he Colorado Springs Switchbacks mark their return to USL Western Conference action with a trip south to the River City as they take on San Antonio FC this Saturday evening at Toyota Field.
Both the Switchbacks and San Antonio FC crashed out of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup during midweek games to regional MLS opponents. San Antonio FC traveled 200 miles east on I-10 to the Houston Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium only to lose 4-0 to their local MLS foes. The Switchbacks were also eliminated in the Fourth Round of the U.S. Open Cup, as a late goal helped the Colorado Rapids see off the Switchbacks 1-0 at Dick’s Sporting Good’s Park in Commerce City, Colorado.
April 23 rd saw the first ever meeting between the Switchbacks and new USL franchise San Antonio FC. A second half Marty Maybin goal was enough for the home team to hold on for three valuable points at Switchbacks Stadium behind a wonderful stand-in goalkeeping performance by Billy Thompson.
Maybin was able to put the Switchbacks ahead in Colorado Springs after a disastrous mix-up in the San Antonio FC backline. “Obviously I want to score in every game and I’ll take them however they come,” said Maybin during preparation or Saturday’s journey to Texas. “But scoring against them [San Antonio] before gives me great confidence to do it again. They’re a good team with good players, so we’ve got to go and play 100% to get a result. This is a massive game for us. It was tough losing to the Rapids, but now we need to focus totally on the league.”
San Antonio FC have not played at their home stadium, Toyota Field, since an uninspiring 0-0 tie against Rio Grande Valley FC on May 25 th . San Antonio FC sits in second to bottom position in the USL’s Western Conference, with just two wins in their inaugural season. Three losses and three draws have accounted for San Antonio FC’s six results since their April 30 th victory against the Tulsa Roughnecks FC at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas.
Despite their league positioning and recent run of results, Switchbacks players and coaches all warned of the dangers posed by the matchup against San Antonio FC. “They’ve been struggling lately, but they are a strong and solid team,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh. “They’ve got some strong attacking players so we must take care of business this weekend. We’ve got to take our moments to attack and be solid on defense.”
“We’ve got to get back on the winning track,” said Switchbacks captain Luke Vercollone. “As a group we must stay tough mentally, and play smart because we expect it will be a very tough game. We’ve got an experienced group here and we know every game is tough – especially away from home.”
Switchbacks goalkeepers Devala Gorrick and Billy Thompson combined to shutout San Antonio FC in April’s matchup at Switchbacks Stadium, as starter Gorrick was forced to exit the game due to injury. While hoping to regain his place in the starting XI this weekend, Gorrick’s focus fell solely on his team ahead of the trip to the Lone Star State. “I’m excited to continue our winning league form and to continue to secure our spot at the top of the league,” said Gorrick. “After the loss to the Rapids we are all hungry and we will come out flying on Saturday. The performances have been good so we need to build on that and keep improving with each game.”
Switchbacks right back Jordan Burt, fresh off being named to the USL Team of the Week bench, will surely be hoping to continue forming part of a Switchbacks defense that has relinquished just 7 goals this season – tied for the lowest in the USL’s Western Conference.
Burt started against the Colorado Rapids in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday evening, and when asked about the loss he referenced the winning-streak the Switchbacks were able to initiate after an equally disheartening U.S. Open Cup loss to the very same Rapids in the 2015 season. “I’m excited to get back to league play against San Antonio,” said Burt. “Last year after the Rapids loss we had a real hot streak so we want to do the same this season. We need to go in, play our game, and put them under pressure from the start.”
After the 4-1 loss to the Rapids in the 2015 U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round, the Switchbacks were able to win three consecutive USL games by an overall margin of 8-0.
“We learned a lot from Tuesday’s game – there were a lot of positives even in the loss,” said Head Coach Trittschuh. “Hopefully we do the same as last year where we kind of took off on a good run after the Cup because we’re already sitting good in the league.”
“It was a decent performance against the Rapids but now our focus is on the league,” said defender JJ Greer. “Last year we went on a run after the Cup exit, now we have to do the same and put our stamp on first place in the league.”
The Switchbacks currently sit just two points behind USL Western Conference leaders, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, but the Switchbacks have played two fewer games than their Pacific Northwest rivals. A win against San Antonio FC this Saturday would see the Switchbacks pile pressure on the Whitecaps FC 2, who face a tough test on Sunday against an improving Portland Timbers 2 team.
Striker Jason Johnson leads San Antonio FC with three goals this season, and is supplied through the tireless work of midfield duo Carlos Alvarez and Rafael Castillo. Despite having only scored two goals in their last five USL games, San Antonio FC remains dangerous – especially at raucous Toyota Field. Staying organized, compact, and communicative will be key for the Switchbacks’ defense as they make their first trip to San Antonio, Texas.
“They just came off a loss in the Open Cup too so I’m sure they’ll be fired up and ready to play in front of their fans,” said defender Josh Phillips. “They’re really growing soccer there and that’s great to see. We’ve reacted well to every loss this year and come back to win after all of them so I hope we do that again after losing to the Rapids.”
The Switchbacks have bounced back from both of their USL losses this season with clean sheet wins. A 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders FC 2 in Tukwila, Washington was followed by the aforementioned 1-0 victory over San Antonio FC. One of the Switchbacks’ most impressive performances of the season – a 3-0 victory over the Orange County Blues FC at Anteater Stadium in Irvine, California – came after the Switchbacks’ second loss of the season, a 3-2 defeat away to the Los Angeles Galaxy II.
With shutouts key to both bounce-back victories for the Switchbacks this season, defensive structure and tempo will be imperative on Saturday evening. “We have to keep game under control and play our pace and not theirs,” said veteran midfielder Shintaro Harada. “We have to choose the moments to attack. But we must be solid defensively because that gives us a great base to be strong and to move forward.”
“Hopefully we are going to come away with a win that puts us on the top of the league,” said Switchbacks captain Luke Vercollone. “I’m really looking forward to the game and I’m very confident and hopeful that we can get a result.”
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