After impressive back-to-back victories in Colorado Springs, the Switchbacks begin a two-match road trip with a journey to Irvine, California on Tuesday evening to face Orange County SC at Orange County Great Park. Currently, in 6th place in the USL’s Western Conference table, the Switchbacks sit three places and four points ahead of Orange County SC – although OC have played five fewer matches.
Saturday saw a rampant offensive performance by the Switchbacks at Weidner Field as three first half goals against the Portland Timbers 2 led Head Coach Steve Trittschuh’s men to a 4-1 win. “Tactically we wanted to press Portland’s back four, and we did that a lot of times and we finished some of our best chances,” said Trittschuh. “Going forward we have to keep what we’re doing defensively - we need to keep playing how we have been. If we can stay compact and press as a team we’ll be successful – we just need to take advantage of what we’ve been doing, especially in these last two games. It’s a short week, but I like the way we played tonight and the win gives us great momentum for Tuesday.”
First half goals from Shane Malcolm, Josh Suggs, and Kevaughn Frater set the Switchbacks on their way to Saturday’s victory against T2 before a second half strike from Masta Kacher guaranteed the victory. “Honestly, it feels a lot better to get the win,” said Josh Suggs after being asked about his goal – a stunning left-footed drive from the edge of the box. “I think OC will be tough to beat at home – it’s a tough task for us to go there and get a win. We have momentum now after tonight and we hope to carry it forward with us.”
“It’s only the second time we’ve got two wins in a row so tonight was big. For me personally Orange County is home so that makes me look forward to next week even more,” said Conner Bevans, who spent his formative years at Servite High School in Anaheim, California. “It’s going to be exciting to play in front of my friends and family and hopefully they’ll be happy to see me. We had a great week of training before tonight’s game and it showed. It’s going to take a full team effort to get a win against OC and the intensity we showed against Portland has to carry over to a really tough road trip.”
Bevans replaced the injured Jordan Burt in Steve Trittschuh’s starting XI against the Timbers 2 and was forever raiding forward along with fellow full back Suggs. “Fantastic – he was really strong,” replied Trittschuh when asked about the performance of Bevans. “I felt the whole team did well with the changes we made. “Damen [Marcu] as well. He came on in the second half and added something for us.”
Winless in their last two matches, Orange County SC were able to pick up a priceless late road point at Toyota Field against San Antonio FC on Saturday night through a 95th-minute equalizer from Dutch winger Jerry van Ewijk. “OC are a different team now,” said Trittschuh after watching the end of the San Antonio – OC match following the Switchbacks’ win. “It was tough for them tonight, tying 1-1 late, but that’s a good result. I keep telling the guys, ‘let’s not worry about other teams.’ We’ll go into OC and keep doing what we have been.”
Belgian defender Roy Meeus is tied with van Ewijk for the lead on OC’s scoring charts with four goals. OC’s attack is led by the dangerous forward combination of Los Angeles-area native Gustavo Villalobos and Cape Verde international Wuilito Fernandes. Nigerian box-to-box midfielder Monday Etim – the second ever player signed by new Major League Soccer expansion franchise Los Angeles Football Club – has appeared eleven times for OC after joining Head Coach Logan Pause’s club on-loan immediately after signing for LAFC.
Orange County SC have been inconsistent in what has been a topsy-turvy season for the team who play their home matches at the site of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. OC have been on both sides of 4-0 results in 2017 – OC defeated both the LA Galaxy II and Rio Grande Valley FC by four goals to nil, while falling by the same lopsided score line at the hands of Sacramento Republic FC and the Tulsa Roughnecks FC.
Following Saturday’s match, the Switchbacks will stay on the west coast before making their way back to the Rocky Mountains to face the Real Monarchs SLC in Sandy, Utah on Saturday, August 12th.
“The win tonight against Portland gives us a really good confidence,” said Shane Malcolm. “We’re staying on the road for the first time for both games and that will help get us ready. We’re making our push for the playoffs and I’m hoping we’re finding good form at the right time.”
The Switchbacks will count themselves unlucky not to have secured a clean sheet for Moise Pouaty against the Timbers 2. Pouaty saved two penalty kicks, including one that turned out to be the final kick of the match, in a performance that seems assured to land Pouaty a place on the USL’s Team of the Week. “I conceded five PK’s so it was enough,” said the Cameroonian goalkeeper. “So, I worked hard on it so I could save some. Going away we need to stay ourselves and keep our heads cool and keep working together. I appreciate all that the coaches did for us so we’ll keep working and giving everything for them and be ready.”
Saturday’s win against T2 was dominated not only on the scoreboard but also in the statistical charts. The Switchbacks accumulated nineteen shots – eight of which were on target. Kevaughn Frater was a thorn in the side of T2’s beleaguered defensive unit, and the young Jamaican consistently used his speed both to wreak havoc and give the Switchbacks an attacking outlet. Despite scoring in the 34th minute, Frater was full of self-deprecation after the match. “We still have a lot to work on and we need to work hard to get better. I messed up today but I’m looking forward to the next game. I’ve got to take those chances to score.”
The Switchbacks will host Orange County SC at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs on September 30th with the Gazette newspaper sponsoring a Tote Bag Giveaway for the first 500 fans through the turnstiles.