his play.
Further back for Denton, I really enjoyed Antonio Perez at right back. Something that Luchi Gonzalez tried to employ at FC Dallas was a cross-field pass out of the back in an effort to clear the opposition attacking lines. The Dallas coach doesn’t have a full back who is comfortable playing that pass, relying on midfielder Bryan Acosta to drop back. Perez played that same pass several times, starting the move for Denton’s second goal and later dropping a 60-yard bomb to the left winger. Away from his distribution, a strong stocky defender with a clean tackle, great instinct on when to make forward runs, and a keen sense on when to retreat. I’d go as far as to call him my man of the match.
I’d heard Billy O’Dwyer’s name mentioned a lot previously, mainly with the Dallas Sidekicks, but the former Jesuit and Texans player was a great calming influence in a midfield that struggled to get a foothold in the game. It’s hard to call the area O’Dwyer had taken his free kick from as dangerous but the quality of his deliveries increased the threat of the Vaqueros’ set pieces.
The second leg of the Chisholm Trail Clasico is next Saturday at Martin Field in Fort Worth. I don’t think the two teams were three goals apart in quality, but Fort Worth started slowly in the middle of the park and the game got out of reach in the first half-hour.
Coach Rakestraw explained how tough it is to set up for these matches, and isn’t taking anything for granted after his team’s first win over their rivals.
“It’s a beating,” said Rakestraw. “You get one training session between each game and really when you’re going from between the Wednesday-Saturday is a recovery session and so, not a whole lot of real work that can be done. The frustrating part I guess from a coach’s perspective is just not being able to work on certain things tactically.”