A Western Conference Finals rematch beckons as the Colorado Springs Switchbacks head to Toyota Field on Saturday evening for an early-season showdown against reigning USL Championship winners San Antonio FC. The match will kick off at 6:30pm at Toyota Field, with live coverage by the voice of the Switchbacks, Ryan Kaufman, beginning at 6pm on XTRA Sports1300 AM and broadcast live from The Great British Food Company.
Sneak Peek at San Antonio: Mitchell Taintor and Lamar Batista were both named to the USL Championship Team of the Week after their respective performances against Loudoun United. Former Switchback Batista notched a brace for San Antonio on March 11th as they opened the season with a 3-1 win over the Oakland Roots in the Alamo City. Brazilian midfielder PC remains the centerpiece of San Antonio, while Argentine striker Ignacio Bailone spearheads Head Coach Alen Marcina’s attack.
What the Switchbacks Say:
Midfielder Zach Zandi. Zandi scored an 88th minute equalizer last Saturday at Weidner Field in a 1-1 draw against Hartford Athletic: “[Getting a result in San Antonio is about] sticking to our principles. The coaches have prepared us very well for this game – there’s been a lot of focus on what San Antonio is good at and trying to limit that sort of stuff. Going out there and playing our game [is key]. It’s been good [this season] with the group that we have – [there] are a lot of new faces so it’s taken a little while to get the chemistry and everything, but each game is an opportunity to improve from the last. [San Antonio] play direct and they’re effective at it. We’re going to go out there and match their intensity and hopefully come back with three points.”
Switchbacks Head Coach and General Manager Stephen Hogan: “I think the level of confidence with where we are is very – and I don’t know if this is the right word – serious. It jumps another level. [We’re] upset we didn’t get the win against Hartford because of the second half, but [the players] understood how we could have got the win and now they have implemented that into training for prepping for San Antonio. So it’s a real and serious high level of confidence coming into this game.
“We’ve just watched [San Antonio’s] first two games against Oakland and Loudoun and [San Antonio will be] coming at us fast and furious and running at us fast and furious – that’s not ever going to change while Alen [Marcina] is there. And hats off: they won it last season. They have some serious players and they lost some [after last season] but their style of play and their principles are fight, quickly get it long, and run as hard and fast as you can.
“We’re not even talking about [the playoff loss] last year. This is a completely new group – I think maybe three quarters of this squad haven’t even experienced what we did last year. We’re not looking at and we’re not talking about a revenge match or anything like that. The single goal [our players] want is to concentrate on each game and get something from each game and that’s the way we’re planning it and will plan for the whole season. I hope we enjoy the experience of moving it the right way and enjoy the experience of trying to do completely different things than what [San Antonio] are going to try and do and have a real structured and professional performance.”
It’s only Week 3, but this is where the season gets real. San Antonio are big. And strong. And in your face. They know how to win games in the USL Championship better than anyone. Alen Marcina’s team will fly out of the gate on Saturday night and the Switchbacks must weather an early storm at a raucous Toyota Field. As Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” San Antonio will look to do just that to the Switchbacks. Saturday’s hosts will try to bully the Switchbacks and keep any semblance of rhythm and tempo out of Colorado Springs’ game.
The outlets for the Switchbacks are going to be critical, with Colorado Springs needing to effectively use the pace of players like Maalique Foster and Deshane Beckford through the ball-retention, guile, and hard work of Zach Zandi, Speedy Williams, and Drew Skundrich. The Switchbacks must do exactly what Zandi vocalized: stick to their principles. Teams that try to match San Antonio’s combative, scrappy, disjointed nature have struggled. There will be swaths of the game where the hosts control possession, but the Switchbacks will get their chances and be able to show their class if they resist being drawn down by San Antonio into a mire replete with physical altercations and officiating interventions.