(Golden, CO., March 9, 2016) A 2-0 win over the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado on Tuesday afternoon kept an impressive preseason record unblemished for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. Four wins in as many games has given the Switchbacks a solid platform for not only the remainder of their preseason calendar, but also as they look ahead to one of the USL’s most-anticipated Week 1 matchups against OKC Energy FC on March 26th.
Less than 72 hours removed from a physically taxing 2-1 victory over CSU-Pueblo, the Switchbacks easily controlled the opening stages against a Colorado School of Mines team coming off a magical 2015 season.
The Orediggers smashed their way to an undefeated regular season last year, as they finished atop the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference for the second consecutive campaign. A heartbreaking loss, on an overtime golden goal, ended Mines’ season in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight against Cal Poly, Pomona.
A nearly impenetrable midfield trio of Shintaro Harada, captain Luke Vercollone, and Rony Argueta were more than enough to keep the Switchbacks in near constant possession to start the first half. Miguel Gonzalez and Mike Seth offered support to lone striker Marty Maybin, as the Switchbacks started the game with a powerful attacking lineup.
It was Gonzalez and Seth who combined brilliantly after four minutes to win the Switchbacks their first of eight corner kicks. A rambunctious 40-yard run by Gonzalez was capped off with a pinpoint pass to Seth, who saw his cross towards Marty Maybin well blocked.
After the resulting corner kick was cleared, Colorado School of Mines produced one of their clearest chances of the game as they took full advantage of the Switchbacks’ midfield being pushed forward for the set piece. Mines broke at speed and with real intent, although Switchbacks starting goalkeeper Devala Gorrick was ultimately untested by a shot that easily passed his left-hand post.
Shintaro Harada, who was fantastic against CSU-Pueblo from his deep-lying central midfield position, bookended a brilliant Switchbacks attack eight minutes in. After starting the move with an ingenious switch of play that found Gonzalez on the left hand wing, Harada was eventually returned the ball by left back Josh Suggs at the top of the box. Unfortunately for Harada, his dipping drive screamed just inches wide of Mines’ right post.
Less than a minute later Miguel Gonzalez tried his luck, only to see his curling back-post effort go inches wide.
The Switchbacks used their considerable speed in wide positions early and often against Mines, as Josh Suggs and Jordan Burt each made numerous overlapping runs. Gonzalez hugged the left touchline so consistently in the opening stages of the game that he could easily be forgiven for cleaning chalk off his cleats at halftime.
Jordan Burt’s attacking prowess proved key after sixteen minutes as the right back played an inch-perfect pass into his captain, Luke Vercollone. Vercollone, finding himself in advance of Burt on the right wing, swung a dangerous cross into the box that Marty Maybin lashed towards goal only to see his shot well saved.
Burt provided again, this time from a long throw-in, as Mike Seth flicked the ball into the path of Vercollone, who’s shot was saved.
Josh Suggs went close, and Jordan Burt had a drive loop just over the Orediggers’ bar as the Switchbacks ratcheted up the pressure as the first half wore on.
Center back Josh Phillips was once again outstanding in the air, and he marshaled the Switchbacks’ defense to such a high line that ‘keeper Devala Gorrick found himself almost unused as the half ticked towards its end.
The Switchbacks produced two of their best chances of the first half in the dying minutes. Miguel Gonzalez played one of the passes of the match to set Luke Vercollone in behind the Mines’ defense, but the captain’s left footed strike was well turned behind for a corner.
After the Orediggers’ goalkeeper punched clear another Vercollone effort, Marty Maybin tried an audacious volley off his right instep, only to see it whistle just wide. It was perhaps an unlucky halftime score of 0-0, as the Switchbacks controlled possession and tempo and limited Colorado School of Mines to one corner kick and just a lone clear shot towards Devala Gorrick’s goal.
Despite the overwhelming possession for the Switchbacks, Mines never stopped trying to pass themselves out of danger, and both their endeavor and skill was much appreciated by Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh. “Mines are a very good team,” said Trittschuh. “They made the Elite Eight last year, we know their quality…they’re a good playing team.”
Eight changes were made by the Switchbacks to start the second half. Davy Armstrong and Nate Robinson came on at right and left back respectively, and they continued the attacking formula set forth by the departed Suggs and Burt. Just three minutes into the half central defender JJ Greer played a great pass out to Armstrong on the right wing, and although the move eventually broke down, it was a precursor of things to come.
