Photo Courtesy Isaiah J. Downing
With their place booked in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Third Round, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC return to USL action with a Saturday trip Rio Tinto Stadium to face their Rocky Mountain Rivals, the Real Monarchs of Salt Lake City.
Weidner Field in Colorado Springs, Colorado was the site of a 2-1 victory for the Switchbacks over the Monarchs on April 15th as early Switchbacks goals from Masta Kacher and Aaron King was enough to overcome a Sebastian Velasquez strike on the hour-mark.
Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over FC Tucson in the U.S. Open Cup came as welcome relief for the Switchbacks after a frustrating two match USL road trip. Head Coach Steve Trittschuh’s men picked up a solitary point from a 0-0 draw against the Portland Timbers before succumbing to a 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 on May 14th.
The Switchbacks started against FC Tucson with an almost entirely changed starting XI from what fans have been accustomed to seeing in USL play. Stalwart left back Josh Suggs kept his place in the lineup along with midfielder Eddy Prugh.
“I’m happy we got the result against Tucson and were able to rest a lot of our guys,” said Trittschuh. “We will start to get ready for SLC tomorrow [Thursday]. We know who will play in Salt Lake and it’s good to know after tonight’s win that we have depth. Now guys should take confidence going forward. Danny [Dan Jackson], Connor [Bevans], and Diego [Gutierrez] all did really well and it was good to see [Jun Gyeong] Park get his goal. We’ve had injuries and suspensions so we need to have the depth that all our players showed tonight. We are happy to be in the next round but the most important thing is our league and getting points in our next game against the Monarchs.”
“I think the key for our team and in this league is depth,” said veteran striker Aaron King who played the final 25 minutes against FC Tucson. “It’s excellent for everyone to get minutes tonight – it sets us up well.”
Goalkeeper Dan Jackson, who started against FC Tucson and helped his team keep a clean sheet with a commanding performance between the sticks, echoed his Head Coach’s sentiments following the match. “This feels really great – it’s my first pro shutout. Most of all I’m happy for the rest of the guys. It’s great for the guys who got to play tonight. Diego [Gutierrez] and Connor [Bevans] were great. Kevaughn [Frater] was powerful and [Jacob] Cawsey did really well-breaking things up for us. Eddy [Prugh] played really well too…really; everyone was great! It’s exciting to win and we’re ready to move on to the next round and I’m most happy for the guys who were able to come in tonight and play.”
“It’s totally awesome – the adrenaline is in full-flow,” said second-half substitute Jack Jones immediately following the victory over FC Tucson. “It’s great that we came out tonight and got a strong victory. The clean sheet gives us momentum which we need before this weekend!”
“A win is a win,” said midfielder Jacob Cawsey after logging 90 minutes in the center of the Switchbacks’ midfield. “Putting two good team goals in the net will help our confidence. For both [Jun Gyeong] Park and Kevaughn [Frater] to get a goal is great for both of them – they’ve both been working hard.”
Arguably the most improved team in the USL’s Western Conference, the Real Monarchs SLC have won four consecutive games since their loss in Colorado Springs in mid-April. With ten goals scored in that four-match span, the Monarchs are one of the hottest offensive teams in the league.
The Monarchs had two players feature in the USL Team of the Week with midfielder Sebastian Velasquez being named a starter after a brilliant offensive performance that saw the 26-year-old Colombian combine for an assist and two goals in the Monarchs’ two most recent matches. Wednesday, May 10th saw the Monarchs thrash the Los Angeles Galaxy II by 3-0 at the StubHub Center Track Stadium in Carson, California before the Monarchs returned to Sandy, Utah’s Ro Tinto Stadium where they defeated Sacramento Republic 2-0 last Saturday. Former Creighton University standout Connor Sparrow earned a place on the Team of the Week bench after back-to-back clean sheets in the two aforementioned games.
Velasquez is tied for the team-lead in goals in 2017 with former Switchbacks striker Chandler Hoffman, who himself has 3 assists to lead the Monarchs’ stat sheet alongside midfield playmaker Charlie Adams.
The victory against FC Tucson in the Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup gives the Switchbacks another home Open Cup match: on May 31st Weidner Field will welcome the Oklahoma City Energy FC for a Third Round showdown. OKC will again visit Colorado Springs just four days later on June 3rd for a USL encounter on the St. Francis Medical Center and Pediatric ER Galactic Night that includes a Saber Giveaway. The winner of the OKC – Switchbacks match in the U.S. Open Cup will travel to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce, City, Colorado to face Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids in the Fourth Round.
The Energy FC earned their Third Round trip to Weidner Field courtesy of a 5-1 thrashing of the USPL’s Moreno Valley FC at the University of Oklahoma’s Crain Field in Norman, Oklahoma.
“I just heard and I’m looking forward to it,” said Aaron King when asked about the upcoming league-cup doubleheader with the OKC Energy. “We match up well with OKC but now we look at the Monarchs. We have a little rivalry with OKC so I’m excited about those games. But our focus will be on this weekend.”
“It’s going to be good,” said Trittschuh about facing the Energy FC twice inside the span of just four early-summer days. “It’s a couple weeks away and we’ll have to look at the team then. The guys that played against Tucson will be part of the next Open Cup round against OKC. We want to go even further in the Open Cup and hopefully, the players can help us do that. I’m most happy we got out tonight with no injuries and that we were able to rest a lot of our starters. Now we’ll go in fresh and ready to battle a really good team in Salt Lake City!”