Photo Courtesy Tulsa Roughnecks FC
The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC finish the 2017 season with a trip to Oklahoma to face the Tulsa Roughnecks this Saturday evening at ONEOK Field. The Roughnecks sealed their place in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs – the first trip to the postseason in the Roughnecks’ three-year history – after defeating the Seattle Sounders FC 2 last Saturday behind a 14th-minute goal from Christian Thierjung.
Regardless of the result in Tulsa this weekend, the Switchbacks will narrowly miss out on the playoffs after qualifying in each of the club’s first two seasons. A 4-1 win by the Oklahoma City Energy FC over the Swope Park Rangers ended the Switchbacks’ hopes of making the playoffs, despite back-to-back wins at Weidner Field for Head Coach Steve Trittschuh’s club.
Last weekend saw the Switchbacks defeat Sacramento Republic FC 1-0 after a beautiful finish from Jamaican striker Kevaughn Frater – before the Switchbacks knew they were eliminated from the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs, as OKC’s win came on Sunday afternoon.
“We’re capable of playing like we did against Sacramento,” said Trittschuh. “Losing five games at home this season is unacceptable. It was too little, too late…but I’m glad we showed up and won. We’ve been needing to play that way all season.”
“It was great for the fans,” said Masta Kacher. “It’s our last home game of the season and we forgot about the playoffs and did our all to give the fans what they deserve for their support all year long. Next weekend will be a challenge. We’re professional footballers; we go out to compete no matter if we’re in the playoffs or not. We will give everything we have and we know it will be a tough match because we played there [Tulsa] before and they are a strong team. It’s up to us players now as professionals to come out and win the last game.”
The win against Sacramento also saw the return to the Switchbacks’ lineup of right back Jordan Burt. Burt came on as a late second-half substitute in place of Taeseong Kim after being out of action since July 29th. “It just feels good to be back – but only because we won,” said Burt. “It’s been a long road. I’ve got a new energy for the game right now. We had to win. These [vs. Sacramento] are the games you live to play in – there was a lot of energy around the team and that helped everyone perform.”
“It meant a lot to win at home. Our fans deserve it for all they’ve given us,” said Luke Vercollone. “We’ve got to own our home-field advantage. It was great to end the season at home with a win. Next weekend will be a character test. We’ll see what we’re made of. We’ll keep fighting and playing hard until the season is over.”
The Tulsa Roughnecks and Switchbacks have faced off three times in 2017, with the Switchbacks winning 3-0 on May 5th at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs. The Switchbacks started the 2017 season with a trip to ONEOK Field in the Oil Capital of the World, with the USL awarding the Switchbacks a 3-0 victory. The Roughnecks will be without the services of Collin Fernandez for Saturday’s match against the Switchbacks after the midfielder was sent off for two bookable offenses in last weekend’s win against the Sounders FC 2.
Switchbacks captain Rony Argueta will also miss Saturday’s game, due to yellow card accumulation. Argueta, the all-time leader in minutes-played for the Switchbacks, was on the verge of completing 90 minutes in every USL match in 2017 before he picked up a booking just before the end of the first half against Sacramento Republic.
Numerous Switchbacks could be tagged to replace Argueta in the heart of the Switchbacks’ midfield, with strength-in-depth on the Switchbacks roster in the form of midfielders Davy Armstrong, Damen Marcu, Jacob Cawsey, and Eddy Prugh. “I guess the proof will be in the performance,” said Prugh when asked about the Switchbacks’ response on Saturday against Tulsa after learning his team is now out of the playoff race. “As professionals, our mindset shouldn’t change at all. We get paid to fight until the season is over no matter what.”
“Our guys are playing for their jobs and their pride,” said Trittschuh. “I want to win in Tulsa. The first game of the season we didn’t do well there so we need to make that right. There’s no pressure to go there and win – we just have to do it. When we go to Tulsa we’ve got to be professional, show up, and represent the club the well and go there with everything we’ve got to win.”
Striker Ian Svantesson leads the Roughnecks in goals with 11, although the former University of Alabama, Birmingham Blazer was an unused substitute against the Sounders FC 2 last Saturday. Dynamic Argentine Juan Pablo Caffa remains one of the most dangerous Roughnecks players. Joey Calistri – on-loan with the Roughnecks from MLS’ Chicago Fire – played all 90 minutes against S2, although changes could well be in store from Roughnecks Head Coach David Vaudreuil as his club prepares for the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs.
Depending on results in the respective games of the Oklahoma City Energy FC and Sacramento Republic, Tulsa could fall to the 8th and final playoff position. Phoenix Rising FC currently occupies 5th place and can’t be caught by the Roughnecks, regardless of Saturday’s result against the Switchbacks.
The Switchbacks are guaranteed to finish the 2017 regular season no lower than 10th place in the USL’s Western Conference. A Switchbacks loss to the Roughnecks and a win for Orange County SC against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 at Thunderbird Stadium in British Columbia would see the Switchbacks fall into 10th place. A win for the Switchbacks will see them finish in 9th – just one place outside the playoffs.
“It’s ironic that we finish in the same place we started,” said Eddy Prugh. “We’ve played Tulsa another time since that first game – the difference between the two games was our own approach. We know what they bring and so if we come with the right mentality we’ll see a result similar to our second performance against them.”