The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC won their opening round game in the US Open Cup for the fourth year in a row. Photo: Isaiah Downing | Switchbacks FC
On a night that saw many United Soccer League (USL) teams fall to open division teams, it took everything the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC had not to join the list. The Switchbacks welcomed FC Denver to Weidner Field, an amateur team that was coming off a First Round victory over Azteca FC, 4-2.
From the opening whistle, FC Denver looked to be the more aggressive side, jumping on miscues from the sluggish-looking home team, often to the delight of the large traveling contingent in the stands who made the 90-minute trip south to Colorado Springs. Their devotion was rewarded in the 38th minute when Fernando Magallanes headed in a goal for the visiting team. The half ended, with FC Denver leading 1-0.
The second half saw the Switchbacks make some adjustments, bringing in Saeed Robinson and Luke Vercollone. Their persistence paid off in the 55th minute when a Josh Suggs corner kick found Pascal Eboussi who deflected the ball into the net, bringing the game back into a tie, 1-1. Just three minutes later, Robinson set up Uriel Macias for his first professional goal, giving the Switchbacks a 2-1 lead over FC Denver.
FC Denver did not go down quietly, however, and kept the pressure on the home team. Their aggressive play led to a would-be tying goal on a howler of a mistake from the Switchbacks back line and goalkeeper Mouise Pouaty. FC Denver had a free kick from their own half of the field in the 70th minute. The ball was played in from the kick, and indecision between Pouaty and his defense led to the ball bounce untouched in the goal, seemingly tying up the contest. During the celebration, the referee and his side judge convened, and after several minutes of discussion waived off the goal. Because the goal was scored off of an offside restart, which is an indirect free kick, and did not touch any player before being scored, by rule, the goal was waived off, and Colorado Springs was awarded a goal kick.
FC Denver pressed on, and were rewarded with a penalty kick in the 77th minute off an apparent handball in the box. Cesar Castillo, who scored a hat trick in FC Denver’s opening round win over Azteca FC, stepped up and deftly converted the shot, and tied the game at 2-2.
The game seemed to be destined for extra time, as both teams continued to pressure for the decisive goal. In the 88th minute, Robinson used his speed to break down the FC Denver defense, and was clipped in the heel in the box, leading to a penalty kick. Longtime Switchbacks defender Jordan Burt stepped up and converted, giving the home team the 3-2 lead. Despite desperate pressure by FC Denver in injury time, the game ended with a spectacular diving save from Pouaty.
Switchbacks assistant coach Wolde Harris stepped into the head coach’s role for the game and handled the training, planning and game management.
“It’s Wolde’s game – he’s the man,” said head coach Steve Trittschuh. “It’s a part of taking my Pro License and it’s for Wolde’s development as a coach. Wolde will prepare the team and get them ready for Wednesday and it’s all him for this game and that’s great for him and for everybody.”
After the game, Harris commented, “We came out flat in the first half which we can’t do against a USL opponent. We fought back in the second half after we made two impactful substitutions. Saeed Robinson came on and got an assist and set up the game-winning penalty kick. Luke’s experience stabilized the team even after the second goal.”
The Switchbacks will advance to the Third round, and face fellow USL Western Conference side, San Antonio FC, who easily handled their second-round opponent, Midland-Odessa Sockers FC (NPSL), shutting them out 4-0.