“This weekend is going to be tough, but we’re going to win. I’m 100% positive. By God’s Grace we’re not losing any games.” – JJ Tambe
After a magnificent 2-0 win on Saturday evening, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC take their talents to Tulsa this weekend for a critical match against the Roughnecks FC. Saturday evening saw the Switchbacks sweep aside the Oklahoma City Energy FC after an imperious header from Tobenna Uzo was complimented by an ice-cold finish from Shane Malcolm.
Uzo’s performance – that included an assist for Malcolm’s 89th minute goal – earned the young Nigerian a place on the bench of the USL’s Team of the Week. Midfielder Jordan Burt, who concocted an inch-perfect cross for Uzo’s thundering header, was rewarded with a spot in the Team of the Week starting XI.
“Honestly; I’m a little shocked,” said Jordan Burt when asked about his selection to the Team of the Week. “I think Toby [Uzo] should have got the starting spot for his goal and his assist. I just lobbed the ball up to him and he did the rest.”
“It’s good for Uzo to get the goal – he’s been in and out of the team, and sometimes it’s been hard translating his good play in practice to the games, so Saturday was important for him personally,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh. “If he keeps doing what he did against OKC then he’ll be in our plans every week.”
Uzo, who scored earlier this season for the Switchbacks against San Antonio FC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, was brought into last Saturday’s match as a second half substitute with the Switchbacks chasing a critical winner. “It’s long overdue,” said Uzo of his goal. “I feel like the team really needed it – the goals and the win – for our momentum to finish in a playoff spot. The past couple days have been the best I’ve had this season. It just gives me confidence to score. I know I’m capable of doing it game in and game out and I have to show that.”
The Roughnecks FC fell to the bottom of the USL’s Western Conference table after the Seattle Sounders FC 2 engineered a 3-0 win over the Las Vegas Lights FC on July 26th. The Roughnecks have won only once in the 2018 USL regular season – a 2-0 victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy II on June 27th at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On July 21st, the Switchbacks defeated the Roughnecks 4-2 at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs behind a terrific brace from Marty Maybin and goals from Jordan Burt and Shane Malcolm.
“They’re looking to end the season on a high note,” said Trittschuh of Saturday’s opponents. “They have nothing to lose so we have to be careful. They’ve brought in [Alejandro] Covarrubias and [Uzi] Tayou – those are good players.”
Joaquin Rivas leads the Roughnecks in goals with 8, and the El Salvadorian midfielder will be looking to boost his statistics on Wednesday evening when the Roughnecks host their in-state rivals, the Oklahoma City Energy FC. ONEOK Field is also the home stadium of the Tulsa Drillers of Double-A baseball, resulting in a narrow playing surface for professional soccer.
“The small field this weekend just gives us more opportunities to press Tulsa,” said Jordan Burt. “It plays to our strengths in some ways. It won’t be as pretty as usual, but we’ll be able to press them and use what’s best about our game.”
“It helps us,” was JJ Tambe’s response when asked about playing at ONEOK Field. “It helps us stay focused and communicate and do what we need to win.”
“It’s a much smaller field there so we have to make sure we use it,” said Marty Maybin. “Defensively we have to stay compact and get the ball wide quickly. We did well in those areas against OKC and we’ll need to do it again in Tulsa. I’m really excited for Saturday; every game is a Cup Final now and we have that attitude towards everything we’re doing. Tulsa’s record doesn’t match the talent they have on their team. We have to expect their best game and be ready for a really tough game – their position in the league doesn’t matter when the game starts.”
“We’ve played before on small fields – in Vegas and OKC,” said Trittschuh. “We’ve been training on small fields here to get ready and get used to what we’ll see on Saturday.”
Ugandan midfielder Michael Azira was handed his debut for the Switchbacks in Saturday’s win against OKC, partnering Jordan Schweitzer and Sam Hamilton in the heart of the home team’s midfield. “The addition of Michael [Azira] has really helped our game,” confirmed Trittschuh. “He changes the tempo and he wants the ball at his feet. He gave a lot of space to his teammates on Saturday and was important in the win.”
A two-week break awaits the Switchbacks after Saturday’s match in Tulsa. On August 25th, the Switchbacks will travel to The Valley of the Sun for a late-evening match against Phoenix Rising FC at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex.
On Wednesday August 29th, the Switchbacks return to Weidner Field as they host the Real Monarchs of Salt Lake City on 1980’s Night presented by Penrose-St. Francis Health Services and Centura Health. The first 500 fans will receive a mini soccer ball and poster giveaway.
“We’ve talked about winning games – we’ve got nine to go and I think we can win them all,” said Trittschuh on Tuesday afternoon at the Pride Soccer Complex in eastern Colorado Springs. “People have written us off…hopefully we can surprise people and keep winning and keep fighting like we did on Saturday.”