Hotter than a fox in a forest fire, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC make their way to Sandy, Utah this Saturday evening to face current USL Western Conference leaders, Real Monarchs SLC.
A 4-0 win against Orange County SC on Tuesday night at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California was the second consecutive four-goal output by the Switchbacks – on August 5th Steve Trittschuh’s men defeated the Portland Timbers 2 by 4-1 at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs. “We discovered how we have to play and we want to keep that rolling,” said Trittschuh from Los Angeles on Wednesday. “There’s no reason to change things on Saturday. We’ve been consistent in our lineup and our play – the guys believe in what we’re trying to do and there’s no secret to it. We’re going to keep at it and keep pressing forward.”
One enforced change to the Switchbacks’ lineup on Saturday in Utah will be the loss of midfielder Davy Armstrong. Aaron King, who didn’t travel to Southern California, will join his teammates on the other side of the Rocky Mountains after attending the birth of his second child. “Kingy’s wife had a baby – a little baby girl – so he missed the OC game but he’ll meet us in Salt Lake because we need an extra player because Davy [Armstrong] picked up a little injury last night,” confirmed Trittschuh. “Defensively we had our best performance of the year last night. We defended as a team – I’m very proud of the guys – and we’ll need that defensive effort in Salt Lake.”
The Real Monarchs fell to a 2-0 defeat at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City last Saturday evening behind a brace from OKC Energy midfielder Alex Dixon. Dixon’s exploits earned the Texas native a starting place on the USL Team of the Week, where he joins Switchbacks goalkeeper Moise Pouaty. Pouaty recorded two penalty-kick saves in the victory over the Portland Timbers at Weidner Field and was highly impressive again last night in the shutout win over Orange County.
Saturday will see the Real Monarchs without one of their most dangerous attacking players as Colombian midfielder Sebastián Velásquez picked up an automatic suspension after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season in the loss to the OKC Energy. Velásquez leads the Monarchs in assists and is seventh in minutes played. “Velasquez is one of the players that makes their team run,” said Trittschuh. “They’ll find someone to step in for him – they have a lot of depth. The Monarchs are on a bit of a lull right now – a loss and a draw in their last two – but we know their quality.”
A huge part of that quality lies in the Monarchs’ star striker, and former Switchback, Chandler Hoffman. Far and away the team leader in goals with 13, Hoffman’s goal-tally has the Birmingham, Alabama native sitting in third place in the USL’s striking chart. “He’s a goal scorer. He does his job and he does it really well,” said Switchbacks captain Rony Argueta. “We have to take care of him and the guys in the center of the park for the Monarchs. Last night was huge for us. It was a big confidence boost and we need to take that into a tough game on Saturday. We’re excited because we’ve got good momentum. The guys are excited and motivated for a playoff spot, so we’ll keep at it and keep working.”
In charge of play for the Real Monarchs are talented players like Nick Besler, Charlie Adams, Andrew Brody and James Moberg. Long known as a possession-first club in the direct mold of their MLS affiliate Real Salt Lake, Steve Trittschuh believes this season has seen the Monarchs produce a more straightforward attacking threat: “Salt Lake are a different team now. They’re more direct at times; they’ll bypass the midfield and play straight up-top if they have to. They’re a different team but we’re not the same team from the first time we went there this season and the guys are full of confidence after last night.”
The Switchbacks fell 5-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium on May 20th behind braces from both Hoffman and Velásquez. Josh Suggs and Kevaughn Frater accounted for the Switchbacks’ goals in a wild match that saw Monarchs defender Michael Gallagher sent off. The Switchbacks defeated their Rocky Mountain rivals on April 15th at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs after two goals inside the first twenty minutes from Masta Kacher and Aaron King.
“Of course last night gave us confidence,” said winger Kacher who scored the third Switchbacks goal against OC after a delightful piece of build-up play from Shane Malcolm. “We know what to do and how hard-working it takes to win a game away. I can tell you the mentality has changed a lot. We respect the Monarchs – they are a really great team, but it comes down to us again. We work, we play our game, and we focus on what we can do and stop looking too much at the opposition.”
Saturday’s match will bring a close to the three-match regular season set between the two USL clubs that call the Rocky Mountains home. A playoff rematch remains a possibility as the victory in Orange County has propelled the Switchbacks into 5th place in the Western Conference – tied on points with Reno 1868 FC but trailing the USL debutants on goal difference.
“We are excited about the win,” said Vercollone when asked about the 4-0 result in Orange County. “It was a great overall team performance against OC. To get the shutout away from home and to be able to create numerous opportunities gives us loads of confidence heading into Salt Lake. We need to be happy, but not satisfied; take care of our recovery and focus on the Monarchs.”
Vercollone and the Switchbacks will return to Weidner Field on Friday, August 18th for a 7 pm matchup with the Los Angeles Galaxy II on Super Hero Night presented by Children's Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs. A fireworks show will follow the match as the Switchbacks look to complete the season sweep over Los Dos, having previously defeated the team from Carson, California 2-1 on June 10th in The Golden State. Tickets start at just $12 and are available here.