The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC journey east this weekend as they return to USL action with a Saturday evening matchup against the Oklahoma City Energy FC at Taft Stadium.
The Switchbacks moved into the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday at Weidner Field after defeating FC Denver 3 –2 in Colorado Springs. Goals from Pascal Eboussi and a winning penalty kick from Jordan Burt bookended a Switchbacks debut strike for Uriel Macias. It was a tense win for the Switchbacks who secured a matchup with San Antonio FC in the third round next Wednesday in Texas.
“We’ve got to take the positive, which is the three goals,” said Switchbacks Assistant Coach Wolde Harris after the win against FC Denver. Harris took charge of the match as part of Head Coach Steve Trittschuh’s Pro License coaching certification. “We haven’t scored more than one goal since Reno [1868 FC] and that should give us confidence going into the weekend. We’ll look to see what happened in the Cup for OKC, but it will be a whole new game. I’m pretty sure they’ll be motivated so we have to take care of our game against a team in a very competitive environment.”
A tricky run won Saeed Robinson the 86th minute penalty kick that Jordan Burt converted to win the game for the Switchbacks after a spirited performance from FC Denver. “Obviously, some of the things that were said at halftime were straightforward,” said Head Coach Steve Trittschuh. “The players were told that a lot of guys have got to show who has the quality to play…and they showed us. If you can’t play versus an amateur team, you can’t play in the USL. We’ve got to show up in OKC because that’s a difficult place to play.”
“It’s not going to be an easy trip – it never is,” said Luke Vercollone. Vercollone was named a reserve on the USL’s Team of the Week after his all-around performance and goal in last weekend’s victory against the Las Vegas Lights FC. “If we can play our game we should come away with a result. They’ve [OKC] had some tough ones so far, but they’re a good team.”
OKC Energy FC are rooted to the foot of the USL’s Western Conference table with just three points from their opening nine matches. Eight consecutive losses have befallen OKC since an opening day win against the Tulsa Roughnecks FC at Taft Stadium. Hopes that a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run would erase the bitterness of OKC’s start to the USL campaign were dashed on Wednesday evening as they were eliminated in extra time by NTX Rayados 5-2.
“OKC are just not having a good time of it right now,” said Steve Trittschuh. “They’re a quality team and we’ve got to be ready, focused, and we must have a good start to the game. OKC haven’t won since March so it’s important we start fast.”
“It’s going to be a very tough trip,” said captain Josh Suggs. “It’s a tough place to play. They haven’t won a lot of games this year but that’s a team who knows how to win in this league.”
Three Energy FC players are tied with a goal apiece in USL play: Francis Atuahene, Christian Volesky, Jaime Siaj, and former Switchback Christian Ibeagha. “I’m looking forward to playing there and maybe getting to play against [Christian] Ibeagha,” said Saeed Robinson. Robinson played with Christian Ibeagha last season with North Carolina FC in Cary, North Carolina. “OKC is a tough place to play and they need three points so we know it will be a hard game. We need to build off the Vegas win and get the three points so we can get on a roll and keep that feeling going. We need to keep winning so we can maintain a playoff spot. It will be a tough game but we’ll go there and try to play.”
Switchbacks coaches would not confirm any lineup changes for the trip to Oklahoma City, although Head Coach Trittschuh selected Uriel Macias for praise after his goal against FC Denver. “As coaches, we’ve got to make decisions on who is on the travel squad to OKC. Uriel did well! He hasn’t got a lot of time, but he showed up and scored and he’s going to travel to Oklahoma City with us. He’s earned it.”
“Just speaking for ourselves, we want to go in there and get the win and our plan is to go in and get three points,” said goalkeeper Steward Ceus. “We’ve had short turnarounds before this season. We know what to expect, and the guys know how to prepare themselves for the trip.”
“We focus on the three points on Saturday and getting all the points we can the rest of the season,” said AJ Ajeakwa. “We’ve been putting in work in training – we’ll continue that this week. We’re hungry on this one.”
Saturday’s opponents will meet again in Oklahoma’s capital city before their return matchup in Colorado Springs. OKC host the Switchbacks on Saturday July 7th, before making their way to Weidner Field on Saturday, August 4th for Back to School Night that will include a backpack giveaway for the first 500 fans, presented by GE Johnson.
A Ziggy Bobblehead Giveaway, courtesy of Fox 21 News, awaits the first 500 fans through the gates at Weidner Field on Saturday, May 26th as the Switchbacks return to Colorado Springs for a matchup with Saint Louis FC.