Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action returns to Weidner Field on Wednesday evening as the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC play host to FC Tucson in a Second Round matchup.
After falling to a 3-1 loss against the Whitecaps FC 2 in Vancouver, British Columbia on Sunday, the U.S. Open Cup match against FC Tucson is arguably the perfect diversion for the Switchbacks as they look to recapture their winning ways.
“We’re still in a good position in the league,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh. “We have got to be realistic about the Open Cup and give other guys chances to play – especially with all the travel we’ve had. We’ve got to be smart with our team. A lot of guys are hungry and stepping up for us – Sean [McFarlane] for example. Sean has shown his hunger and the ability to get goals. A lot of guys need to have good games tomorrow to prove us wrong.”
A difficult USL stretch awaits the Switchbacks after Wednesday’s game as they first travel to their Rocky Mountain Rivals, the Real Monarchs SLC before a two-match home stand against Reno 1868 FC and the Oklahoma City Energy FC.
“Our game on Saturday in Salt Lake is huge for us,” said Trittschuh. “The Monarchs are playing well so we need some of our guys rested for that match. Tucson are always solid. We’ve got players from them and their coach and I communicate well. We must come out and make sure they don’t get comfortable on our field. The guys who play need to step up and be ready to perform tomorrow.”
FC Tucson, otherwise known as The Men in Black, are led in attack by Grand Canyon University standout Wedner Delmonte. Delmonte assisted Moshe Perez for FC Tucson’s second goal in their 3-1 win over the Colorado Rush in the opening round of the U.S. Open Cup. FC Tucson head coach Jon Pearlman was ejected from that match after arguing with the officials after a questionably tough foul on Delmonte. FC Tucson assistant coach Jose Miranda coached the remainder of the second half against the Colorado Rush after Pearlman’s dismissal.
A semi-professional soccer club, FC Tucson play in the Mountain Division of the Premier Development League (PDL). FC Tucson have a personnel history that Switchbacks fans will recognize, with former Switchbacks players like goalkeeper Billy Thompson and winger Saeed Robinson having spent time in Arizona’s second city.
Switchbacks central defender Josh Phillips played for FC Tucson in the 2014 season before making his way to the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC ahead of the Switchbacks’ inaugural season.
“The Tucson program is about making pro’s,” said Phillips. “Their players have now have seen guys like me and Saeed [Robinson] and Connor [Bevans] stepping up and making our way in the USL. Steve [Trittschuh] has shown he looks at Tucson and their players and gives them a chance.”
Fellow defender Bevans scored two goals after coming on as a substitute in his FC Tucson debut – in the U.S. Open Cup against Phoenix FC. “I played for Tucson after my freshman season – I was a young-buck and I got to learn a lot. The coaching staff is great and they have great facilities. [Jon] Pearlman [FC Tucson Head Coach] is a great guy and he helped me get to where I am now. We made a deep 2013 U.S. Open Cup run at Tucson and I hope to do that now with the Switchbacks.”
The Men in Black last played on May 13th as they defeated the San Diego Zest 2-0 in PDL action at George Hoagland Stadium on the campus of James Madison High School in San Diego, California. Late second half goals from Daniel Krutzen and Moshe Perez were enough to secure all three points for FC Tucson against the Zest.
New York Red Bulls defender and former Seattle Sounders FC 2 defender Aaron Long played for The Men in Black before being drafted by the Portland Timbers in the 2014 MLS Super Draft. Long has so far played every minute of MLS action for the Red Bulls in 2017. Real Salt Lake attacker Ricardo Velazco, who has spent the majority of his career in Utah playing for the USL’s Real Monarchs SLC, also represented FC Tucson – between 2012 and 2014, when in his final year in Tucson Velazco was named as the PDL’s Young Player of the Year.
“We need to have a good start – FC Tucson are a good team and they will be hungry,” warned Switchbacks midfielder Jacob Cawsey. Cawsey, who was named to the PDL 2015 All Conference Team when playing for the Saint Louis Lions, will no doubt be one of the Switchbacks pushing for a place in Wednesday’s match, although Cawsey refused to be drawn on his chances of starting. “At the end of the day it’s a team game. We need to put in a good game tomorrow. It could kick start us. We’ve got a tough opponent and we know that we’ve got to step up.”
Other U.S. Open Cup Second Round action Wednesday will see the USL’s Oklahoma City Energy FC host Moreno Valley FC on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. The winner of that match – the first ever Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game hosted by the Energy FC – will play whomever emerges victorious from Wednesday’s match at Weidner Field. Should the Switchbacks defeat FC Tucson, Weidner Field will be the sight of the U.S. Open Cup Third Round on Wednesday, May 31st. An FC Tucson victory against the Switchbacks would see The Men in Black host either the Energy FC or Moreno Valley FC at Kino North Stadium on May 31st – the sight of Major League Soccer’s New York Bulls’ pre-season training program.
“FC Tucson are not Harpo’s [FC from Boulder, Colorado] – the kids at Tucson are skilled and young and they’ll bring it against us,” said Phillips. “It’s up to us to go out and get the win.”
“They’re [FC Tucson] always good and they’re going to be solid,” said Bevans. “They’re not afraid of the big moments. These games are always exciting and tomorrow will be. The Open Cup brings a different mindset: it’s win or go home!”