Southern California beckons as the Colorado Springs Switchbacks make their way west for a Saturday night showdown with Orange County SC. The match will kick off at 8pm MT from Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine, with live coverage by the voice of the Switchbacks, Ryan Kaufman, beginning at 7:30pm on XTRA Sports1300 AM.
On March 12th, the Switchbacks defeated Orange County 2-1 at Weidner Field in downtown Colorado Springs behind goals from Michee Ngalina and Malik Johnson. Following that opening night loss in Southern Colorado, the 2022 USL Championship season has continued to be a struggle for OC, with Head Coach Richard Chaplow’s team currently at the foot of the Western Conference table with a record of 5-10-7. Despite OC’s struggles, Milan Iloski leads the USL Championship in goals with 16. The former UCLA Bruin standout is joined on OC’s roster by his older brother, Brian.
The Switchbacks sit in third place in the Western Conference at the time of writing, despite falling 4-0 last Saturday to Phoenix Rising in the Valley of the Sun. Meanwhile for Orange County, a classy brace from the aforementioned Milan Iloski was not enough on Saturday, as OC fell 3-2 to San Diego Loyal at Championship Soccer Stadium.
What the Switchbacks Say:
Switchbacks General Manager and Head Coach Brendan Burke: “It was just a subpar performance [in Phoenix] across the board from every single player, so changes have to be made and will be made. Collectively that’s a gut-check for us at the back end of a horrible month. The intensity [of training this week] has certainly gone up and there will be changes [to the lineup on Saturday] as well.”
Midfielder Cam Lindley: “It wasn’t a good performance. We weren’t at our best, the energy levels were super low, so we’ll take that one on the chin, but we’ve got 12 games left so we’re ready to get going. Fighting for your spot [is the key to getting back to winning]. No spot is guaranteed – from the top down, so every day in training we’re fighting and competing and trying to win a spot on the weekend which ultimately will bring us more success.”
Quick Look at Orange County:
“I actually think that [Orange County] have one of the best rosters in the league, so their position is nowhere near indicative of their quality – which is similar to Phoenix,” said Brendan Burke. “[Milan Iloski] is the obvious player we focus on – he has so many goals and the quality of his goals last weekend was just phenomenal. Those were MLS level quality goals. They certainly are a team that wants to sit and counter a little more than most, so we have to be careful about where we expose ourselves going forward – we’ve conceded way too many goals in the last couple weeks.”
“[Orange County] are really solid defensively and they know how to win with obviously winning the championship last year,” said Cam Lindley. “It’s going to be a tough one going to their place. Milan [Iloski] is scoring a bunch of goals so first and foremost we have to stop him; but we’ll get goals.”
Vargish’s View: This is going to be a massive test for the Switchbacks. Orange County are experienced, laden with quality, and not deserving of being rooted to the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Last weekend in the Grand Canyon State the Switchbacks were listless and a shadow of the team that looked unstoppable just a handful of weeks ago. There will be a response this weekend in SoCal.
It takes a bevy of individual quality to be leading a league’s goal-scoring charts while playing for a team in last place. Make no mistake, Milan Iloski is one of the best players in the entire league and looks certain to garner attention from Major League Soccer in the near future. It’s imperative the Switchbacks keep him under constant watch, while not sleeping on players like former Cal Golden Bear Seth Casiple and Mexico international Erick Torres – to name just two. It’s August; you know where to tune your radio dial at 7:30pm MT to follow the live buildup to what’s set to be a 90-minute dogfight.