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Vargish's View: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Ready for Clash at Mountain Division Summit

By Roland Vargish, 09/14/21, 11:00AM MDT

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Wednesday evening sees the top two teams in the USL Championship Mountain Division square off at Weidner Field as the Switchbacks host El Paso Locomotive FC.  Gates open at 6pm, with fireworks to follow the conclusion of the match.  Tickets are available HERE.

On Saturday evening the Switchbacks fought back at Weidner Field to earn a late point against the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros behind a 91st minute goal from Matt Mahoney.  “It felt amazing to be able to score in front of our home fans, as well as my parents who were visiting, and on top of that on 9/11,” said the Buffalo, New York native Mahoney.  “It’s also another huge point in the playoff race and securing second place and a home playoff game.  It would have been nice to get the three points, but still getting one with us down to ten men shows the character that our group has.”  

“That was huge for us – we were able to grab a point which gives us some confidence going into the game against El Paso,” said center back Michael Edwards when asked about the last-gasp equalizer on Saturday evening.  “We need to stay fit, take care of our bodies, eat well and stay ready – we know what we have to do to prepare with just a couple days.”

The Switchbacks saw captain Jimmy Ockford sent off just seconds before the end of the first half against RGV FC on Saturday, meaning Head Coach Brendan Burke’s team will be without Ockford for Wednesday’s contest with El Paso. “It may change personnel and it may change our shape – there are a lot of different ways to absorb that,” said Burke.  “Wednesday is business as usual for us.  We only have nine games left, and we’ll approach every one by trying to win the game.”

El Paso have only lost twice this season and come into Colorado Springs after defeating Sacramento Republic 2-0 on Saturday evening at Southwest University Park in The Sun City.  Mexican striker Josué Aarón Gómez opened the scoring for the Locomotive in the 7th minute, with countryman Éder Borelli wrapping up the match just before the hour mark.

“You really can’t take a play off against El Paso or you’ll get punished and you saw that with Sacramento last weekend – [El Paso] got right on top of them and never took their foot off,” said Head Coach Burke.  “El Paso have extreme technical quality.  They have multiple guys on six-figure salaries – they’re one of the heaviest spenders in the league, and it shows in their quality.  They’re also very versatile in the way they can line up and they’re very tactically disciplined, so there really aren’t any holes on that team.  We need to try to control the flow of the game as much as possible, which we’ve done a good job of most of the year.”

“We’re looking forward to the match on Wednesday against El Paso – it’s going to be a big one and it’s an important one for us, and hopefully we can get three points for our fans,” said Michael Edwards.  “In every game we’re looking to get three points, especially at home.”

Despite topping the Mountain Division, El Paso have not won a road game since defeating San Antonio FC 2-1 on July 28th at Toyota Field.  The Switchbacks tied the Locomotive 1-1 on June 12th at Southwest University Park in Far West Texas behind a 73rd minute equalizer from the USL Championship’s leading goal-scorer Hadji Barry.  

“We just have to play our game,” added Matt Mahoney.  “We know how good we are at home and when we’re at our best.  So if we stick to what we’re good at and keep El Paso off the scoresheet, we definitely will have opportunities to come away with a win.” 

Mahoney started the match against RGV FC at left back, before being moved centrally to partner Michael Edwards once the Switchbacks were reduced to ten men.  “That’s why Matt was brought here – because we trust him to play in a number of positions and do a good job in whatever position he’s put in,” said Head Coach Burke.  

Michee Ngalina will be available for Wednesday’s match, with further rotation possible as the Switchbacks are locked in a stretch of five matches in just 15 days.  “Michee has been training right through the period where he was out and he’s just looking forward to getting back out on the field,” said Burke.  “We have another group of guys that weren’t available to us all of last week and getting them going through training over the weekend was important – we haven’t had a day off in weeks.” 

For those unable to attend, the match against the Locomotive will be broadcast live by the voice of the Switchbacks, Ryan Kaufman, on XTRA Sports 1300 AM and xtrasports1300.com, with coverage beginning at 6:30pm MT.

On September 25th, the Switchbacks return to Weidner Field for Mustache Night, with the first 1,000 fans receiving a stick-on mustache, courtesy of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado.  Tickets are available HERE.