Players from FC Denver and Midland-Odessa Sockers FC (blue) battle for the ball in their First Round match in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Midland-Odesssa Sockers FC
Kyle Crouse’s late goal ended up being the difference-maker in FC Denver’s 2-1 win over Sockers FC in the First Round of the 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Wednesday night at Grande Communications Stadium in Midland, Texas. It was a long day for FC Denver as their flight to Midland was canceled, forcing them to fly into El Paso and drive four hours to the game.
They were able to get to the game on time and when it started, it was back-and-forth throughout the night. FC Denver never trailed, and took the lead on a 34th-minute goal by Cesar Castillo. But Sockers FC used a strong second half to pull even on a 64th-minute goal by Grant Mobley on a corner kick.
“Our team battled together,” FC Denver head coach Drew Melin said. “We fought for each other the whole game. We have a few things that we need to tighten up but we just kept battling. We played for each other.”
FC Denver poses for a team photo before their First Round match with Midland-Odessa Sockers FC in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: FC Denver
FC Denver finished with 14 total shots while Sockers FC had 12. Both teams had four shots on target.
Both teams were nearly even on possession with Sockers FC controlling it 51 percent of the game.
Both teams began the night on a promising note with close opportunities within the first three minutes, one of which was a Sockers FC corner kick that came up empty-handed.
A free kick by FC Denver resulted in a diving save by Sockers FC goalkeeper Brin Lapuh early in the game. Then, a shot by Peter Jacobson forced Lapuh to make another saving effort in the 16th minute of the game.
FC Denver had another scoring opportunity come and go when Lashaw Salta’s shot went over the crossbar in the game’s 22nd minute and both teams remained scoreless.
Andres Ruiz delivered one of the few chances for Sockers FC in the first half, overshooting the target from the right side in the 30th minute.
But, FC Denver finally cracked the scoreboard Cesar Castillo found the back of the net in the game’s 33rd minute to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. For Castillo, it was his fifth career US Open Cup goal. He scored four goals for FC Denver in last year’s tournament, which tied him for third in the competition’s goalscoring chart. With five goals, no player from a United States Sports Specialty Association team has scored more goals in the history of the tournament.
FC Denver would go on to end the first half its one-goal advantage.
While the visitors created the bulk of chances in the first half, Sockers FC began to settle down in the second half and tie things up with Mobley’s equalizer.
“You have to give all the credit to FC Denver,” Sockers FC head coach Johnny Clifford said. “They played pretty well. We’ve had guys who are still getting adjusted and have just showed up. We haven’t had many practices and it showed.
“We just got beat by a better, more experienced team. you have to give credit to them. I don’t want t to make excuses. I felt like we did enough to win the game, but we had lack of fitness and experience and preparation. We paid the price for it.”
But with time ticking away, Crouse’s last-second effort gave FC Denver its second US Open Cup win in the franchise’s history.
“I was glad to be able to finish off the game,” Crouse said. “It was a hard-fought battle. I’m really excited for this team. we had a great team effort. I last minute-winner is something that everyone dreams about.
“I think we expected them to come out strong in the second half. It certainly woke us up. It was a good back-and-forth game. It was a battle until the end.”
With the win, FC Denver advances to the Second Round for the second year in a row, and for the second year in a row they have to travel to play the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC of the USL Championship. Last year, the Switchbacks eliminated FC Denver on a late penalty kick, 3-2.