In the shadow of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids were warming up for their match against the San Jose Earthquakes, two powers of the Colorado Amateur Soccer League (CASL) were going at it on a pitch that was far below the standards the Rapids were playing on. This bumpy, ragged, patchwork pitch was the scene for the opening round match featuring two of Colorado’s best sides, Colorado Rovers of Denver and Harpo’s FC of Boulder.
In the end, Harpo’s FC won the latest chapter in this rivalry by a score of 2-0. It was the third year in a row that Harpo’s have eliminated the Colorado Rovers in Open Cup qualifying.
The Rovers are the historic power in Colorado football, having won two national championships in the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) and made historic runs in the Open Cup in years not too far in the distant past. Head coach Erick French is proud of that winning tradition and is determined to bring those days back to the Rovers.
Harpo’s is the current hot hand in Colorado, making a decent run in the Cup last season, they were knocked out by USL’s Colorado Switchbacks in an exciting 1-0 loss in the Spring session. Head coach Steve Lepper is excited to return to Open Cup action and feels like he has the side to take Harpo’s further this season.
These two Colorado Amateur Soccer League rivals have been the only two clubs that have represented the USSSA since the organization received its first entry into the tournament in 2013. In 2013 and 2014, the Rovers won the USSSA qualifying tournament to punch their ticket. In 2015, Harpo’s FC defeated the Rovers in group play, which helped them advance to the championship game. Harpo’s would lose the Final to the KC Athletics, but earned their first spot in the US Open Cup after the Athletics already qualified for the tournament through the USASA. In 2016, the open division qualifying tournament made its debut and the Rovers and Harpo’s met in the opening round with the “bull shit pub team” (as Harpo’s refers to themselves as) won 4-1 in extra time.
The match started quickly with Harpo’s taking most of the action in the first half. Harpo’s was able to work the ball down the left side effectively throughout the half, however, finishing was elusive, as the Rovers defense was bending, but certainly holding firm at the net until late in the half when Santiago Velez was able to beat the goalkeeper in the 40th minute for 1-0 Harpo’s lead.
The second half played at a slower pace and became a more physical affair. Rovers were able to get more of their attacking players up the field and were unlucky with a shot off the post. These two teams are very familiar and banter from the first half started to become frustration in the second half. A few yellow cards were required to settle things down and the pace became more choppy and uneven, which seemed to play into Rovers game plan a bit better.
Substitutions started to come in the 60th minute and none was more effective than Harpo’s Dan Whittle, whose pace changed the game dramatically. From the time Whittle came off the bench the match took a different tone, and Harpo’s amped up the pace and was able to stave off the advancing Rovers attack. The result was an 89th minute securing goal by Ross Van Osdale to seal the victory for Harpo’s.
Speaking with both managers after the match it was clear that the pitch was an issue for both sides, they were both missing critical players, however, Harpo’s was clearly the deserved winner. French was gracious in defeat and wished Harpo’s well in their match on October 22 against Aztecs, who were able to defeat FC Denver 3-1 in other action tonight in CASL.