An opportunity to face the Colorado Rapids is on the line as the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC once again travel to The Valley of the Sun for Wednesday night’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup matchup against Arizona United SC.
Arizona United and the Switchbacks have already completed their two-game USL regular season series, with the Switchbacks having won both matches by a two-goal margin. The first USL game of 2016 at Switchbacks Stadium finished in a 2-0 win for the Switchbacks, as goals from Marty Maybin and Mike Seth were enough for the home team to clinch three-points on the back of a team wide defensive effort.
May 21 st saw Arizona United host the Switchbacks at the Peoria Sports Complex in Arizona, with the Switchbacks again emerging victorious – this time by a 3-1 score line. Josh Suggs, Miguel Gonzalez, and Saeed Robinson all found the net for the Switchbacks, while Arizona United defender Julian Ringhof was the scorer of Arizona’s lone goal.
Despite their familiarity with Wednesday night’s opponents, the Switchbacks emphasized proper preparation and mental engagement during their training ahead of traveling south to The Grand Canyon State. “Our biggest challenge with all these games we have now is to stay motivated and focused, especially away from home,” said Switchbacks captain Luke Vercollone. “We can’t take any game lightly and we must have a good mindset going in against Arizona. I think we’re the better team, so I’m optimistic we can come together and get a good result.”
Personnel changes for the Switchbacks are likely on Wednesday, especially with a USL matchup against Saint Louis FC at Switchbacks Stadium looming this Saturday. Billy Thompson, Jacob Cawsey, Shintaro Harada, JJ Greer, and Aaron King were all given their first starts of the season in the U.S. Open Cup Second Round victory against Harpo’s FC, proving the strength in depth of the Switchbacks roster.
“I learned at a young age that professionalism is to always be ready for when I’m called upon,” said Aaron King. “I always prepare to play the whole game at all times and with each practice. It’s always tough versus an opponent we’ve already played twice so recently. We’ve done well against them, and we just need to stick to our Ps and Qs and focus on our game-plan.”
Wednesday night in Arizona will see Assistant Coach Wolde Harris take charge of the Switchbacks, as Head Coach Steve Trittschuh will be attending his daughter’s high school graduation ceremony in Florida. “We’ve played them twice already, but that doesn’t change our approach at all,” said Trittschuh after a familiarly intense practice session in Colorado Springs. “We all want to win that game so we can play the Rapids, but we also have to look ahead to Saint Louis on Saturday. We have full confidence in all the players and in our game plan. It’s up to us to stay focused because we know they’ll make changes too – so all our players need to stay ready.”
“I’m looking forward to Arizona,” said Wolde Harris. “We’ve played them before and that helps us because we know what to expect. Our players are familiar with our system, and we need to be ready to cover weaknesses and play to our strengths. We need to stay together, stay compact, and play as a team.”
With the introduction of MLS clubs into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round, Wednesday night’s Third Round fixture between Arizona United and the Switchbacks lends the victor a meeting with the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on June 15 th .
The Colorado Rapids defeated the Switchbacks 4-1 in the 2015 U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round, and the prospect of a rematch in Commerce City, Colorado only added to Luke Vercollone’s appetite ahead of Wednesday night. “Another game against the Rapids is a big motivation and incentive,” said Vercollone. “We’re excited about that potential opportunity but we can’t let that cloud our minds. As players we just go out and be up for Arizona and play our best – right now we must focus on just that game.”
Arizona United reached the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup after defeating FC Tucson 5-0 at the Kino North Stadium in Tucson, Arizona on May 18 th . A brace from Chinese striker Long Tan was supplemented by goals from Luke Rooney, Gibson Bardsley, and Tyler Blackwood as Arizona United swept aside local foes FC Tucson of the Premier Development League.
United then lost 3-1 to the Switchbacks in USL play, before falling to the Los Angeles Galaxy II in Carson, California by another lopsided score line – this time 4-1.
Although lineup changes for Arizona United against the Switchbacks on Wednesday night in the U.S. Open Cup are inevitable, Arizona does not return to USL action until June 11 th against the Orange County Blues FC.
“We’ve experienced Arizona’s strengths and weaknesses first hand this season and in some ways that makes it harder because they also know us,” said Switchbacks defender Kevin Durr before being asked about his individual role on Wednesday. “I’m expecting just as hard a game there as last time. Part of being a professional is practicing like you hope to play in the game. We’ve all got to always be mentally ready for whenever playing time happens for us.”
“It’s going to be a great trip because we love going there to play and it’s a great field,” said Nate Robinson. “We’ve prepared for their strengths. My mentality is always the same – I’m always ready to be called upon and ready to step up when I need to. The team feels really good after an unfortunate draw [against Orange County Blues] and we really hope to win in Arizona and move to the next round.”
After starting and keeping a clean sheet in the Second Round victory over Harpo’s FC, Switchbacks goalkeeper Billy Thompson has given his coaching staff a selection dilemma ahead of the trip to Arizona but wouldn’t be drawn on his chances of starting on Wednesday evening. “I have the same approach everyday. I can’t take any days off in practice because I never know when I’ll get a chance to start so I always have to be ready for each game,” said Thompson. “It should be a fun trip to Arizona and it could also be more intense after our first two games against them this year,” warned Thompson. “It’s going to be hot, we know that. We have to be smart in how we approach the game, especially after playing them just over a week ago in the league.”
The Switchbacks return to Colorado Springs and the USL on Saturday for their lone home matchup this season against Saint Louis FC. Another positive step in the U.S. Open Cup, while of course not directly impacting their USL standing, will no doubt send the Switchbacks into the game against Saint Louis FC with the confidence needed to defeat a Saint Louis team that’s inching ever closer to the Switchbacks in the USL’s Western Conference standings.
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