The Colorado Rapids broke a seven-year Lamar Hunt US Open Cup winless streak Wednesday, rolling past the Northern Colorado Hailstorm 3-1 in Third Round play.
Jonathan Lewis scored in the fifth minute, and broke a 1-1 deadlock in the 55th minute with his second. Max added the third goal ten minutes later to put give the Rapids its first Open Cup win since 2017, which was a span of four straight tournament games without a win.
Jackson Dietriech leveled the score at 1-1 for the visiting Hailstorm in the 40th minute.
“At the end of the day it was a good result, a pretty well-played game. We advance in the tournament, which is very important, while being mindful of the game coming up on Saturday,” said Rapids coach Robin Fraser.
Fraser very much mixed the lineup of regular starters, reserve players, and Rapids II call-ups versus the USL League One side that was previously unbeaten in all competitions.
“The second goal they scored was the killer blow. It was a lovely goal from their part with the interplay,” said Northern Colorado coach Éamon Zayed. “No disrespect but you don’t really see those moments very often in USL League One. Obviously, it is a big step up in quality playing against MLS teams.”
The disparity was probably the greatest in the opening quarter of an hour of the match. The Rapids seized control of the match at the opening whistle, creating several half-chances early on in the match.
Central midfielder Ralph Priso set up the opening goal, finding Lewis with space in the left channel outside of the penalty area. Lewis set up his right foot and slotted a low shot to the far post to put the Rapids in the lead. It was Lewis’s first goal since September, 2022.
“For me, it feels good just to get a goal. I haven’t scored yet this year,” Lewis said. “We have to take that confidence as a team and keep being creative in the final third and the goals will come.”
Around the half-hour mark is when the wheels started to come off for the Rapids.
“We took our foot off the gas a little bit and let them get back into the game,” Fraser said.
After a couple of close calls, Northern Colorado pulled level in the 40th minute when Dietriech floated unmarked to the far post, slamming a Trevor Amann cross past Rapids goalkeeper Marko Illić.
It was Illić’s first team debut for the Rapids. He had not registered a save before he conceded his first goal as a Rapid, though he could hardly be blamed for the goal he gave up.
“Things were said to us in the locker room at halftime,” Lewis said. “In the second half we started to play better.”
Early in the second half Darren Yapi forced Northern Colorado goalkeeper Edward Delgado to save brilliantly when he put a driven Anthony Markanish cross to the far post.
Five minutes later Lewis got his second goal on the night thanks to some spectacular interplay with Max. After winning the ball, Lewis slotted the ball to Max in the middle of the field. Lewis kept his run going, receiving a perfectly weighted give-and-go pass from Max. Lewis slotted it past the charging Delgado for his second on the night.
Ten minutes later it was Lewis and Max again. Lewis chased down a ball on the left flank and found a charging Max at the top of the penalty area. Delgado got a hand to Max’s first-time strike but it was not enough.
“I was able to link up with him today really well,” Lewis said. “We both bring the ability go one-on-one with players. He opens up a lot of gaps for people.”
The win was the Rapids’ first Open Cup win since 2017, a 3-2 comeback win over USL Championship side Oklahoma City Energy at Dick’s Sporting Good’s Park.
“I think sometimes teams take these early Open Cup games off,” Fraser said. “We’re taking this competition seriously. Guys have to see it as an opportunity to get into the team and prove themselves. It is an opportunity for us to prove ourselves, to keep moving forward.”