FC Denver Open Cup History: 2016 To Now
Entering our first Open Cup in 2016, we did not really know what to expect. It was our first year attempting to qualify for the illustrious US Soccer tournament. Goalkeeper Brendan Buchanan remarks: “Most of us were pretty excited to be playing in the tournament, but the individual and overall preparation wasn't where it should have to do well in the tournament. However in the end it all worked out as we used it as something to build off of for the next year.”
Azteca was playing within the UPSL and were accustomed to the official FIFA rules. We were unsure how we would stand up to the competition. The level within the Colorado Premier League is high, but teams overall fitness and skill level are higher. Defender Gregory Borchers reflects, “For me though, it was a chance to play in an "official" format with 3 subs, extra time, etc which was the best part for me. We lost the game which I think put into perspective on what was needed to achieve success in the competition and pushed us to where we are now.”
Looking back on our first Open Cup run, getting knocked out of the first round of qualifying 3-1 was the best preparation for our squad. In the end, adversity builds character and we gained valued experience from this match.
Our Second Go
Heading into qualification for the 2018 US Open Cup we knew our standard of play, fitness, and awareness needed improvement. Facing three UPSL teams during the qualifying rounds meant we needed to have the utmost composure. Ultimately, we prevailed against GAM Untied (3-0), Fort Collins United (1-0), and then Indios (2-0). These matches were all very exciting but our biggest take away was that our preparation after getting knocked out last year was paying dividends.
In our first year qualifying for the 2018 US Open Cup, we drew Azteca in the first round. This was our absolute biggest test as a club thus far. Defying all odds, we came out on top 4-2 with an amazing hat-trick from Cesar Castillo. We eagerly waited to hear who our next opponent would be after qualifying for our first Open Cup. When the day came we learned our competitor was the Colorado Switchbacks, the USL team from Colorado Springs. Playing up to competition is one of our strong suits, but this game needed our best performance.
The Biggest Match In Our History
Going into this game, we knew it was going to test our strength and be a constant uphill battle but we knew we had earned our right to be there. After being the better team on the day for 90 minutes, we ultimately lost 3-2 in the final minutes of the match. Although we lost the match, what we learned was most valuable. Our longest serving current FC Denver player Joel Miller reflects on our performance: “It was fun to see how we surprised the Switchbacks and ourselves with how we could compete with them straight up. I think we gained the respect of the opposing fans and players with our skill and hunger and ultimately we really should have won the match.” At the end of the match, the Switchbacks fans started applauding us for our effort. It was inspiring to everyone to see how we performed on the day. Defender Kyle Crouse quotes: “It's not everyday you get to match up against a professional side as an amateur team. […] It was cool to see the reaction of some of the Switchback players after the game saying how they had respect for us and were impressed with our work rate. Even though we came up a little short, it was an experience we will never forget and a highlight of our club history.”
Even though we lost the match and exited the Open Cup, we held our heads high. Our first proper Open Cup and even the opposing fans were chanting our name. We gained experience, heart, and have a better understanding about what it takes to compete at this level.
The Buzz Of This Year
Going into our third Open Cup, already understanding what this competition requires, we feel more confident as well as mentally and physically ready. Our toughest game was drawing our rivals Harpos in the second round of qualifying. In the past two years, we have lost every time we have met. In the end we were victorious, making the game one of our most exciting matches as a club. Beating Harpos in penalties after 120 minutes played was a highlight of our 2018. United player/coach and Open Cup assistant coach states, “Last year we had a great run and that has lead to the mindset we are good enough to qualify for the tournament every year.”
This season we have really felt every member of this club form a stronger bond, both on and off the pitch. Kyle Crouse remarks: “Its fun to see how we all buy into the vision and goals we've set forth and work towards them together as a unit.”
We are unsure how far we will advance in the US Open Cup this season, but our Club General Manager Luke Elbin leaves us with the perfect quote that will resonate throughout this groundbreaking year:
“Its a cliche, but the team never seems to get too high or too low. It is just a really mature group who have been through a lot together over the past two years.”
-To an even better 2019, #WeAreDenver