The Littleton-based Colorado Rush have a big trip to make for its first-ever Lamar Hunt US Open Cup appearance. It took a long road trip to qualify, and now that they’re in, the Rush have to make the First Round’s biggest road trip, traveling more than 900 miles to Arizona to take on FC Tucson (PDL) on May 10.
The Rush qualified for the 104th edition of the competition after a strong finish in the 2016 Colorado Amateur Soccer League – since rebranded as the Colorado Premier League – placing them in the Open Division Qualification tournament last fall. They qualified without giving up a single goal. They started out with a 3-0 home win over FC Boulder, with three first half goals from Nick Blanco, Griffen Dorsey and Jack O’Brian.
In Round 2, the Rush players had to all chip in to cover the cost of traveling more than 1,200 miles to Portland Oregon to take on International Portland Select. The game ultimately proved to be the match that punched their ticket to the US Open Cup, as they cruised past the 2016 Oregon Premier League champions, 4-0.
Formed in 1997, Rush began the merger of two local youth soccer clubs: Club Columbine and Lakewood United Soccer Club. After becoming one of the largest Denver-area youth soccer clubs, Rush expanded into regional branches around the state of Colorado, then into other states and eventually around the world currently enrolling more than 40,000 youth soccer players across North, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Oceania and as far away as South Africa and Nepal.
The venture into an adult “first team” was a logical step as the player pool of generations of youth players that had graduated the Rush academy was continuing to grow.
The Rush alumni in the pros include Collen Warner (Minnesota United), Paolo DiPiccolo (Louisville City FC) and Collin Clark (Colorado Rapids, Houston Dynamo). Clark has returned to Rush as a first team midfielder and academy coach. Led by Clark, the rest of the Rush team that will take on FC Tucson are all players that have completely learned soccer the “Rush Way” – a system that emphasizes players experimenting at multiple positions and taking risks valuing well-rounded development over results.
“The Rush Way is the embodiment of all that is Rush Soccer,” said Joe Webb, the team’s head coach. “The rules and manner in which Rush members hold themselves and how they expect other Rush members to conduct themselves. This is not inherent in all people, but can be learned. The Rush Way encourages passion, leadership, respect and, above all, quality.”
Currently the club enters two first teams; one in the Colorado Premier League as well as the recently created United Premier Soccer League (UPSL). 2017 has been the first year that Rush has entered in such an arrangement and it has not been without its troubles.
Going into the season, head coach Joe Webb stated the goal of the first season was a championship in theUPSL’s newly-formed Colorado Division. The UPSL team is well on their way to achieving this goal, leading the Colorado Division of eight teams with a 5-1-2 record and a +13 goal differential. Should Rush claim the UPSL Colorado Division title the team will be entered into the National Tournament potential making for a busy summer of games across the country in the both the UPSL National Tournament and the U.S. Open Cup.
The neglected CPL team meanwhile is second to bottom in the league with a 1-1-4 record and a minus-44 goal differential, mostly due to a number of lopsided losses on days where Rush players were clearly not prepared to compete.
Competing on multiple fronts has certainly has not been easy for the Rush.
“We certainly have had some hurdles to overcome, most of those have been put in place by a very small group of detractors though, so it has not been to hard to navigate past some of these silly things,” said Webb. “Anytime your programs are growing and having a lot of success, there are always going to be some folks who don’t like it. Right now we are making improvements and changes to how we do things, in order to better serve our players. We knew the direction we wanted to go with our program so we just set our goals ,we have stayed the course, and so far the results have been great.”
As the CPL season closes in May, and the UPSL season continues through June, the team that will show up in Tucson with their best collection of players across all teams, according to Webb.
“We are in an awesome place right now,” added Webb. “We have been able to meet the demands of all of our adult players, so it’s really exciting for us. We used to only have one level of teams and now we have a place for our higher level players who were wanting something more, we are adding a women’s program this fall too.”