Border country beckons as the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC head to Far West Texas on Saturday evening at 7:30pm MT to face off against El Paso Locomotive FC at Southwest University Park. The game in El Paso will be broadcast live by the voice of the Switchbacks, Ryan Kaufman, on XTRA Sports 1300 AM and xtrasports1300.com.
Last Saturday the Switchbacks tied 1-1 with San Antonio FC in a wild match that saw both teams go down to 10-men. Switchbacks center back Michael Edwards will miss the trip to El Paso after being sent off against San Antonio. Matt Mahoney partnered captain Jimmy Ockford in the heart of Head Coach Brendan Burke’s defense after Edwards’ dismissal. “Matt [Mahoney] is comfortable anywhere along the back line so that could definitely be a solve,” said Burke on Tuesday morning. “We could also look to the [Colorado] Rapids to bring someone down.”
“We’re excited after last weekend – we absolutely smashed San Antonio at home and we were unlucky for a number of reasons to not get a result,” continued Burke. “Obviously the game got out of control, but for our part; I thought we were phenomenal. We created chance after chance after chance and 95% of the time you win that game. El Paso play midweek so there’s probably going to be some rotation for them, but for the guys they don’t rotate; we want to push the pace. We want to play our way and our style and continue to build our identity.”
The Locomotive host Indy Eleven on Wednesday night at Southwest University Park, giving the Switchbacks a rare early-season opportunity to scout El Paso before this weekend’s match. “Anytime we have an upcoming opponent, we always try to watch and have the guys watch live games and not just rely on our video,” said Burke. “We understand that we’re going to play a team where their expectation is winning all the time and the quality of their roster is tremendous. We can’t make mistakes down there or we’ll get punished. We’ve seen top teams in our conference right off the bat, so we know exactly what we are and what we aren’t.”
This June, for Pride Month, Switchbacks midfielder Zach Zandi is part of Playing for Pride, in support of Athlete Ally and the Black Women’s Player Collective. “Supporting the LGBTQ community is huge and important, and using my platform in any way possible to spread awareness and to do what I can to help that community is important to me,” said the former Villanova University midfielder. “I hope it helps to bring attention and awareness to the cause and hopefully people can help out and donate money to help.”
Zandi started and impressed in an attacking midfield role in the match against San Antonio FC last weekend at Weidner Field, earning him the Better Business Bureau Man of the Match on the radio broadcast. “Zandi was excellent,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Brendan Burke. “All that’s missing is a goal or an assist now, and those are going to come in bunches for him. You can’t play as well as he’s played to this point – over the course of all four games – and not come away with anything – we know those will happen. He has to keep doing what he’s doing. I was really happy with him – I think he can be special here for us in the long term.”
“It was great to be in the team and to get into places a little further forward,” said Zandi. “Now it’s just converting those chances – I had a few and I’m disappointed in myself for not making more of them. It’s a good sign that I’m in those spots. It was good to get a good point; we wish it was a win, but the fans were great. It’s a great atmosphere to play in.”
El Paso Locomotive defender Macauley King was named to the USL Championship Team of the Week after providing the assist in El Paso’s 1-0 win over the Austin Bold last Thursday evening in Texas’ capital. The Locomotive have alternated ties and wins this season, with all three of their goals in 2021 having been scored by different players.
“Our coaches this week will set us up with a great game plan and it will be up to us to execute it,” said Zandi. “El Paso are a really good team so hopefully we can bring a lot of energy – and they play a midweek game, so we’ll be looking to bring a lot of energy down there and play our game.”
Canadian goalkeeper Sean Melvin started his first match of the season in the Switchbacks’ draw with San Antonio FC last Saturday night after injuries sidelined the former UNC Wilmington Seahawk during the opening matches of 2021. “It’s been a long time coming – I didn’t get a preseason or anything – so it was really nice to get back healthy and play with these guys and we got a point; but we wanted three points in front of the home crowd,” said Melvin. “We’re going to put in good work this week and be prepared for the travel and the heat in Texas. We need to focus throughout the whole game – all 90 minutes – and make sure we finish strong.”
“We’re hopeful that Sean can get on a run now – that was really his first preseason game, and he did really well considering,” said Head Coach Burke, before being asked about the availability of former USMNT midfielder José Torres. “José is dealing with a deep bone bruise in his foot, so he’s day-to-day right now.”
The Switchbacks will return to Weidner Field next Wednesday evening as they host Tacoma Defiance with gates opening at 6pm, with Capelli Sport sponsoring a mask giveaway for the first 500 fans. Tickets available HERE.