Colorado Rapids eased into the last 16 of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with a comprehensive 4-1 win over Colorado Springs Switchbacks on Tuesday night.
The MLS outfit controlled the game throughout. They led 2-0 at the interval thanks to Dominique Badji’s sidefoot finish from an astute pass by captain Sam Cronin. Then Joe Greenspan crowned his debut by heading in Dillon Serna’s free-kick.
Switchbacks’ defender Josh Phillips was sent off in the 61st minute for a scything challenge on Badji. Shortly afterwards, Serna drilled home an excellent third to kill the tie. Jordan Burt and Serna swapped goals in injury time but by then Rapids were already looking forward to Thursday’s draw for the next round.
In place of the suspended Pablo Mastroeni, Claudio Lopez took charge of a much-changed side. Greenspan and keeper Zac MacMath made their competitive debuts for the Rapids. Marlon Hairston and Serna were enjoying their first starts of the season while Shane O’Neill was back in the side after an excellent spell with the USMNT U-23s.
The first competitive game between these Colorado neighbors had been much-anticipated but, in truth, the start was slow.
Badji beat the keeper to head just wide in the 10th minute but the visitors from the USL would respond. Shintaro Harada tested MacMath then Mike Seth only just missed connecting with a header at the far post.
However, despite those chances, the Rapids had enjoyed dominance in terms of possession and territory so it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 26th minute. Cronin threaded an excellent ball into Badji who guided the ball home from 12 yards out.
Miguel Gonzalez almost equalized immediately but MacMath denied him with his legs.
Six minutes later, Serna floated over a free-kick from the right to the far post and Greenspan leaned over his marker to guide a header back across goal, off the woodwork and into the net.
Suddenly the Rapids had the game in their hands.
Charles Eloundou was one of hosts’ most incisive players on the night and, in the 35th minute, he cut inside and skimmed a shot against the bar.
Greenspan and O’Neill might have increased the Rapids’ lead just before the whistle blew.
The Switchbacks came out fast after the restart. However, that gave Rapids opportunities on the break. From one, Eloundou fired across goal. From another, Serna struck the woodwork.
Just past the hour, Phillips slid in late on Badji by the right-hand touchline and was sent off. The Rapids striker limped off to be replaced by Luis Solignac.
Four minutes later, Serna weaved past a couple of Switchback defenders and clipped home a sumptuous third for the home side.
It felt like ‘game over’.
Eloundou and Serna drew a couple of fine saves from visiting keeper Devala Gorrick. However by now the Rapids were happy with what they had.
Jordan Burt cut inside substitute Drew Moor to reduce the arrears for the Switchbacks and the start of added time.
But, almost immediately, Serna slid home a low cross from Solignac at the far post.
Rapids were safely in the draw for the round of 16. They find out their opponents at 9am MT on Thursday.
Colorado Rapids 4-1 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
June 16, 2015 – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
COL: Dominique Badji (Cronin, Hairston) 26’
COL: Joseph Greenspan (Serna) 32’
COL: Dillon Serna (LaBrocca) 65’
COS: Jordan Burt 90’+1’
COL: Dillon Serna (Solignac, Pittinari) 90’+3’
COLORADO RAPIDS: Zac MacMath, Marlon Hairston, Shane O’Neill, James Riley (Drew Moor, 67’), Joseph Greenspan, Sam Cronin (Marcelo Sarvas, 59’), Charles Eloundou, Nick LaBrocca, Lucas Pittinari, Dillon Serna, Dominique Badji (Luis Solignac, 65’). Subs not used: Clint Irwin, Vicente Sánchez, Gabriel Torres, Jared Watts.
COLORADO SPRINGS SWITCHBACKS FC: Devala Gorrick, Josh Phillips, Jordan Burt, Kley Bejarano, JJ Greer, Davy Armstrong (Luke Vercollone, 51’), Rony Argueta, Shintaro Harada (Kevin Durr, 70’), Miguel Gonzalez, Mike Seth (Karem Smith, 65’), Aaron King. Subs not used: Samir Badr, Jamie McGuinness, Nate Robinson, Martin Maybin.
COS: Josh Phillips (ejection) 62’
COL: Dillon Serna (caution) 72’
Referee: Chipalo Street
Referee’s Assistants: Adam Finney, Adam Zarrin
Fourth Official: Karen Abt