For the second time this season, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC travel to Oklahoma City to face the OKC Energy FC. This Saturday’s match is key for the Switchbacks, who dropped points on Tuesday evening at Weidner Field against a vigorous Orange County SC. Still inside the USL’s playoff cut line at the time of writing, the Switchbacks, to a man, have adopted a backs-to-the-wall, battlefield approach ahead of Saturday’s showdown.
“We’ve moved on from Tuesday and we know that this weekend will be a battle,” said AJ Ajeakwa who produced a man-of-the-match performance against Orange County. “We have to take our chances – that’s what this game is all about. We’ve made good chances and now we need to put them away.”
“OKC have changed the way they play now,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh. “They got a good result against San Antonio last night. It’s a smaller field so we’ve got to battle. We have to have a better start…Tuesday was not acceptable. We are creating chances, it’s just been the small mistakes that have been killing us. We can’t give up a goal so early when we’re trying to hold our line like we did against OC. That was…not ok. We have to be good defensively and we’ll start with that and being nice and compact and not give up space to OKC. Mentally, that’s how we have to approach Saturday and we must get into the game early.”
Numbers were thin for the Switchbacks against Orange County, as only five substitutes were available. Center back Pascal Eboussi was forced off with an injury just before the hour mark, and in a boost to the Switchbacks, Steve Trittschuh confirmed that the Cameroonian defender’s injury was not long-term.
“We’re glad it’s just muscular,” said Trittschuh. “Pascal has been playing well. Taylor [Hunter] can slide over to center back and Karsten [Hanlin] can come in at right back like we did against OC when Pascal came off – if we need to. Karsten is a very versatile player and he can handle right back. We just need numbers right now. We’re really short.”
“I feel okay,” said Eboussi after Thursday’s training session at the Pride Soccer complex. “Tonight, I will just rest.”
Midfielder Luke Vercollone is making inroads toward a return to action for the Switchbacks after being sidelined recently. “As a team we look forward,” said Vercollone when asked about Tuesday’s defeat. “Right now, we need to take things one game at a time. The good thing is that we were in it against OC and created a lot of chances versus a good team. We’ve been in every game this season. For Saturday, we just have to lift our heads and look forward – we know it will be a tough match.”
OKC are enduring a frustrating 2018 USL regular season in which Head Coach Steve Cooke’s team have scored more than one goal on just two occasions. On June 13th the Energy defeated the Portland Timbers 2 at Providence Park 2-1 behind a 62nd minute winner from former Switchbacks defender Christian Ibeagha. Three days later the Energy fired three goals past Rio Grande Valley FC on their way to a 3-1 win at Taft Stadium in a game that included a 97th minute strike from another former Switchback, winger Miguel González.
Independence Day saw the Energy FC record a hard-fought draw at Toyota Stadium in San Antonio behind a 68th minute finish from Spanish midfielder José Barril.
English midfielder Callum Ross scored the lone goal on May 19th as OKC defeated the Switchbacks 1-0 at Taft Stadium. “Tactically we can take some things from our first game in OKC,” said Vercollone. “It’s a small field and it will be a battle type mindset for us. It might not be a pretty game, but we’ll fight and do our best to play on that surface which is a very bouncy type of turf. Saturday will be all about who wants it more.”
“Christian Volesky is a goal-scorer,” warned Trittschuh. “[Jaime] Siaj is also very dangerous for them. They’ve got good, talented players on their team. Out wide they have players that we need to watch and of course they have Miguel [González] too. Our defense can’t break down like we did on Tuesday – especially this weekend. We’ve got to get there and handle our business defensively and take some of these chances we’re making.”
The Energy will visit Colorado Springs on August 4th for Back to School Night at Weidner Field, with the first 500 fans receiving a backpack giveaway, courtesy of GE Johnson Construction Company.
The Switchbacks will return to Colorado Springs on July 14th with the Heat Depot sponsoring a Premium Bottle and Bag Giveaway to the first 500 fans in attendance for the visit of Sacramento Republic FC. A week later, on Video Game Night at Weidner Field, the Switchbacks will host the Tulsa Roughnecks FC with the first 500 fans receiving the third part of the 2018 Poster Giveaway Series, courtesy of the Better Business Bureau.