COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The long awaited opening game for Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC was a slow and methodical contest that ended with 1-0 win over the Colorado Springs Switchbacks in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, despite Hailstorm only having five players on the bench for the match.
The Colorado Springs Switchbacks entered the contest with a 4-0-0 record in USL Championship play and had been undefeated in their last 11 games at Weidner Field. Both teams saw half chances in the first 20 minutes, coming close but unable to find the back of the net. It was just five minutes later that the task Hailstorm was faced with got much tougher when Irvin Parra picked up the first card, and red card, in club history. Much of the possession was held by Switchbacks for the rest of the first half in Northern Colorado’s end of the pitch.
Neither team could find a rhythm in the first half, with a number of injuries for both teams to go with the red card. The slow first half resulted in a total of six minutes of stoppage time at the end of the half before the teams could return to the locker rooms to warm up and reset for the second half.
Coming out of halftime, Hailstorm continued to defend strong against the Switchbacks’ attack. Much like the end of the first half the Hailstorm were forced to defend much of the second half but kept their composure until nearly full-time when Lachlan McLean let one go from distance only for it to be punched away by the keeper, resulting in a corner that was nearly headed in as well.
As the game entered extra time Hailstorm pushed forward and Jerry Desdunes found the back of the net on a pass from McLean. It was a solid pass backward into the run of Desdunes, that he took with confidence.
“Two main things: we talked a lot today about history, it’s our first game as a club, it’s our first game as an organization and everyone here wanted to make history tonight,” said McLean. “There was a lot of resilience, which is one of our key core values, that’s showing you the character that runs through the team.”
Moments later a second yellow card was brandished for Switchbacks’ Triston Hodge, sending both teams to 10 men. In the same stoppage, Hailstorm FC assistant coaches Kevin Sawchak and Owain Fôn Williams were sent off by the referees as well, leaving head coach Éamon Zayed as the only coach in the technical area.
“The guys made history tonight, first ever Northern Colorado Hailstorm game and we ended up doing it with a win,” said Zayed. “This week has been really tough on the guys. One of the things we’ve preached this week, and since we’ve been together, has been resilience, and that’s what they showed tonight. We had to loan a goalkeeper in yesterday we had never seen before. We had to loan a fullback who came on and did magnificently.”
Midfielders Destan Norman, Stefan Lukic and Owen Damm made their professional debuts in the game. Norman and Lukic played the full 120 and Damm entered in the second half, playing through extra time. Trevor Amann also made his professional debut in the second half of stoppage time.
Northern Colorado will find their next opponent in the U.S. Open Cup on Friday, April 8.