When the schedule was released earlier this year, no opening weekend game had more shine on it than the Western Conference Semi-final rematch between Colorado Springs and Oklahoma City. In all three matchups last year, each game was decided in the dying minutes, and in the case of the playoff match, it took 120 minutes and PKs to decide the winner. The USL knew it potentially had an instant classic by pitting these two teams together to kick off the season.
The game plan for the Switchbacks was similar to the plan they lived and died with last year, attack hard early, keep pressure on, wear down the opposition and hold on to the end. And it worked as planned in the first half, as the Switchbacks had the run of play and never allowed OKC to get settled. It was Marty Maybin who got the scoring kicked off as keeper Cody Laurendi misplayed a ball and left the net wide open for the easy goal. Miguel Gonzalez added the second goal in the second half, and with a 2-0 lead, the Switchbacks settled in defensively. The Energy benefited from an own goal by Josh Phillips from a corner kick, but ultimately were unable to find an equalizer. Colorado Springs found its first win against its Western Conference rivals, and leave the Sooner state with 3 points to show for it.
The Good: The Switchbacks were high energy from the start, and the Energy didn’t have an answer for it. The attacking style will pay off when the team returns to the friendly confines of Fortress Sand Creek, and other teams are challenged to endure the attack at elevation. With the bulk of the 2015 team returning, their veteran presence showed, as they never seemed intimidated by the enormity of the situation. Even after allowing an own goal to give OKC life, they never let the game get too big for them.
The Bad: Once again, the Switchbacks were left in a position at the end of the game where they needed to hold on by their fingernails and endure an all out attack to preserve the game. While dominating the first half, they only had one goal to show for it at halftime, and then gave the Energy life with a self inflicted wound in an own goal. While a case could be made for unlucky bounces and such, it was a game situation that the Switchbacks will hope to avoid the rest of the season. They had the home team on the ropes early, but couldn’t find the knockout blow.
The Ugly: Despite video evidence, and what was clear to anyone with 2 eyeballs, the OKC goal was credited to Danni Konig and not an own goal. Last year, Konig was on pace to set the season single season record for goals, but faltered late in the season, which included choking on a PK that would have broken the previous record. For the hometown score keeper to credit him with a goal, and the USL to allow it speaks poorly for the league, and hurts the credibility they are trying so hard to earn.
It Was Over When: The ref remembered to blow his whistle. After an announced 5 minutes of stoppage time in the second half, he allowed play to continue past 8 minutes. While there was some injury time allowed for Devala Gorrick, it didn’t justify 3 additional minutes.
What’s Next: The Switchbacks return home to Fortress Sand Creek on April 9th against Arizona United FC. The Switchbacks swept Arizona last year, including a chippy game that saw 9 yellow cards, and 2 reds, and a 5-0 dominating victory in swamp like conditions at FSC. Arizona lost in first game of the 2016 to Los Dos, 0-2. They will face Seattle and Sacramento before they head to Colorado Springs, while the Switchbacks will be coming off nearly 2 weeks of rest.