Field No. 8 at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park complex was the site for the 2017 US Open Cup qualifier between Azteca FC and Harpo’s FC. Photo: Jim Hart
Omar Ledezma delivered for Azteca FC by drawing the equalizing penalty kick and scoring the winning goal to defeat Harpo’s FC two goals to one. With this victory, Azteca FC will advance to the third round of the 2017 US Open Cup qualifying tournament which will take part next spring (Mar. 11-12, 2017).
Harpo’s FC, who had qualified for the last two US Open Cup tournaments and won two games and also advanced once by penalty kicks. Azteca FC, who won the last Colorado State Cup and recently defeated Harpo’s in league play. Now, Azteca FC will join the Colorado Rush as the only two remaining open division amateur teams from Colorado remaining in the competition.
Harpo’s FC took the initial lead when Chris Salvaggione finished a straightforward shot from the top of the 18 yard box. After taking the lead, owning most of the possession and opportunities on net in the first half, Harpo’s FC were unable to maintain the physical and mental sharpness into the second half.
Starting off the second half Azteca FC manager Andy De La Rosa made his first substitution at striker, bringing in Makyr Opoeza, and told his team to pick up the tempo, play quicker and complete shorter passes. The adjustments payed off immediately. Ex-Chivas Guadalajara winger Omar Ledezma drew a penalty at the top of the box, converted by Opoeza. Later in the second half Azteca midfielder Jesus Jeaus Muños flicked on a corner kick to the far post directly in the path of Ledezma who converted the winning goal.
After routinely getting beaten on set pieces by the much taller and more physical Harpo’s FC the pre-designed corner kick was a brilliant call. After the game De La Rosa took no credit for the goal saying that set pieces have always been the Azteca’s weakness, instead it was Ledezma’s creativity and play calling that won the game.
Looking forward to the Open Cup De La Rosa added that he hoped to be the last amateur team standing next summer and hopes that their recently formed under-23 side will provide the depth needed to compete on multiple fronts.
“The loss was a reality check of the level that is needed to compete at this level,” said Harpo’s manager Johnny Freeston. “Today they won the game no question, and we are even more motivated to return to the Cup next year.”
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Based in Denver, Robert Wilson has covered the US Open Cup matches in the Centennial State since 2014. He has enjoyed doing his part to grow the game in his part of the United States while balancing a career outside of soccer. Robert can be contacted by email at robertLwilson.firstname.lastname@example.org