The Colorado Springs Switchbacks travel this Monday to face the Real Monarchs SLC. The teams met previously in a two-game home stand at Fortress Sand Creek, and provided two of the most exciting and bizarre final minutes of any game this season.
The first game, played June 26, on a Sunday afternoon, saw SLC go up early with an Elder Torres goal in the 24th minute. After Switchbacks stalwart defender Christian Ibeagha saw a red card, the 10 man Switchbacks ramped up the intensity, and peppered the Real Monarchs with shot after shot. Finally, in injury time, the Switchbacks were awarded a PK. Venerable team captain Luke Vercollone lined up to take the penalty and salvage a tie. Vercollone, who was a perfect 9 for 9 on PKs in 2015, took the shot with his signature sprint to the ball, but it was not to be. The shot sailed high and right, and SLC got the 3 points. SLC keeper Eduardo Fernandez finished with 8 saves, and recognition as the USL Player of the Week.
Three days later the teams met again, and it was the Switchbacks who struck first with a Jordan Burt goal in the 13th minute. This time it was the Real Monarchs who pressured late looking for the equalizer. In the 90th minute a foul by Taesong Kim led to a SLC free kick. The ball was played into the box, onto the feet of a SLC player, whose shot at the far post was batted away by Vercollone.
It was a clear, blatant handball that was seen by everyone in the stadium except the four officials. Despite the animated vocal protests by the Real Monarchs, the game ended with the Switchbacks taking the 3 points in the victory. In the end, the teams split the two game stretch, each collecting a win with late game dramatics.
The season series between the teams ends Monday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The Real Monarchs sit in precarious position, at 13th in the 15 team Western Conference with 22 points. But the outlook is not quite as dire as it first appears. Only six points separate SLC from the 8th spot on the table, the last spot in the playoffs. Six of their final nine games are at home, setting them up for a late push to the playoffs. The Real Monarchs finished the 2015 season on six game unbeaten streak, so the climb isn’t insurmountable for this team.
The Switchbacks, despite a lackluster series of results, come into this game in 3rd place in the Western Conference. At 33 points, they sit three points behind the leader, LA Galaxy II, and five points ahead of the 8th place position. The team is traveling fresh off a disappointing tie with Portland Timbers 2, that saw Vercollone miss another PK that could have been the winning goal.
The Monday night game will be featured on ESPN3 as the USL Game of the Week. The Switchbacks need to find a way to get three points out of the game, not only to show for themselves that they are a legitimate contender for the USL title, but to show the rest of the USL as well.
By The Numbers
11.) The number of games the Switchbacks have played without a multi-goal game. That was the June 4th 2-0 victory over Saint Louis FC at FSC. Since that game, the Switchbacks have gone 2-4-5.
0.) The number of games that the Switchbacks have lost by more than one goal. Every defeat has been by one goal, with the biggest lead surrendered to LA Galaxy II by three goals. That game saw the team storm back in the second half to come within a goal of pulling even, but ran out of time. The Switchbacks have yet to have a come-from-behind victory this season.
5-2-0.) Including the 2015 Open Cup match, the Switchbacks have had the better of their Rocky Mountain rival. The Real Monarchs are the only team to defeat the Switchbacks at FSC this year.
The Switchbacks will have their full roster available for this game. Both Taesong Kim and Marty Maybin sit at 4 yellow cards, one shy of a one game suspension for accumulation.
The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) has not released assignments yet. This game, with it’s unusual Monday game day, is considered to be in the 21st Week of the USL season.
How to Watch
￼Match Date/Time: August 8th, 7:00pm MDT.
Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, UT
Supporters Event: The Trailheads will be hosting a watch party at Peaks N Pines Brewing.
On-Line Viewing: Live stream on ESPN3. Available on most devices with the WatchESPN app (Xbox, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, etc).
Weather at Kick-off: 88° at kickoff, partly cloudy with a 0% chance of rain.