After the final whistle blew, I stood there in silence with the nearly 3,000 in attendance. Some had there heads down, some turned away in shock and disbelief. The only sound being the exuberant cheers from the Real Monarch bench as the rushed the field, elated that not only did they take a point from the home team, they managed to grab all three.
Moments earlier, it was a different scene, with screams of anger shouted down on referee Cuauhtemoc Delgadillo, who just called a PK on SLC, giving the Switchbacks one final chance to salvage a tie after a game that was as disjointed, ugly, and absurd as any we've seen at Fortress Sand Creek in quite awhile. After the protests ended, and sure footed captain Luke Vercollone placed the ball, you could feel the tension and relief spread in the stands. In his time with Switchbacks, Vercollone had yet to miss a penalty. When he made his signature sprint to the ball and booted it high and over the goal, the air went out of the stands. He had missed. The game was over.
About 3-4 hours later, my son, wife and I were watching the end of the Copa America play out. The game had gone 120 minutes without a goal, and they were heading to penalty kicks. As Leonel Messi stepped up and blasted the ball high and wide, my mind immediately went to Vercollone's miss earlier. After the game, Messi looked stunned, near tears. Vercollone was inconsolable after the game as well, kicking water bottles, burying his face in his jersey. It was by far the most animated and distraught I have seen from him after a game.
In his postgame press conference, Messi announced his decision to play for his country anymore. It was too hard he told the stunned reporters. Again, this made me think to how Vercollone might handle the crushing failure. Now, Im not comparing losing a USL game to losing the Copa final. But its in these dark times that leaders show their true colors. Messi through up the white flag of surrender, what will skipper Luke Vercollone do?
Vercollone, and the rest of the Switchbacks won't have time to stew in the crushing loss. They face the suddenly resurgent Real Monarchs again Wednesday night. Right now they face what could be the toughest test of the franchises young history. Including an Open Cup loss to the Colorado Rapids, they have gone 1-3-1 in June. That is a far cry from the undefeated June of last year that kickstarted the playoff push. The offseason saw them return nearly the totality of the 2015 team, and bolstered the defense with the signings of Josh Suggs and Christian Ibeagha. And they have gone from one of the highest scoring teams in the league in 2015, to one of the lowest. This is the point where a team either lets the season slip away, or they rally together, and show the league, and the doubters that its going to take more than atrocious officiating and flopping opponents to keep this team down.
As one of the murals at the indoor training facility for the team, D1 reads, "Iron Sharpens Iron". Now is their chance to prove that its more than a motivation saying, but their battle cry.
By The Numbers
23 to 7: The Switchbacks outshot the Monarchs, including an 8-1 SOG difference. SLC keeper Eduardo Fernandez had an outstanding game with 8 saves.
22 minutes: The minutes we played without defender Ibeagha due to a questionable red card in the 68th minute. Ibeagha was the only Switchbacks player to have played every minute of every competitive game this season. He will not play Wednesday, and could miss more games depending on the findings of the USL's Discipline committee.
0-10-2: The Switchbacks all time record after giving up the first goal. The only two games they have produced results after giving up the 1st goal has been Sacramento, and Oklahoma City, both ties. The team has yet to win a game after giving up the opening goal.
The league hasn't released the report yet, but the Switchbacks will be without defender Christian Ibeagha for this game, and potentially longer.
Both Marty Maybin and Miguel Gonzalez still sit at 4 yellows, one away from a one game suspension.
For Real Monarchs, they will have Chris Schuler back after he served a one game suspension on Sunday. Tyler Arnone will miss this game after receiving a red card Sunday.
There is a potential for additional suspensions once the game is reviewed by the Discipline Committee.
How To Watch
Match Date/Time: Wednesday, June 29th, 7:00pm
Venue: Switchbacks Stadium, Colorado Springs, CO
Supporters Event: The Trailheads will be hosting a tailgate at 5:00pm in the SE parking lot.
On-Line Viewing: Live stream on YouTube. Available on any device with a YouTube app (Xbox, Playstation, Apple TV, Roku, etc)
Weather at Kick-off: 74° at kickoff, partly cloudy with an increasing chance of rain as it gets later.