On a chilly April Colorado night, the Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC found just enough magic to defeat the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in extra time 1-0 to advance to the Third Round of the US Open Cup.
Colorado Springs came into the game as the only perfect team in the USL Championship, with a record of 4-0-0. While they decided to rest regular starters Hadji Barry, Michee Ngalina, and Cam Lindley, they did come prepared with their regular back line of Jimmy Ockford, Tristan Hodge, and Dennis Erdmann.
For Northern Colorado, this was the first competitive game in club history, and all eyes were on USL veteran Irvin Parra, who came into this season with 103 USL Championship appearances and 39 goals.
The night started quickly as the Hailstorm almost saw disaster when Switchbacks forward Kharlton Belmar scored in the first minute, but the goal was ruled offside and waived off.
Both teams exchanged possessions early, but the tenor of the game changed in the 27th minute when Parra swung an elbow that connected with Dennis Erdmann’s face. Referee Laura Rodriguez consulted at length with her linesman before concluding the offense was deserving of a straight red card, and the Hailstorm found themselves down to 10 men early in the game.
The Switchbacks began to press hard, with Zach Zandi missing a wide open goal on a Belmar pass, and Belmar missing a point blank shot shortly before the half. The Hailstorm held on with a bend-don’t-break defense and the first half ended deadlocked at 0-0.
The second half began much as the first half ended, with the Hailstorm withstanding a furious attack by the Switchbacks. Despite controlling play, and pressing at will, the Switchbacks could not find the back of the net, with their best chances coming from a pair of shots from Tristan Hodge that bounced off the woodwork.
Northern Colorado nearly pulled out the victory in the 89th minute when Lachlan McLean struck a shot that was barely saved by keeper Christian Herrera. By the end of 90 minutes, both teams were still unable to find glory, and went into extra time scoreless.
The stalemate was quickly broken in extra time, when in the 96th minute McLean fed a ball to Jerry Desdunes who bashed it home to give the debutant Hailstorm their first ever goal, and the lead.
Things further unraveled for the Switchbacks in the 103rd minute, Hodge picked up his second yellow, and was sent off, evening the sides at 10 men apiece. The Switchbacks continued to frantically press but could not find the equalizer. The final whistle blew and the Hailstorm picked up their first win, 1-0.
Northern Colorado will advance to Round 3 of the Open Cup, and will await their next opponent, which will be announced Friday when the pairings are drawn at Noon ET. They open League One league play Saturday April 9 at the Richmond Kickers.
This is what it looks like when you score your club’s first Open Cup goal — & first EVER goal | 😱 #USOC2022
— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) April 7, 2022
Colorado Springs failed to advance out of the Second Round for the first time in club history (five previous appearances). They will look to turn things around and continue their undefeated Championship league campaign April 6 at the Las Vegas Lights, who were also eliminated from the tournament on Wednesday night.