On any given day when I am out and about the town of Colorado Springs wearing any sort of Switchbacks gear, I am faced with the same question. "Oh we have a pro soccer team here?". At this point I start to tell them about our USL team, our playoff success, our nearly unstoppable home record, most of which is negated with the followup question "So you're the minor league team for the Rapids?". At which point I sigh and say no, we're our own team, with no affiliations.
As part of the Back Chat Show team, a local radio show dedicated to the Switchbacks, when we speak with other USL teams media, the question always come up as well. "Why aren't you guys an affiliate of the Rapids?"
Despite not being in the same league, and having no formal ties, the Colorado Rapids shadow looms large over the Switchbacks. When the Ragain family was awarded the USL franchise for Colorado Springs, many of the supporters that formed the Trailheads were members of C38. For much of the first season, it was normal to see Rapids shirts and jerseys in the stands, often out numbering Switchbacks gear.
The Switchbacks F/O has had to fight for local recognition almost from the start. Local media seemed disinterested in covering them the first season, and despite a large youth soccer culture, most where unaware that a pro team existed. Much of that has changed this year, due to hard work by the team, the Trailheads, and the teams success on the field. But despite being near the top of the standings, and the deep playoff run last year, the comparison with the Rapids still exists.
Typically, the Open Cup is a distraction for the pro teams, coming midweek in the middle of league play. Most teams use it give the bench players some playtime, and just hope to get out of it injury free. But occasionally, there are matchups that beg for special attention. Games where a win means more than just a move to the next round of the playoffs. Tuesday nights matchup between the Rapids and Switchbacks is one of them.
Last year, the Switchbacks where clearly outmatched in their 4-1 loss to the Rapids. They surrendered an own goal, Josh Phillips got sent off, and the game just seemed to big for them. This year the Switchbacks return with nearly the exact team intact, and with a year under their belt. The expectation is of course that no MLS side will lose to a USL team. But to do so would be a huge feather in the cap for the USL side.
For Switchbacks coach (and former Rapids player) Steve Trittschuh, its almost a perfect storm. His team enters the game with nothing to lose, but everything to gain. The Rapids are clear favorites to win, but being in the middle of a successful run in MLS play, they might be hesitant to exposing players to injury, and rely heavily on their bench. If Trittschuh plays to win, and starts the regulars, he has a punchers chance at pulling an upset.
For the Switchbacks organization, a victory over the Rapids would be their biggest victory to date. It would be that definitive moment that they could point to and say "This team is a Colorado Springs team. We aren't anyones minor league team.". The motto the team has been using is "My City, My Team" This would solidify that.
And with a win, the next time someone asks me who the Switchbacks are, I can say, with pride. "We are the towns only pro soccer team. We beat the Rapids."