Sunday afternoon sees the Colorado Springs Switchbacks return home to Switchbacks Stadium as they host cross-state rivals Real Monarchs SLC.
A two-game road trip saw the Switchbacks return to Colorado late last week with a point from a 0-0 draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy II on June 11th in Carson, California. Seven days later a 2-1 loss to San Antonio FC at Toyota Field in Texas handed the Switchbacks their first defeat since May 4th .
Undefeated in Colorado Springs this season, the Switchbacks look towards Sunday’s matchup in unfamiliar circumstances. Heavy snow caused the cancellation of an April 30 th showdown at Switchbacks Stadium between the Real Monarchs and Switchbacks, causing that game to be rescheduled for Wednesday evening in Colorado Springs. With the Switchbacks hosting their Rocky Mountain rivals twice in just four days, Head Coach Steve Trittschuh made focusing exclusively on Sunday’s game a priority of pre-match preparation. “It’s not ideal to play twice so soon against the same team,” said Trittschuh. “We will worry and prepare only for Sunday and take Wednesday as it comes.”
“Playing the Monarchs twice doesn’t change our preparation at all because we did it already this season when we played Arizona [United SC] in the league and then again in the Cup,” reminded defender Josh Phillips. “So not only are we ready to play a team back-to- back but now we get to play them at our home stadium. We know what it takes to win and what to expect. We’re fired up after the loss in San Antonio. Our focal point is to bring our energy because we know it will be a battle.”
Depending upon Sunday’s result, any number of tactical or personnel changes are possible for the match on Wednesday evening, especially given the familiarity of the opponent. While acknowledging the challenge posed by two games in four days against the same league rival, Switchbacks players promised their mindset was firmly focused only on Sunday’s game.
“It’s different, but we don’t even think about that second game next week,” said left back Josh Suggs. “We just take the first game and go from there. They’ll be a good team and we know that. But we might have more experience and we’re at home.”
“We just have to focus on the first game this weekend,” insisted midfielder Rony Argueta. “We might change something with how we play next week depending on how the first game goes, but none of us are thinking that far ahead right now.”
The Real Monarchs enter Sunday’s game in 10th place in the USL’s Western Conference after three consecutive one-goal losses. The USL affiliate of MLS’ Real Salt Lake, the Real Monarchs are currently coming towards the end of an eleven-game, two-month stretch playing away from Rio Tinto Stadium. The pitch at the Sandy, Utah stadium shared by RSL and the Real Monarchs is being resurfaced, forcing the Real Monarchs to incorporate three “Monarchs on Tour” games played away from Rio Tinto Stadium but nonetheless credited as home matches.
Back-to- back losses for the Real Monarchs at the hands of Sacramento Republic FC preceded a 1-0 defeat to the Orange County Blues FC at Anteater Stadium in Irvine, California on June 18th .
Perhaps no USL club follows the on-field model of their MLS parent club more strictly than the Real Monarchs. Predicated on possession, the Monarchs attempt to break teams down with endless ball retention and intricate passing. “They’re a quality team and they have a quality coach who gets their guys ready for the RSL first team,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh. “We know they are all about possession, but we just need to maintain our own level. We’ve got to play better after San Antonio and stay in the game for 90 minutes this weekend.”
“Monarchs are going to be a possessing team so we have to come out defensively with high energy and a great intensity,” said Rony Argueta. “They are an exciting team to play against and we have to make sure we keep our shape against them.”
“They are a good team,” said Josh Suggs when asked about the Monarchs’ recent struggle with results. “Of course they’ll keep the ball because they are possession- based. We just need to be ready to play against that style.”
“We have to work hard against that style of possession that they play,” said striker Marty Maybin. “I think we are all excited because we are at home and we haven’t played the Monarchs this year. We’re not worried about their style – we just have to be aware of it.”
This weekend’s matchup will be the first of two Sunday afternoon games hosted by the Switchbacks this season. Rio Grande Valley FC will visit Switchbacks Stadium on Sunday, August 21st at 1:30 P.M. The Switchbacks and Monarchs will renew their rivalry on August 8th when the Switchbacks travel to Rio Tinto Stadium.
The return to Colorado Springs comes at a perfect time for the Switchbacks who, despite their loss in San Antonio, remain just five points behind the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 – the current leaders of the USL’s Western Conference. “Everybody on the team is excited to play in front of our fans,” said defender Josh Phillips. “It seems like there’s more and more fans at each game and there’s always more people talking about the team around town. We’re excited to play for all of them and hopefully keep the unbeaten streak at home alive.”
“We’re excited to make a comeback at home from the loss in San Antonio,” said goalkeeper Devala Gorrick. “And we’re excited to be back home to play in front of our fans in our city where we always do well.”
The Switchbacks won both 2015 meetings between Sunday’s opponents in Colorado Springs. A 5-2 win on April 17th was followed by a 2-1 victory just under two months later.
Midfielder Ricardo Velazco leads the Real Monarchs in both goals (6) and assists (3) this season, as the diminutive playmaker leads the midfield behind striker Kevaughn Frater. Doubts surround the availability of Frater for Sunday’s game after Real Monarchs Head Coach Freddy Juarez removed him at halftime from last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Orange County Blues. Fellow forward Maikon Orellana has been in fine form for the Monarchs this season, as the Provo, Utah native has already scored three goals. Should Frater miss Sunday’s game, the task of leading the Monarchs’ offensive will fall to either Orellana or striker Andrew Brody.
It’s been a hugely successful start to the 2016 Major League Soccer season for the Monarchs’ MLS affiliate, Real Salt Lake, as they currently sit in 3 rd place in the Western Conference. Real Salt Lake travel to face FC Dallas in Texas on Saturday night, and the MLS club may utilize players who have appeared this season in the USL for the Real Monarchs – further complicating the preparations for the Switchbacks.
“Maybe they’ll have some different guys on the team than we are used to – we never know, but it doesn’t change things,” said Marty Maybin. “We just need to focus on ourselves and get back on top where we belong. We need to bounce back and the group knows that and we are ready.”
“We need to expect three points,” said veteran midfielder Shin Harada. “If we can get the three points by playing well, all the better. After losing to San Antonio we have to get the points this weekend. I expect us to play hard and well, and we have to create chances from our intensity going forward. I hope we can score at least a couple goals, and use the momentum of playing at home with our fans. It’s a must- win game for us…so we know we have to get all three points.
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