COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Hot from a five-game unbeaten streak in league play, the Colorado Rapids entered the fourth round of U.S. Open Cup competition, hosting regional neighbors New Mexico United of the USL Championship on Wednesday night.
After 90 minutes — which saw Colorado go down a man late in the second half — and two 15-minute sudden death periods, the Rapids fell 4-2 in penalties. The result marks the second-straight year in which the Rapids have been eliminated in the fourth round and the first time since 2004-05 in which Colorado has faced consecutive fourth-round exits from the U.S. Open Cup.
“We were 30 seconds away from closing it out,” Rapids interim head coach Conor Casey said postgame. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that. We went down a man which made things very difficult. Obviously, the result wasn’t what we wanted, but there were still some very good performances from us tonight.”
At the start of the match, Casey played some reserves including homegrown Dillon Serna, centerback Axel Sjoberg and goalkeeper Clint Irwin with the remainder of his regular Starting XI having featured in at least some capacity in Colorado’s 1-0 win against Minnesota United FC the previous weekend.
But it was the lower division side who would draw first blood in the match, as former Real Salt Lake forward Devon Sandoval opened the scoring for New Mexico United in the third minute.
Despite New Mexico continuing with control of possession and attacking play, Colorado would respond with an equalizer in the 35th minute. Rapids defender Lalas Abubakar headed a long ball down to midfielder Diego Rubio, and the Chilean cleanly finished to level the score at 1-1.
“I think the game went the way we thought it was going to go,” Casey said of the first half. “We weren’t able to threaten them as much as we’d have liked pace-wise. But we never really thought we were in too big of danger. I thought we defended quite well as a unit.”
The Rapids took their first lead of the match in the second half as midfielder Nicolas Mezquida found an opportunity with several New Mexico defenders surrounding him. Mezquida put his shot past former Rapids goalkeeper Cody Mizell to give Colorado a 2-1 lead in the 46th minute.
“I wanted [the offense] to be more direct,” Casey said of the Rapids’ adjustments at the half. “We were able to do that in the second half and score out the gates.”
Colorado went down a man in the 72nd minute when Rapids defender Axel Sjoberg was booked with a second yellow card for a dangerous challenge.
Jun 12, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; New Mexico United fans cheer before the match before the match against the Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Sandoval nearly equalized for the visitors in the 90th minute, but his shot from close range was parried just outside the post by Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin.
In extra time, New Mexico would finally find an equalizer. Forward Kevaughn Frater dribbled past multiple Rapids defenders to send a hard shot into the bottom corner of Colorado’s net, leveling the match at 2-2 and sending the match to sudden death.
After two sudden death periods, the game went to penalties. Rapids’ players Danny Wilson and Sam Nicholson both missed their penalties, while every New Mexico player converted, sealing the win.
“It’s a little bump tonight, but we’ll get back on and be ready to go next week,” Casey said.
New Mexico will now focus on an upcoming league match against Las Vegas Lights on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET). Colorado will face a hiatus from league play due to the Gold Cup break, returning to action on June 22 to face Vancouver Whitecaps on the road (10 p.m. ET).