FC Denver poses for a team photo after the club’s 4-3 extra time win over Southwest FC in the final round of the 2019 US Open Cup qualifying tournament. Photo: FC Denver
Comebacks in soccer are part of what makes this game so compelling and FC Denver accomplished one of the biggest in recent Lamar Hunt US Open Cup history against Southwest FC at Del Valle High School in El Paso, Texas to book a place in the 2019 edition of the tournament. Goals from a Peter Jacobson penalty, Lashaw Salta, Tyler Chauncey and Cesar Castillo saw FC Denver turn around a 3-0 deficit. Southwest FC had built that advantage with goals from Alexis Gomez, David Lopez, and a penalty from Joshua Morales.
“I still don’t have words for exactly what happened,” said FC Denver player/manager Drew Melin.
With the win, FC Denver punches their ticket to the US Open Cup for the second year in a row. Last year, in their tournament debut, they defeated fellow Colorado Premier League side Azteca FC before falling on the road to the USL’s Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.
Players from FC Denver (green) and Southwest FC battle for the ball in a Fourth Round match in the Open Division Local qualifying tournament for the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: James Clifton
The match began with the home team on top of proceedings and, although it took just shy of half an hour to come, the breakthrough felt like it would only ever arrive at one end of the field. After a SWFC chance was put behind by FCD, the ensuing corner was well-delivered by Isaiah Segoviano and met thunderously by Alexis Gomez and hit the back of the net.
They scored again two minutes later when captain David Lopez latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the box and in a peculiarity of the game, played a pass off of the referee. The inadvertent give-and-go put Lopez through on FCD’s goal and he finished low to the keeper’s right to quickly double SWFC’s lead.
Things went from bad to worse for FCD as one minute from the end of the half, Cesar Sosa was brought down in the area and the penalty kick was professionally dispatched by Joshua Morales to give the El Paso side a commanding 3-0 lead.
Just when things looked over and done for FCD, a glimmer of hope appeared.
FCD went to the other end of the field and in stoppage time at the end of the half earned a penalty of their own for a very similar foul to the one SWFC was awarded. Peter Jacobson took his penalty with aplomb and the sides headed into halftime with two goals of separation.
The second half began much like the first, with both teams taking time to settle into the pace of the new arrangement.
“We changed formation to go a bit more narrow and tighter, and it stopped them from playing the way they wanted,” said Melin.
This change worked for FCD extremely well and eventually paid dividends in front of goal. Lashaw Salta had struggled to find joy coming in from the right but with 20 minutes to play he got his first real opportunity and took it, finishing through a crowd low to the keeper’s left.
Eight minutes later, the comeback was completed.
Tyler Chauncey, having put in an industrious shift up to that point, scored the easiest of tap ins after a great run down the right by Alex Bernhardt.
Both teams spent the next ten minutes nearly winning the game in regulation, but the clock struck 90 and it would take a further thirty minutes to separate the clubs.
It was just two minutes before the halfway point of extra time when FCD’s took the lead with a fourth unanswered goal. Cesar Castillo got hold of the ball on the edge of the area and his turn and low finish were as clinical as they come. They had come all the way back and then taken the lead in what is one of the most stunning comebacks of the 2019 qualifying tournament.
Castillo has played a big role in Denver’s success in the tournament the last two years. He scored a hat trick in last year’s Open Cup win over Azteca FC, and was a finalist for TheCup.us Player of the Round. Last December, Castillo also had a goal and assist in a win over Gam United FC that helped FCD reach Saturday’s “Win & You’re In” match.
But the match did not end there.
Things got predictably chippy as tensions flared, and after a foul in the center of the field, a spat broke out that saw both Brian Roddy for FCD and David Lopez for SWFC sent off, leaving both teams to finish with 10 men. Southwest had their numbers reduced again around the 112th minute with another red card, but they still managed one more opportunity to tie the game. Their last roll of the dice came from substitute Joel Barboza who blazed over from 18 yards out with the final chance to equalize and FC Denver had done it. The Colorado club is headed back to the US Open Cup for the second straight season and made it seven straight qualifying round wins.
Melin added before heading off to celebrate the win, “The way we can come together, the core we have, the chemistry is unreal. We know what we have to do. We know the type of effort we can put in. There is no ceiling for this team”