Dillon Serna once again pushed the Rapids past their in-state rivals, advancing to the Round of 16 for the third year in a row. The deciding goal came in the 84th minute off a Marco Pappa corner kick, initially headed by Dominique Badji towards a patiently-waiting Serna located just beyond the 18-yard box. The lone goal was enough to clinch the tactical battle.
With the 1-0 win, the Rapids eliminated the Switchbacks for the second year in a row, after defeating the USL side 4-1 at the same stadium last year.
Despite being in-between two away league matches this week, Switchbacks head coach Steve Trittschuh decided to go with a mostly full strength lineup. The prematch instructions were simple. Drop a fifth defender, typically wingers Aaron King or Saeed Robinson or central midfielder Ronny Arguta, and force the Rapids to either opt for the long shot from midfield or attempt wayward crosses from the corners. Even with tired legs after a gritty 0-0 draw at Los Angeles two days ago the Switchbacks managed to keep the Rapids attack at bay for the majority of the game while managing a fair amount of counter attacks that resulted in attempts on Rapids’ goalkeeper Zac MacMath’s net.
Returning to the field for the first time in over two weeks, the Rapids were rusty. The front four of Dominique Badji, Marco Pappa, Dillon Serna and Conor Doyle skied numerous shots far and wide over the net often playing into the visitors defense. Head coach Pablo Mastroeni added after the game that is was the “first time this season we faced a team that dropped 10 guys the whole game … but at the end of the day you want to see a group of guys figuring it out together.”
And that they did, as the game progressed Pappa, Serna and midfielder Dillon Powers shook off the rust and forced a total of thirteen corners, eventually converting one near the very end.
The result aside; one of the many positives that Trittschuh pointed out was the closer contest compared to last year’s 4-1 drubbing but just as important the growing atmosphere around this budding rivalry. Within shouting distance of each other directly behind the two benches the two teams boasted their own growing contingent of supporters waging a vocal tug of war throughout the match.
“However many people came down, it was loud it was great, we need to keep growing it,” said Trittschuh, “It would be nice to host this match sometime.”
The Rapids advanced and tally their second win in as many chances but everyone involved is certainly looking forward to the next year’s tournament hoping to see the same matchup again.
Man of the Match:
Dillon Serna, scored the game winning goal and was the catalyst for the Rapids across the 90 minutes. For the Switchbacks, center midfielder Ronny Argueta and defender Jordan Burt had memorable defensive efforts breaking up passes left and right. The two kept the backline organized and efficient not allowing the Rapids a quality look at the net for most of the game. Goalkeeper William Thompson deserves some recognition for his two saves, both full extension punching saves that kept the scoreless until the very end.