FC Denver win 4-2 off Cesar Castillo hattrick to advance to USOC 2nd round

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WESTMINSTER, Colo. (May 9, 2018)FC Denver have advanced to the 2nd Round proper of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. They advance after winning 4-2 against Azteca FC in the first round in Westminster on Wednesday night.

FC Denver win 4-2 off Cesar Castillo hattrick to advance to USOC 2nd round

Denver were clearly the better side in the first half. The home side looked to attack directly with good ball movement on the flanks. Cesar Castillo and Fernando Magallanes, in particular, looked dangerous.

The Boys in Green finally got on the board in the 29th minute. Castillo ran into a long ball that split the defense. He attempted to chip goalkeeper Marcos Madera. Madera made the save but the ball deflected behind him. Castillo beat the keeper and a defender to the ball and blasted it into the back of the net.

Just eight minutes later, Denver would double their advantage. After several good chances on restarts, Alex Bernhardt headed home a goal with a lobbing header out of the reach of everyone and into the side netting. The half ended 2-0 with some physical play by both sides.

Denver made it three in the 54th minute. Castillo again made a great run onto a ball and beat Madera with a perfect low shot inside the far post.

The match started to get more physical as players from both sides committed chippy fouls. The officials had called a tight game and started handing out yellow cards to the frustration of several Azteca players. Azteca pulled one back in the 58th minute as Jesus Munoz cleaned a ball close to goal after goalkeeper Michael Moberg made the initial save.

Things got ugly in the 74th minute when Kyle Heppenstall took an elbow to the head on an aerial duel and went down immediately. The play was stopped immediately as Heppenstall appeared to be knocked out. After a stoppage of several minutes, an ambulance arrived and drove onto the field. Heppenstall was loaded onto a stretcher and into the back of the ambulance with his head secured. All of his limbs appeared to be mobile under his own power.

Things seemed to calm down physically after that. With the injury stoppage of nearly 15 minutes, the fourth official gave 16 minutes of second-half stoppage time. Seven minutes into stoppage time, Roberto Aguilera cleaned up a rebound to make it 3-2.

Azteca pushed for a tying goal, but it was Castillo who finished off an opportunity on the counter at the death. Having completed his hattrick, he ran to form a celebration huddle with his teammates as the official blew the whistle for full time.

The final score was 4-1. This FC Denver win will have them take on Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC next week.

Three takeaways:

Counters up the middle did the job: Three of the four goals for Denver came on the counter. Good service between the lines allowed Castillo and others to get the ball in stride and move into dangerous positions. The Azteca midfield was never able to adjust and it was their downfall.

Physical play went too far: Despite the tight officiating, the second half got very chippy and tense. None of the fouls seemed malicious, but whether intentional or not, one of them ultimately led to a potentially serious injury.

The injury stoppage was a halftime for Azteca: The delay for Heppenstall lasted nearly 15 minutes and was essentially another halftime. Denver had responded well to Azteca getting their first goal prior to that. It gave Azteca some time to regroup and they were the better side once the game resumed. It wasn’t enough for them to ultimately complete the comeback, but it very much got them back in the game.

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