This Saturday evening the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC head to the Valley of the Sun for a showdown with Phoenix Rising FC. The match will kick off at 8:30pm MT from Phoenix Rising Stadium at Wild Horse Pass, with live coverage by the voice of the Switchbacks, Ryan Kaufman, beginning at 8pm on XTRA Sports1300 AM.
Last Friday the Switchbacks recorded their first draw of the season courtesy of a wild match against the Charleston Battery at Weidner Field in downtown Colorado Springs that ended 3-3. Goals from Elvis Amoh, Hadji Barry, and debutant Jairo Henríquez looked to have given the Switchbacks a priceless three points, before a stoppage time equalizer from Charleston captain A.J. Paterson.
Phoenix Rising tied against the Oakland Roots SC 0-0 at Laney Football Stadium in the Bay Area on Wednesday night – Phoenix’s third consecutive nil-nil draw. Phoenix are 7-10-3 this season and at the time of writing sit in 11th place in the USL Championship’s Western Conference.
What the Switchbacks Say:
Switchbacks Head Coach and General Manager Brendan Burke: “The nice part is that [Jairo Henríquez] is able to play multiple attacking positions, so you can use him a few different ways. You couldn’t have asked for a better lift off the bench and a better introduction to the fan base and the team. I think [with Henríquez] you always get the same thing – you get the energy, the diligence off the ball to work and you get his quality on the ball which showed itself in spades [against Charleston].
“We should be up around 17 [players for the Phoenix game] – we’re inching our way back to being fully fit and that’s what you want by the end of the year. Every game now is pretty much a team above the playoff line, so every point is going to be hard to get from here on out, but luckily we built enough of a base to this point in the season where every point will carry a lot of weight. We’re already above the 40-point line before the end of July.”
Defender Matt Mahoney: “[Jairo Henríquez] has definitely added a different dynamic and he’s got a ton of experience with his national team [El Salvador]. He’s gelled well with us and I can’t wait to see what else he brings the rest of the season. We know what quality [Phoenix Rising] have and they’ve also had three clean sheets in a row, so we know it will be a tough match. If we play how we know we can, then we’ll give ourselves a good chance of getting three points. The key is doing what we do best and getting a clean sheet. If we can get a clean sheet, we know our attack will produce.”
Quick Look at Phoenix Rising: “[Phoenix] are going to have some new blood in the team [on Saturday night] with [Kevon] Lambert having been out Wednesday and JJ Williams having just been traded for,” said Brendan Burke. “They’re going to have some very good players who are well rested, but they are going to have guys in their group who are on short rest, so this is one of the first times I can remember all year that the tables are turned in that regard and the schedule actually helps us. I think [Phoenix] are wide open as they’ve always been – they just haven’t executed [this season] on the same level that they normally do. You’re talking about them being number one or two in the West every year for the last number of years that I can remember. We’re expecting more of a wounded animal than a team that’s not functioning well.”
This is a tricky, but eminently winnable road game for the Switchbacks. Phoenix have not won since May 7th and have looked a shadow of the club that’s never finished a season lower than 3rd in the USL Championship’s Western Conference. Conditions will be a factor as they always are in the Grand Canyon State; temperatures on Saturday will be flirting with triple digits.
The Switchbacks’ offense against Charleston was smoother than a Sam Hunt chorus, but off the ball the Switchbacks lacked cohesion after a tumultuous few weeks of devilish scheduling were further complicated by numerous injuries and illness. Brendan Burke’s team have had a full week of preparation at altitude for the trip to Arizona and are finally starting to see first-team players return to full health. Recently, Phoenix Rising have shown that defensively they can clamp down on opponents, but in 2022 they haven’t faced an offense like the Switchbacks’.