The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC play their final regular season match of 2017 at Weidner Field on Saturday evening as they welcome Sacramento Republic FC for Fan Appreciation Night with limited free beer courtesy of Budweiser. A win last weekend in Colorado Springs saw the Switchbacks leapfrog Orange County SC and move into 9th place in the Western Conference after defeating OC SC 2-1 behind goals from Taeseong Kim and Kevaughn Frater. Kim was named a starter on the USL Team of the Week after his performance against Orange County.
At the time of writing Sacramento Republic sit comfortably among the playoff positions as they occupy 6th place in the USL’s Western Conference. Orange County SC will host Sacramento Republic on Wednesday evening at Champions Soccer Stadium at OC Great Park in Irvine, California. A win or a draw for Sacramento Republic would guarantee the team from California’s capital city a playoff place. Orange County must win the game to keep their dim playoff chances alive.
Both Orange County and the Switchbacks are chasing the Oklahoma City Energy FC who occupy the 8th and final playoff place with 43 points. The Switchbacks have 38 points and both the OKC Energy and Switchbacks have played 30 matches. OKC’s final two matches will take place at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City. Sunday, October 8th will see the Swope Park Rangers visit OKC. A week later OKC will finish its season against the Seattle Sounders FC 2. If Orange County SC were to lose on Wednesday evening to the Sacramento Republic, and the Switchbacks were to fail to take all three points from Saturday’s match against Sacramento Republic, then OKC would clinch a place in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs before their match on Sunday.
“It helps a little,” said Luke Vercollone when asked about being able to watch Sacramento Republic in action on Wednesday evening. “We’re just hoping for the right result. We’re hoping for Sacramento to win – that’ll help us. Our focus is on what we have to do on Saturday. We have to take care of our job like we did last weekend. We play well against Sacramento – I’ve been able to score in the past against them, but it’s not necessarily the goal from earlier this season, it’s that playing against them is fun. They’re a good team.”
September 2nd saw the Switchbacks fight back to tie Sacramento Republic at Papa Murphy’s Park in California. Vercollone bagged a 38th-minute goal before Pascal Eboussi rescued a point for the Switchbacks with a stoppage-time equalizer.
“Wednesday will be good because we’ll see what Sacramento will bring,” said Switchbacks captain Rony Argueta. “We need Sacramento to win. Watching who Sacramento play and how they go out on Wednesday can help us. But this weekend is for us to keep doing what we have been. We’ll stay positive – that’s something Coach has really emphasized – and have a strong week of practice and be ready again this weekend.”
“It’s nice for us to see Sacramento play this week. Obviously, we can see their tendencies but Saturday will be a new challenge,” said Masta Kacher. “What really matters, as always, is us. We have to make the job hard for Sacramento and make them work for everything. The win against OC was great and we must keep the same mentality the rest of this season. In this game, we just worry about ourselves and make sure we come out and start strong.”
Saturday will see the Switchbacks without the services of Josh Phillips as the center back will serve a suspension for yellow card accumulation after picking up a booking in the 2-1 win last weekend over Orange County SC. Phillips is tied with Masta Kacher and Rony Argueta with all three players having started all 30 USL matches in 2017.
“He’s been our big player at the back. Every game he’s there,” said Trittschuh about Phillips. “We need Sean [McFarlane] and Pascal [Eboussi] to step in and not miss a beat. Jordan [Burt] is 100% fit and ready to go and that’s a big plus for us. Everybody on the team is fighting for a spot in the starting lineup for our last two games.”
Burt has been sidelined since being substituted on July 29th against the Seattle Sounders FC 2. “I still need to get in games; that’s the final benchmark for me,” said Burt. “I’m thankful that I’m back practicing and able to play. Honestly, it’s exciting to get back to something that I’ve missed for so long. The pressure is high this weekend. We have to win. If we focus well on our preparation we’ll go out and get the win.”
Sacramento will enter Weidner Field this weekend without the services of two key players; Trevin Caesar and Emrah Klimenta. Striker Caesar will be representing Trinidad and Tobago in two World Cup qualifiers, as the Soca Warriors travel to Estadio Azteca to face Mexico on Friday before they host the United States at Ato Boldin Stadium in Couva next Tuesday. Versatile defender Klimenta has again been called into the Montenegrin national team. The Brave Falcons have two massive World Cup qualifiers in just four days as they host Denmark on Thursday before traveling to Warsaw to face Poland on Sunday.
Bulgarian Villyan Bijev, who was loaned to Sacramento Republic from the Portland Timbers on September 1st, is one of the more dangerous attacking threats for Sacramento Republic. Bijev was a second-half substitute against the Switchbacks on September 2nd. Midfielder Agustin Cazarez scored in the early-September draw with the Switchbacks and was again on the score sheet last Saturday as Sacramento Republic defeated Phoenix Rising FC 2-0 in California.
Following Saturday’s match, Sacramento Republic will travel to Greater Nevada Field as they face Reno 1868 FC on October 14th. The Switchbacks will wrap up their season in the same stadium the 2017 campaign began; ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Oklahoma, against the Roughnecks FC.
“The OC win was huge for us; it kept alive our playoff hopes,” said Trittschuh. “There’s still six points for us to get and we’ll go all out for them. The guys have a great attitude which is all we can ask for. We’ll see on Wednesday about Sacramento’s lineup. Saturday will be their third game in a week and we have to take advantage of that. We need to get out after them. We’ve had success when we play them and that can’t change for us if we want to get to where we deserve to be. Hopefully, when we go to Tulsa that game will mean something big.”
Fans will want to arrive early when gates open at 5:00 PM as Budweiser will be giving away limited free beer to fans 21 and older as the Switchbacks kickoff Fan Appreciation Night as they party with Magic 98.9. Tickets start at just $12 and are available here.