Armstrong found himself one-on-one just seconds later, and after cutting inside and onto his left foot, his stinging drive at goal was well blocked. “It’s great to get forward,” said Armstrong after the match, before adding, “It’s great to have that bond with the right-hand midfielder and it makes the game fun when I’m able to get forward like that.”
Devala Gorrick was called into action five minutes into the half as he comfortably caught a Mines shot. Gorrick completed the ninety minutes as Head Coach Trittschuh looks to start giving his players more playing time in preseason games as the season nears ever closer. “It’s all about preparing for the regular season right now, and it’s time to start extending players in these games,” said Trittschuh.
Ten minutes into the second half Mike Seth made a great run down the right flank that was matched by the quality of his cross into Aaron King. King’s initial effort was half-cleared, only for the veteran striker to pounce on the loose ball and fire his shot just wide.
Jacob Cawsey had replaced Rony Argueta at halftime, and the Englishmen’s combination play with his midfielder partner Harada was seamless. Never too far from one another, Cawsey and Harada continued to control the center of the midfield and even added a touch of flair with quick-thinking one-touch passes that allowed Saeed Robinson in behind the Orediggers defense.
Striker Aaron King popped up on the right hand wing for the Switchbacks just before the hour mark, and after a great solo run he latched on to his own semi-cleared cross and fired his shot wide to the Mines goalkeeper’s right.
Rony Argueta returned to the field to spell Harada, while Marty Maybin came on in place of Mike Seth on the right hand side of the Switchbacks’ attack. It turned out to be a brilliant substitution by the Switchbacks coaching staff, as Maybin produced some of his best soccer on the right flank.
With Jacob Cawsey winning nearly every headed challenge he was presented, the Switchbacks continued to pour forward against an admirably robust and technically sound Colorado School of Mines team.
The central defensive partnership of JJ Greer and Kevin Durr showed great spacing and communication in the second half, as both players worked well to keep Mines’ attacking players in front of them. Greer was called upon late to make an impressive tackle which blocked a goal-bound effort, while Durr made an equally important and well-timed challenge with just ten minutes to go which helped preserve Gorrick’s clean sheet.
The Switchbacks finally took the lead in the eighty-second minute after a wicked drive from Nate Robinson. From all of 25 yards away from goal, Robinson laced his shot with such venom and swerve that the Mines goalkeeper stood no chance and was left with nothing more than a courtesy dive as the ball flew past his outstretched right hand and into the net. While just reward for the Switchbacks’ constant pressure, it was a touch unlucky for an Orediggers team who played with great spirit and class throughout the entire match.
“I’m happy to get the goal,” said Nate Robinson after the match. “I’m new to the defensive position, and happy and just wanting to learn. I love left back – it’s great being able to cut in on my favored right foot if the defenders give me the space.”
Just three minutes later the Switchbacks found the net again, after a great run and cross by Saeed Robinson. Using his considerable speed to get free down the left wing, Saeed Robinson found Marty Maybin win a perfect pass. After his first touch took a bit of a bobble, Maybin crushed his volley just under the crossbar to seal the Switchbacks’ win. Maybin paid tribute to Saeed Robinson after the match, “It was a great ball from Saeed. I took a bit of a rough touch, but thankfully I was able to put it away.”
Not only was it an impressive finish from Maybin, but his second half performance on the right side of an attacking trio was a real positive for the Switchbacks. “Today was a little better than last week,” said Maybin after the game. “We played more as a team, and being on the right wing I just try and take advantage of the space.”
Devala Gorrick was called upon twice as time ran out, first with a punched-clearance and again with a well-timed save.
Head Coach Steve Trittschuh thought the performance by Colorado School of Mines will serve the Switchbacks very well moving forward. “It was a good contest and we scored two class goals. We had a lot of possession, and we’ve got to figure ways to break these teams down,” implored Trittschuh. “Teams coming to Colorado Springs will sit behind the ball, just like that.”
Left back Nate Robinson, whose goal set the Switchbacks on their way to victory, was very happy with his team’s performance. “We are improving every game which is always what we want,” said Robinson. “We’re starting to play our style.”
Davy Armstrong, who impressed in the second ’45 at right back, added, “It was great to get a half. We did what we planned, we scored good goals, and we were well organized.”
The Switchbacks play again in just four days as they host University of Colorado, Colorado Springs at Switchbacks Stadium on Saturday. “We’re looking forward to our home stadium and home crowd,” said Head Coach Trittschuh. “And finally playing on grass!”
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