The Switchbacks return home Friday night to Fortress Sand Creek after a solid road win against Western Conference foes Arizona United. There they will face the 3-4-2 Orange County Blues.
These two teams met at the beginning of May in Irvine California under very different circumstances. The Switchbacks where coming off a defeat to the LA Galaxy 2, a defeat almost pulled from the brink with a late game surge that fell short, while the Blues where sitting comfortably, coming off 4 games unbeaten, and 3 straight shutouts. All that has changed since the Switchbacks blanked Orange County 3-0 on May 8th. Since then, Orange County has tied with Arizona 1-1, lost to the amateur LA Wolves in the Open Cup game on PKs, and dropped a game against SLC 1-3. The Switchbacks however have strung together a winning streak, beating Portland 1-0, Harpo’s FC 1-0 in the Open Cup, and Arizona 3-1.
The slump has seen OC drop to 9th, outside of the top half of the table. This has got to be a disappointing start to the season from the top team in the Western Conference last year. The Switchbacks however will be looking to keep pace with undefeated Vancouver Whitecaps 2, as they chase them at the top of the table.
Keys To The Game
1.) Know Your Role. Right now, OC is sitting at the middle of the table, looking up at every other contender. The Switchbacks are evolving into one of the leagues elite teams, ranking #2 in this weeks USL Power Rankings. Good teams shouldn’t lose to average teams on their home pitch. Anything less than a victory would be a step in the wrong direction.
2.) Depth At Forward. The Switchbacks will be without their second leading goalscorer, Saeed Robinson, after the league suspended him 3 games for an alleged spitting incident at Arizona. Ideally, the best way to overcome the lack of depth would be to take a large lead, and play with an extra mid or defender. Don’t look for Coach Trittschuh to play his cards too early tactically however, as he is likely to start the same XI that he has started nearly every game this season.
3.) Keeper vs Keeper. Last year, OC goalkeeper Brandon Miller played for the USL Champion Rochester Rhinos, winning USL Goalkeeper of the Year in the process. After an offseason of front office instability, he packed his glove bag and headed west to Orange County. The OC defense has not been as kind to him as the Rhinos was, leaving him with a 1.33 GAA.
On the other side of the field will see the presumptive starter for the Switchbacks, Devala Gorrick, with a 0.83 GAA, and who has only allowed one multi-goal game all season (LA Galaxy 2). The Switchbacks have yet to yield a goal at home this season, keeping Fortress Sand Creek secure in a wall of clean sheets. And even if Trittschuh decides to give Gorrick the night off, he has former OC keeper Billy Thompson to step in. Thompson, in his only league action this year, came on early for an injured Gorrick, and earned a spot on the USL Team of the Week.
Its not everyday you can say that the best keeper on the field is not the reigning Keeper of the Year, but in this game, it might just be accurate.
By The Numbers:
11.) Last year while with the Rhinos, Brandon Miller conceded 11 goals in 21 games played, ending the season with an excellent 0.54 GAA. This year with the Blues however, he has already conceded 12 goals in 9 games played. That has to sting.
0.) Goals given up in Fortress Sand Creek. The home field Switchbacks Stadium is one of the most difficult places for visitors, presenting challenges with the elevation and with the unpredictable weather.
7-12.) The goal differential for Orange County is -5. While the amount of goals conceded is middle of the pack league wide, the 7 goals scored in 9 games is the 3rd lowest in the league.
REF: NEIL BARBULESCU
AR1: Jacob Herald
AR2: Eddie Tuggle
4TH: Benjamin Oakley
As mentioned previously, Saeed Robinson will serve the first of a three game suspension for an alleged spitting incident in Arizona last weekend.
Orange County Blues FC’s Pavle Popara picked up his fifth caution of the season, resulting in a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. Popara will serve on Friday against Colorado Springs.
Orange County Blues FC’s Ivan Mirkovic is sitting on 4 yellow cards, 1 away from a suspension.
How To Watch
Match Date/Time: Friday, May 27thth. 7:00pm MDT
Venue: Switchback Stadium, Colorado Springs, CO
Supporters Event: The Trailheads will be hosting a tailgate in the SE parking lot starting at 4pm
On-Line Viewing: The game will be live streamed via Youtube. Most modern mobile devices and TVs have a YouTube app (XBox, Playstation, Roku, Chromecast, etc)
Weather at Kick-off: 56° at kickoff, partly cloudy with a 10% chance of rain. Expect a cool one at FSC and plan accordingly.