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Vargish's View: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Ready for Playoff Atmosphere in Regular Season Home Finale

By Roland Vargish, 10/15/21, 10:00AM MDT

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Hadji Barry looks to set the USL Championship record for goals in a season on Saturday evening at Weidner Field as the Switchbacks host the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros on Soccer Ball Night.  The first 1,000 fans through the gates at 5pm will receive a complimentary soccer ball, courtesy of Comcast Business.  Tickets are available HERE.  

Saturday’s match against the Toros is the Switchbacks’ final regular season home match of 2021, and will be broadcast by the voice of the Switchbacks, Ryan Kaufman, on XTRA Sports 1300 AM and xtrasports1300.com

On Wednesday, the Switchbacks fell 4-2 to Mountain Division leaders El Paso Locomotive at Southwest University Park in Far West Texas.  The Switchbacks led 2-1 at halftime through goals from Hadji Barry and Deshane Beckford and were desperately unlucky to have not been granted an opportunity from the penalty spot just before the interval.  Barry’s 25th goal of 2021 tied the all-time USL Championship record for goals in a season – set by Cameron Lancaster at Louisville City FC in 2018.  

“Just before half time El Paso should have had a red card and a penalty and we’d have won the game,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Brendan Burke on Thursday.  “The level of refereeing was abhorrent.  Because of the refereeing decision last night this kind of becomes a home playoff game on Saturday, so hopefully people treat it like that and this place is rocking on Saturday night because we can put [RGV FC] to bed.  The intensity level and finishing off what we started in the first half last night [vs El Paso Locomotive] is important.”

Wednesday’s wild match in El Paso also saw Triston Hodge’s forced removal just after the hour-mark after a collision with Diego Luna.  Jimmy Ockford replaced Hodge, and Ockford’s booking in the 95th minute will rule the Switchbacks captain out of the match on Saturday against RGV for yellow card accumulation.

“There will be a couple changes,” confirmed Head Coach Burke.  “With Jimmy taking the yellow card he’ll be out – that one hurts and kind of changes our ability to play a different shape.  Triston may be injured so that will impact us as well.  We have a fair bit of concern on our end defensively going into Saturday night.  But on the attacking side, we should see [Zach] Zandi and [Thomas] Amang back into the team which is a huge boost to us, and hopefully we’ll get [Philip] Mayaka back soon too.”

“The guys have put last night in the past – it is what it is, and right now we just control what we can,” said Jimmy Ockford.  “The guys are set for Saturday against RGV.  We have a very deep team so it doesn’t matter who is in the rotation; the guys are all ready to perform and it’s crunch time now and the team is ready to grind out these last few games of the regular season.  The boys will be ready and focused.”  

The Rio Grande Valley FC Toros tied New Mexico United 1-1 last Saturday night at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque after taking the lead just five minutes into the match through Elvis Amoh.  Amoh leads RGV in goals during the 2021 USL Championship season with 11, and will be a fitness worry for Saturday’s match in Colorado Springs after being withdrawn from the aforementioned draw last weekend just six minutes after putting the Toros ahead.  

“We should know more later today when we get their [injury] report,” said Burke on Thursday when asked about RGV’s potential absences.  “But obviously it would be a benefit to us if Amoh isn’t available because then it makes them more predictable.”  

Saturday’s match at Weidner Field will be the fourth and final regular season meeting between the Switchbacks and Toros.  A brace from Hadji Barry and goals from Thomas Amang, Michee Ngalina and Darren Yapi sealed a 5-2 win for the Switchbacks on August 14th at H-E-B Park in Edinburg, Texas.  Matt Mahoney scored an injury-time equalizer on September 11th as the Switchbacks fought back to draw RGV 1-1 at Weidner Field.  A week later, on September 18th, the Switchbacks won 2-1 in the Lone Star State behind two more goals from the USL Championship’s leading-scorer Hadji Barry.  

Next Friday night the Switchbacks will cross the Rocky Mountains to face the Real Monarchs SLC at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah.  The 2021 USL Championship regular season will conclude for the Switchbacks on Saturday, October 30th at Toyota Field in the Alamo City against Mountain Division rivals San Antonio FC.