The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC’s wild week at Weidner Field wraps up on Saturday evening as they host Fresno FC in USL Championship action. Pikes Peak Brewing Company will be giving away Switchbacks caps to the first 1,000 fans through the gates at Weidner Field.
Fresno FC enter Colorado Springs flying high in 4th place in the Western Conference: tied on points but just behind Phoenix Rising FC on goal difference. Fresno lost in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night to Sacramento Republic FC at Papa Murphy’s Park in California’s capitol city after Stefano Bonomo scored in the 123rd minute to end Fresno’s Cup run. Fresno FC made their way into the third round after defeating El Farolito Soccer Club 1-0 at Matthew J. Boxer Stadium in San Francisco’s Balboa Park on May 15th behind a 75th minute winner from Qudus Lawal.
On Wednesday night the Switchbacks fell 2-1 after extra time in heart-wrenching fashion to New Mexico United in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The mood after Wednesday’s match among the Switchbacks’ players and staff vacillated between disappointment, anger, and frustration as the Switchbacks were desperately unfortunate to be sent down to 10-men in the 93rd minute. Legs will no doubt be heavy for Saturday’s showdown at Weidner Field, with both teams going above and beyond 90 minutes in their respective U.S. Open Cup games that stretched late into Wednesday evening.
“We just need to rebound off this game,” said Mike Seth immediately following Wednesday’s extra-time loss. “Tonight hurts; especially with the way things have been going in the league. We need to put this behind us and try to move on for Fresno.”
“To put in another effort like that [on Saturday] will be hard,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh on Wednesday night as Fresno FC and Sacramento Republic played their Open Cup game in California. Trittschuh was then asked about the refereeing on Wednesday evening. “It just baffles me. I don’t understand it – for this level of game things like that should not happen. The guys know what happened. And we’ve got to turn around and play Saturday with the same group. Our guys played a good game tonight; I can’t fault the players at all. These [other] teams are able to rest some guys – I’m not able to. Fresno are a very direct team and they work very hard. The guys are being overworked and we’ll be short on reserves for Saturday. Fresno will be tired too and Saturday is going to be about which team comes out and wants it more.”
Brazilian midfielder Jackson is key to Fresno’s success, and leads Head Coach Adam Smith’s team in assists with five in USL Championship play. Jackson began his career with Southern Hemisphere powerhouse São Paulo FC before journeying north of the equator for stints in Major League Soccer with FC Dallas and Toronto FC. In net, former Georgia State University Panther C.J. Cochran has started all 11 USL Championship league games for Fresno this season and has kept four clean sheets along the way.
Veteran Argentine Juan Pablo Caffa remains a key component of Fresno’s attack, while Nigerian striker Qudus Lawal tops Fresno’s goal-scoring charts with four goals despite having played just 310 minutes in the 2019 USL Championship. Lawal was named on the USL Championship Team of the Week after opening the scoring in Fresno’s 3-3 draw at Cheney Stadium against the Tacoma Defiance last Sunday. Former Wilmington Hammerhead Lawal has scored his four goals in Fresno’s last three matches in the USL Championship, as the team from California’s San Joaquin Valley are unbeaten during Lawal’s goal-streak.
“Fresno are coming in with a lot of firepower,” said Shane Malcolm. “[Jemal] Johnson, [Juan Pablo] Caffa…these are talented guys and Fresno have a lot experienced players. We have to clean up what happened tonight. We showed immaturity. We’ve got to find ways to close games when we have a late lead. It’s not good enough and we know Fresno will be a new challenge. We’re scoring goals now – even if it’s only one – and we have to use that.”
“Fresno are a team that relies on their work ethic,” said Trittschuh. “This weekend we’ll have to match it and that’s going to be hard for us; we’re going to be tired. We fought and worked hard for each other tonight and we’ll need that again on Saturday.”
The Switchbacks will host Star Wars Cancer Awareness Night at Weidner Field next weekend as the Tacoma Defiance visit Colorado Springs, with Penrose-St. Francis Health Services sponsoring an R2-D2 jersey auction. On August 24th, the Switchbacks will travel to California to face Saturday’s opponent, Fresno FC, at Chukchansi Park.