COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The US Open Cup often turns into the theater of the strange: Beer league teams take early leads against professionals, rivalry games turn into on-field brawls, and yes, even the Colorado Rapids score three second half goals.
Until Tuesday night, the Rapids hadn’t accomplished that feat since 2012. That changed in their Open Cup encounter against the USL’s OKC Energy, when three second half tallies – including inaugural efforts from defenders Eric Miller and Dennis Castillo – propelled Colorado to a 3-2 comeback win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“I think the US Open Cup has a funny way of making things really interesting for everyone,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni said after the match. “This game was no different.”
Trailing 2-0 after a forgettable first half, the Rapids needed a changed approach after the interval.
“We went down 2-0 on two goals that I thought we could’ve done a lot better with,” Mastroeni said. “But at halftime, it was about a response. It was about going out and making sure we approached the game the right way: one goal at a time.”
Colorado began to chip away just minutes into the second half, as Dominique Badji pulled one back in the 49th. Seventeen minutes later, Miller leveled the score at 2-2, scoring his debut goal in burgundy.
But it wasn’t his first in the US Open Cup. The 24-year-old had previously scored for the Timbers U-23s when the PDL side competed in the 2013 edition of the tournament.
“It’s been a long time,” Miller reflected. “I’m just happy to get the result and that we’re advancing.”
Following Miller’s equalizer, second-year right back Castillo followed suit with his first ever professional goal, putting Colorado ahead in the 89th minute and sealing the win.
“I’ve been part of this organization for more than a year and I’m just happy to contribute again,” Castillo said. “This team keeps showing that we have a spirit, camaraderie and unity.”
For Mastroeni, the goals complemented a grittier second half performance by the Rapids defensively, despite losing veteran center back Bobby Burling to a lower body injury in the first half.
“[Castillo and Miller] did a really good job,” Mastroeni said. “Eric has trained at center back for the last week, so [defense] was the most important part for me and obviously, everything else is icing on the cake. The way they handled themselves, it’s good to see guys stepping in positions in which they haven’t been playing and shining.”
Colorado survived a hungry USL team looking for a “Cupset” on Tuesday, but the Rapids will face tougher competition when they host the Portland Timbers in MLS action this Saturday (9:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE).
Still, Miller believes Tuesday night’s efforts are a good indicator that the team – who have now won three straight and four consecutive home games across all competitions – is continuing its positive trend.
“It’s the cliché here, but we just keep fighting,” he said. “We’re fit and we’re good at altitude, so if we can keep things close, we’re going to find goals. Other teams are going to get tired and they’re going to make mistakes and we’re going to capitalize on those.”