The USL’s Colorado Switchbacks rode two first-half goals by forward Martin Maybin to their first US Open Cup victory, beating Harpo’s FC 2-1 in the Second Round.
Harpo’s did not go out without a fight, throwing everything they had towards Switchbacks goalkeeper Samir Badr in the second half.
The result eliminated the Boulder, Colo.-based and ended their run from local recreation league champs to Open Cup Cinderellas.
“We could have won this game, and I think the guys take a lot of positive out of this,” said Switchbacks owner and general manager Johnny Freeston, “like we always say we either win or learn and this game gives ambition to look at the next level for guys and the club.”
Right off the opening whistle Maybin outjumped Harpo’s goalkeeper Zac Gibbens and flicked Kleyner Bejarano’s cross into the top left corner of the net. The first-minute goal allowed the hosts to comfortably sit back and hold possession for most of the first half. Maybin added his second with a ‘goal of the round’ nominee in the 34th minute.
Down two goals at half, Harpo’s looked outmatched by the professional side.
“We worked so fricken hard,” Freeston said. “We owe it to ourselves to be better than this.”
While Switchbacks FC were content with their two-goal lead, the motivated and refocused Harpo’s FC took the field by putting it all on the line. After waves of attacks and successful passing combinations led Kyle Luetkehans, Justin Geibel and Sawyer Frank, the visitors finally broke through with what Freeston described as centerback Kevin Haber “running through a brick wall.”
The 48th minute goal came off a long free kick sent in by Frank.
After finally breaking through, the visitors could feel the momentum shifting and that an equalizer was possible.
In the 76th minute, Switchbacks midfielder Rony Argueta was issued a second yellow after a forcefully-applied header in a 50/50 ball. At this point Harpo’s knew it was the time to attack.
Switchbacks head coach Steve Trittschuh added two defender and star midfielder Luke Vercollone to help mitigate the momentum shift as Freeston went all in with three attacking substitutions. Harpo’s best chance for an equalizer came late in the second half when forward Shane Wheeler played and excellent through ball to Kyle Luetehans who was in on net with just the keeper to beat. Luetkehans took one touch before the ball completely stopped in a deep muddy puddle on the edge of the box; ending the attack.
In the closing minutes of the game the exhausted visitors scrapped for every free kick and corner they could including sending Gibbens in the attack. In the end the Switchbacks held on.
After the game an optimistic yet disappointed Freeston lamented how his team, “trained hard, we trained smart, we watched video and understood their players, knew their tendencies but we made two very amateur mistakes at the beginning of the game.
“They took their chances early, we had to battle back. Under different circumstances we could have a different result, but we made those mistakes.”
In reference to his enjoyable three game Open Cup run the inspired coach added that “the next level beckons for us, but we are not sure what that means yet.”
Going forward Trittschuh is looking forward to what will be the third official meeting between Real Monarch SLC and Switchbacks on Wednesday.
Overall his side plans on taking this tournament “round by round” adding that, “it’s going to take the whole roster to adjust to the Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday,” rhythm of balancing the USL season and Open Cup run.
When asked about Open Cup goals Trittschuh smiled and added, “maybe we could meet the guys up the road,” referring to the his former club the Colorado Rapids in MLS where he reached the Open Cup Final in 1999.