It’s a Saint Paddy’s Day celebration this Saturday evening as the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC open their home 2019 USL Championship campaign at Weidner Field. The first 500 fans in attendance will receive part one of the 2019 Poster Giveaway series, while a fireworks display will follow the final whistle.
The Switchbacks stormed to a 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Galaxy II last Saturday in Carson, California behind a Shane Malcolm hat-trick. Malcolm’s thunderous three-goal outburst was the first hat-trick in Switchbacks history, and earned the Guam international the USL Championship Player of the Week award.
“Player of the Week for week one is an honor,” said Malcolm on Tuesday afternoon. “But I want to share it with Mike Seth and the rest of the squad. Mike was great in LA and he deserved it. It’s one of the highest honors you can get in this league and for me to get it in week one gives me a lot of confidence and a desire to keep it going and help the team.”
Switchbacks captain Jordan Burt was also named to the USL Championship Team of the Week, although the talk at Switchbacks practice was the Team of the Week omission of Mike Seth after his two-assist performance against the Galaxy II.
“Honestly, Shane got Player of the Week, and Mike had a couple assists – and Mike deserved to be on the Team of the Week more than I did,” said Burt. “I just want to win games; the personal Team of the Week things are great, but I want the team to win and that’s where my focus is.”
“I’ve always told our guys that if we win and play well, the players will stand out,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh. “Mike Seth should be on there – he played really well in LA. We had good preparation before LA and we did well in a lot of areas in that game. Wins always help, but the big thing for us now are these next two games at home. These are very important to us. We’ve got to be focused on our game and just go out there and play together and play our game like we did in LA.”
Sacramento Republic’s Bulgarian striker Villyan Bijev twice scored the winning goal against the Switchbacks last season, with the team from California’s capitol city earning a 1-0 result at Weidner Field on July 14th. Mid-April saw Head Coach Simon Elliott’s team defeat the Switchbacks 2-1 just north of the American River at Papa Murphy’s Park, with former University of California Irvine star Cameron Iwasa opening the scoring for the Republic FC before Bijev’s winner.
“All four of Sacramento’s guys up-top can hurt us this season,” said Trittschuh. “[Stefano] Bonomo, [Cameron] Iwasa, [Tyler] Blackwood, and [Villyan Bijev] are all very good and can score goals. We have to be aware of where they are at all times and can’t give them a lot of chances, because they’ll take them.”
“Sacramento will come here to win – they’re a top team,” said Malcolm, who scored against Sacramento last season in the aforementioned 2-1 loss on April 18th. “Bringing back Blackwood was big for them. If we can slow him down and the rest of the guys they have up top, then we’ll have a good shot to beat them here at home.”
Sacramento’s starting goalkeeper Josh Cohen was unlucky not to save a Jack Blake penalty-kick in the Republic’s opening game of the season on Saturday night as Cohen’s team fought back to tie the Real Monarchs SLC 1-1 at Papa Murphy’s Park after an 81st minute equalizer from defender Charalampos Chantzopoulos.
“Sacramento are a good team,” said Burt. “They have a lot of attacking players who can hurt us. It’s going to be a much different game than last weekend, and we’ve got confidence and will try to build on the win in LA.”
Burt scored the Switchbacks’ third goal against the Galaxy II in a game that saw Steve Trittschuh’s team hand out regular-season club debuts to eight players, including midfielder Alex Molano. “The win in LA gives us a lot of confidence,” said Molano. “Scoring four goals is big for the team. I think Sacramento will be a tougher game. They’re experienced, so we know it will be a hard game but we’ll go in with confidence after last weekend.”
“I’m looking forward to being at home and I hope we get a win in front of our fans,” said Saeed Robinson, before being asked about how his team will focus this week on slowing down Sacramento’s attack. “I can’t tell you that because we are working on different things…but we’ll have a plan just like we did for LA. Sacramento will come here to play well and get a win, we all know that. If we take our chances when we get them, we’ll be alright. The weather and altitude and our crowd will help us.”
The Switchbacks will remain in Colorado Springs after Saturday’s match before hosting San Antonio FC on March 23rd, where the first 500 fans in attendance will receive a Switchbacks beanie, courtesy of Waste Connections.