The Swope Park Rangers play the role of the Galactic Empire as they invade Weidner Field this Saturday evening to face off against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Star Wars Cancer Awareness Night, presented by Penrose-St. Francis Health Services. The first 500 fans will receive a saber in red or blue, while all Switchbacks players will wear named and numbered Chewbacca themed tops during pre-game warmups. The Chewie jersey’s will be auctioned off to fans, with all proceeds benefiting the Penrose-St. Francis Health Foundation.
The Switchbacks could give a debut to former University of Denver Pioneer Karsten Hanlin. Hanlin joined the club on Monday from the Real Monarchs SLC. The former Cherry Creek High School Bruin featured 78 times for DU over a four-year college career before the Colorado native made his way to the USL with the Monarchs.
“Karsten is with us and that’s big,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh. “We’ve also got a kid from Atlanta [United] on trial with us right now and we’ll see in the next couple days what happens there. Niki [Jackson] and Sam [Hamilton] will be ready for Saturday. Sam traveled to Nashville with the Rapids, but didn’t get to play so he’ll be back with the group here on Thursday.”
Scorching conditions saw the Switchbacks fall 4-1 to the Las Vegas Lights FC at Cashman Field in Nevada on Saturday evening. A red card for Marty Maybin compounded frustrations for the Switchbacks in the 80th minute, as the Switchbacks were putting the Lights’ defense under considerable pressure in the second half.
“We found out from the league, and he’s [Marty Maybin] only getting one game,” confirmed Trittschuh when asked about Maybin’s suspension. “It was unfortunate, but when you put your elbows up you take a chance. It was a frustrating situation at time for us because we had momentum and that killed it. But a lot of things got to us. The weather, the field, and the atmosphere – we didn’t deal with them well. It got to the guys a bit. The whole experience there was a circus and not very professional at all. We didn’t match Vegas’ energy and gave up bad goals. We’ve got to get that right this weekend – we have to come out and play hard. We did decent things against Vegas, but the boys were flat and that can’t happen this Saturday.”
“I don’t think anything drastic changes,” said midfielder Jordan Schweitzer when asked about re-booting the Switchbacks’ offense before Saturday. “It was a one-off game in Vegas. We still created chances and to be honest; we got caught up in the circus that is Vegas. We didn’t handle it well and perform the way we can. That affected us more than anything. This week we have to reboot and make sure we allow ourselves to play.”
A 7th minute strike from Tyler Blackwood won the match for the Swope Park Rangers against the visiting Switchbacks on April 4th at Children’s Mercy Park. SPR currently sit in 7th place in the USL’s Western Conference at the time of writing – just two points above the Switchbacks. 10-men SPR lost 2-0 at Toyota Stadium to Saint Louis FC last Sunday after goals from Corey Hertzog and Joey Calistri.
“Swope Park are a good team,” said Trittschuh. “I said it when we played them earlier this season that I thought they were the best team in the West at the time. They’ve got a lot of players who fit their team…but let’s see who shows up because we don’t know who will play this weekend. We have to play with energy. I keep saying it, but we do because they have good players. [Hadji] Barry is a handful and Belmar is a very good player in this league. We’ve got to prepare the way we have to in order to play our best at home and we know how to do that.”
“I’m looking forward to being back home,” said Schweitzer. “It’s a place where we continue to grow and a place that’s becoming a fortress for us – maybe not results-wise just yet – but it’s our home and we love to play in front of our fans.”
Following Saturday’s match, the Switchbacks will travel to the Rose City to face the Portland Timbers 2 on June 17th at Merlo Field on the campus of the University of Portland. T2 defeated the Switchbacks 1-0 on March 25th at Weidner Field behind an 82nd minute strike from Augustine Williams.
The Switchbacks will return to Weidner Field on June 23rd as they host former captain Rony Argueta and Fresno FC. A fireworks display will follow the match, with Springs Automotive Group sponsoring a T-Shirt Giveaway for the first 500 fans in attendance.