The 2017 season saw the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC miss the playoffs for the first time in team history. The players never seem to get on the same page, appearing disjointed and inconsistent all season. Rumors of internal strife and a fractured locker room seemed to bear out on the field, as the team finished just two points outside the USL Western Conference Playoffs with a record of 12-12-8 (44 points). It was clear as the season ended that changes needed to be made in the offseason.
While the release of players was expected, fans were still surprised when news broke that 2017 captain midfielder Rony Argueta signed with the expansion Fresno Foxes FC, and defender Josh Phillips left to Portland Timbers 2. Both players had been stalwarts with the team since day one, both on and off the field. Two of the leading scorers from 2017, Masta Kacher and Kevaughn Frater both left as well: Kacher went to Salt Lake City’s Real Monarchs and Frater to Phoenix Rising FC.
But all was not dark clouds for the Switchbacks. The team again looked to outside the US to find new talent, signing Cameroonian center-back Ayukokata Tambe from Isidro Metapan in the Primera Division, the top flight in the El Salvador football league. They also looked again to Scandinavia, signing Verneri Välimaa from JJK Jyväskylä in the 2nd division of the Finnish League. Prior to that, he was on loan with Orange County SC from the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2016.
In addition, the team signed from the new defunct Orlando City B, center-midfielder Jordan Schweitzer. A University of Denver product, Schweitzer joined Seattle Sounders FC on a Homegrown Player contract in 2016 before spending 2017 in Orlando.
Solidifying the center back position, the team also brought in Jamal Jack from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Jack started in 28 games for the Riverhounds, and is also a member of the Trinidad and Tobago National Team where he has two caps for the Soca Warriors.
In addition, the team signed former Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Steward Ceus. Ceus spent 2017 with the NASL Champion San Francisco Deltas. Rapids fans might remember him because he was drafted by the club in the third round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. Ceus also has 11 caps for the Haitian National Team.
Perhaps the most talked about free agent additions were names familiar to Switchbacks fans. The team brought back 3 former Switchbacks players, Taylor Hunter, Saeed Robinson, and fan favorite, Marty Maybin. All three had left the team in previous years, and had varying success away from Colorado, Hunter playing in the Houston Dynamo system, with time in Rio Grande Valley, Robinson playing for the NASL’s North Carolina FC, and Maybin spending time in the Northern Ireland Premiership, NIFL, for the Carrick Rangers.
The team also brought back 2017 veterans Luke Vercollone, Jordan Burt, Josh Suggs, AJ Ajeakwa, Taesong Kim, and Shane Malcolm, as well as budding young talents Pascal Eboussi, Moise Pouaty and Tobenna Uzo. Suggs, who has been with the team since 2016 season has been given the captain’s armband for the season.
During the preseason schedule, Head Coach Steve Trittschuh showed a willingness to tinker with the lineup to find just the right results. As the preseason ended, Trittschuh told Switchback’s broadcaster and columnist, Roland Vargish: “What Suggsy’s been saying to the team is that in the first few games we’re going to have to grind out results and make sure we win at home. We gave up just one goal in preseason – that’s not bad! The defensive side of the ball is important. What I’ve been preaching to the guys is to be solid defensively and that our attack will come. Everyone has to work on the defensive side of the ball. This week we’ll keep getting sharp on how we want to play and attack teams, and we’ll be ready to take it to LA. We’re going to press the hell out of teams this season. We’re really looking forward to opening with the first few games at home and that will help us.”
First Game of the 2018 Season
The season opened well for the team, defeating Los Angeles Galaxy 2, aka “Los Dos” on St Patricks Day, 2-0. AJ Ajeakwa opened up the season scoring with an absolutely stunning goal that has been nominated for USL Goal of the Week.
Coming to Weidner Field this Saturday is Portland T2, and the return of Josh Phillips to the field he dominated on for three years. If the Switchbacks can finish out that game with a positive result, they just might have proven to find some of the swagger back and become players in the Western Conference playoff picture.