The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC return to Weidner Field this Saturday evening for a critical playoff-position battle with Phoenix Rising FC on Poster Giveaway Night. The first 500 fans in attendance will receive the 5th and final section of the Poster Giveaway series, courtesy of Accelerated Wealth.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Switchbacks stand in 7th place in the USL’s Western Conference – a lone point above Phoenix Rising, who occupy the 8th and final playoff position.
Winners of their last two matches, Phoenix Rising welcome Orange County SC on Wednesday evening at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in Tempe, Arizona. A win for Wednesday’s hosts would see Head Coach Patrice Carteron’s team leap over the Switchbacks in the Western Conference table ahead of Saturday’s showdown at Weidner Field.
A stoppage-time equalizer from defender Pascal Eboussi – deployed as an emergency center forward by Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh – saw the Switchbacks secure a draw at Papa Murphy’s Park in Sacramento, California against Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday night. The point for each club saw Sacramento maintain their position above the Switchbacks. The Switchbacks have six matches remaining in the 2017 USL regular season, while Phoenix Rising will play ten.
Eboussi’s heroics secured a starting position for the Cameroonian on the USL’s Team of the Week where he joined teammate Masta Kacher who was named to the bench. Phoenix Rising goalkeeper Josh Cohen is the starting goalkeeper on the Team of the Week after a clean sheet in Phoenix Rising’s 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders FC 2. Phoenix Rising defender Amadou Dia also made the bench.
“We’re in survival mode,” said Trittschuh. “Our backs are against the wall. We need to show up and play. The players showed great character the other night in Sacramento to get back even. They dug-deep. The conditions were very hot and Sacramento played well. I told Moise [Pouaty] to step up and make a big stop to save us after his mistake and he certainly did that. The guys know what we have to do this weekend and that’s come out and play our game. Hopefully, we learned from last time in Arizona. We went down there and played well but they’re a much different team now and so are we.”
July 15th saw the Switchbacks fall 2-1 in Arizona after an early goal from Kevaughn Frater was canceled out by a brace from his countryman Jason Johnson. Johnson was again on the scoresheet for Phoenix Rising as they defeated the Seattle Sounders FC 2 by two goals to nil on Saturday evening in the Valley of the Sun. Johnson has helped pick up the scoring slack left by Ivorian superstar Didier Drogba who hasn’t played for Phoenix Rising since a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy II on August 5th in Carson, California. Drogba has not been named to a Phoenix Rising team sheet since the former Chelsea center forward was an unused substitute at H-E-B Park in Edinburg, Texas on August 12th when Phoenix Rising tied RGV FC 1-1.
“In the last few games without Drogba Arizona have actually been better,” said Trittschuh. “Jason Johnson is a really good player and he’s shown that against us. Chris Cortez up top is more mobile than Drogba. [Shaun] Wright-Phillips is a player we have to watch. He moves around a lot in the middle and gets into good positions to support their attack – he’s a very dangerous player for them.”
Wright-Phillips became a household name to American soccer fans during two spells at Manchester City that bracketed three seasons with Chelsea. Wright-Phillips made his way stateside in 2015 to join the New York Red Bulls before settling with Phoenix Rising this season. Former Switchbacks defender J.J. Greer, who appeared in 49 matches for the Switchbacks across two seasons in Colorado Springs, has so far started 4 games for Phoenix Rising in his first season in Arizona.
“Arizona are a good team – they have a lot of talent so I expect a tough opponent on Saturday. It won’t be an easy game,” said Josh Suggs. “It will be good to see Arizona play on Wednesday and see who they are starting with and what they look like tactically.”
“Arizona will be coming in confident. They’ve won games recently and we know it will be a good game,” said Switchbacks captain Rony Argueta. “We’re going to continue what we’ve been doing and make sure on Saturday that we’re better and that we continue to focus on locking up that playoff spot. Seeing Arizona three days before they play against us will determine how they’ll be for the trip here, so that can help us.”
The Switchbacks had an intense practice on Monday afternoon at the Pride Soccer Complex, despite Colorado Springs being blanketed in thick smoke as wildfires rage across the western United States from Los Angeles to Billings. Temperatures on Wednesday evening at the start of Phoenix Rising’s match with Orange County SC in Tempe will be hovering around the low triple-digits, although the smoke currently choking parts of Colorado is not supposed to greatly impact the Phoenix metropolitan area.
“We’ve played three games in one week this season and that’s no easy task so we know Arizona will have to deal with that,” said Conner Bevans. “Coming to Colorado Springs isn’t easy on any team – especially when they’ve not got a lot of time in between games. Being able to watch them on Wednesday and prepare for them will be good for us.”
“We expect them to come in fighting,” said Josh Phillips. “This is the time of the year where everyone is fighting for points. Both teams are in the hunt for a place in the playoffs so we know it will be a tight game. We’ll get to watch them on Wednesday so we’ll get another good look at them. They’ve been playing well lately so we know that we will have to bring it. As for some of their players? For me, I don’t care. I aspire to be a big-name player and that starts by beating guys who are so-called big-named players in this league.”
Following Saturday’s match the Switchbacks will travel to the Great Pacific Northwest for a Saturday, September 16th fixture with the Seattle Sounders FC 2 at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington. Three consecutive matches at Weidner Field will follow for the Switchbacks before they finish the 2017 regular season on October 14th at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Oklahoma against the Roughnecks FC.
“The guys know what we have to do and that’s come out on Saturday and play our game,” said Trittschuh. “We’ll be ready this weekend and we all know what this game means.”
Tickets for Saturday's match against Phoenix start at just $12 and are available here.