Going into last Saturday’s regular season finale against the Orange County Blues, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC knew they needed a win on the road to secure the #1 seed for the USL Western Conference. Alternatively, Orange County needed a win to secure their berth to the playoffs. The playoff implications ensured a game that would see both sides playing for points, and leaving it all on the pitch. Unfortunately for Colorado Springs, Orange County emerged not only victorious, but dominant, shutting out the Switchbacks 4-0. For OC, the win and goal differential punched their ticket to the postseason. For the Switchbacks, the loss settled them into the third seed, setting up a confrontation with sixth seed Vancouver Whitecaps 2 on Friday.
The Switchbacks will need to quickly shake off the humiliating defeat to set their sights on the USL Cup, and that begins at home, where they have (luckily) been dominant all season long. While at Fortress Sand Creek, the Switchbacks finished with the best home record in the USL, earning 33 points in 15 games, 10 of them wins. They welcome a familiar foe in Vancouver, whom they played twice this season - a 1-1 draw at FSC and a 2-0 Switchbacks victory in Vancouver on September 11th.
What the lineup of the Whitecaps 2 will look like is still uncertain. The senior MLS team is on the verge of elimination at the top level and have a Champions League game Wednesday night. “Vancouver will be hungry to win – there’s no doubt about that,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh to Roland Vargish when asked about Friday’s matchup. “Obviously they [Whitecaps] have the Champions League on Wednesday, so we’ll have to wait until the last minute to see who’s going to be here, but whomever they bring it will be a strong team.”
What is certain is that Vancouver’s leading scorer (11 goals) and team captain Kyle Greig will be present. He’ll be joined by Canadian internationals Daniel Haber and Marco Bustos, who each have 7 goals on the season. While the team had an impressive 44 goals this season, they also gave up 44, leaving them with a goose egg in goal differential.
The Switchbacks are relatively injury free, (aside from the season ending injuries to reserve keepers Billy Thompson and Dan Jackson) leaving Trittschuh with a full roster of options to choose from. For now, he is keeping his cards close to the vest heading into the single elimination game. “We’ll train this week and see who is ready to play at the level we’ll need against Vancouver. Places are always open and the players need to show us in training what they’re all about. We’ve got to step up our game, both individually and as a group, but if we show up to play on Friday we’ll be ok.”
The opening round of the USL Cup starts Friday night at 7:00pm MDT at Switchbacks Stadium, and like all USL games will be streamed on YouTube.