Colorado Springs Switchbacks Open Cup records
Overall: 2-0-0 | Away: 1-0-0 | vs. MLS: N/A
Last entry: N/A (First entry)
Best finish: N/A (First entry)
Colorado Rapids Open Cup records
Overall: 10-14-0 | Home: 4-1-0 | vs. Div. 3: 1-2-0
Last entry: 2014 (Lost 2-1 vs. Atlanta Silverbacks of NASL in Round 5)
Best finish: 1999 Runner-up
BROADCAST: ONLINE AUDIO
Colorado Springs Switchbacks make the 75-mile trip north to the Denver area to face the Colorado Rapids in the first meeting between the two professional Centennial State clubs in the Fourth Round of the US Open Cup.
Photo: Colorado Springs Switchbacks
Back in December of 2013, the United Soccer League (USL) made two major announcements weeks apart. The first was the announcement of the MLS-USL partnership that instituted the concept of partner clubs between the two leagues; similar but different to the relation of Major League Baseball and AAA baseball clubs. The second announcement was a new franchise expansion awarded to a Colorado Springs ownership group. Just as quickly as the obvious speculation of a Switchbacks-Rapids partnership grew, Rapids President Tim Hinchey squashed all rumors with a quick statement, telling the Denver Post that “We [Rapids] have no relationship with that club,” later announcing a partnership with the Charlotte Independence.
Colorado Rapids decision not to recruit the Colorado Springs Switchbacks as their USL partner gives this matchup a new dimension; the beginning of a new rivalry in Colorado sports, the first in-state rivalry between two professional teams of this kind.
The Rapids enter this year’s tournament eager to erase the memory of their 2014 Open Cup dismissal when the Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) blindsided Pablo Mastroeni’s squad with an outrageous 2-1 victory marred by numerous extended delays, ejections and fights. The extracurricular madness of last year’s upset aside, the defeat to Atlanta was a classic case of a stronger first division side that played well out of their back line, held possession but was defeated by a stifling, at times lucky, defense and timely counterattacks. Since that game, the Rapids have been in perpetual state of frustration failing to find consistent goal scorers or the ability to close out close games in MLS league play, compiling a dismal 4-17-12 record in MLS since last year’s elimination.
In effort to break their offensive struggles, the Rapids have added Irish and Argentinean strikers Kevin Doyle and Luis Solignac this summer. The two strikers along with Panama international Gaby Torres have shown moments of quality but are yet to find any consistent synergy up top.
The Rapids offensive frustrations cannot be summed up any better than the example of star playmaker Dillon Powers, who recently missed a decisive 89th-minute penalty kick away at Salt Lake in MLS league play. With 11 days off between the disastrous ending in their last league game and this Open Cup match, it is safe to assume that the Rapids will be itching to get back on the field and reset their morale.
Despite the offensive struggles, the Rapids backline has been stellar, allowing only 11 goals in 14 MLS league matches. Led by rookie center back Alex Sjöberg, veteran Drew Moor, and five-time Open Cup champion James Riley, the Rapids should be feeling confident going into this match.
On the other side of the field, the Switchbacks are the perfect team to give the Rapids a good test in the Open Cup. Switchbacks head coach Steve Trittschuh (a former Rapids defender, captain, and assistant coach himself) is very familiar with the team. Recent Rapids squad players Davy Armstrong and Aaron King should look to feature against their old team.
The visitors are currently surging in the USL Western Conference, winning in seven of the last eight in all competitions. Trittschuh’s squad is led by an explosive attacking foursome comprised of King, Marty Maybin, Luke Vercollone, and Miguel Gonzalez. They have made a habit of pressuring the opposition early and scoring often. With 25 goals in 12 games, they rank second in scoring among the 24 USL teams. Whether the Switchbacks backline, who have been less than dominant, can hold off the struggling yet talented Rapids attack will be the deciding factor in this matchup.
Heading into the match, it should be noted that Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni and left back Marc Burch will be serving one-game suspensions following red cards in last year’s tournament. Assistant coach and former Argentine national team player Claudio Lopez is likely to be in charge of the Rapids bench.
The Rapids are hoping this is the year they end an unfortunate Modern Era record. The club has not won multiple games in a single US Open Cup since they were runners-up in 1999. That includes 11 tournament entries without back-to-back wins.
It is likely that we see a high-scoring, entertaining match. If the Rapids are able to keep the visitors off the scoreboard early in the match, then they should like the chances getting some momentum behind their attack. Conversely, the Switchbacks should look to follow the path of previous Open Cup upsets by absorbing and frustrating the Rapids attack and picking their moments to counter-attack.
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Colorado Springs Switchbacks
Round 2: 2-1 win vs. Harpo’s FC (USSSA)
Round 3: 1-0 win at Real Monarchs (USL)