The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (6-17-5) is probably wishing they had been able to come to Albuquerque sooner. For a club that has struggled for much of the season, going up against another struggling side could have been what they needed to keep their playoff aspirations alive.
Instead, they get to face a New Mexico United (9-8-10) club that is coming off one of their strongest performances in months. Not only that, but Colorado also has to do it in one of the toughest places to play in all of the USL. With a home record of 4-2-5, opponents have found it difficult to defeat United at The Lab.
Head Coach and Technical Director Troy Lesesne and his club know that a lot of it has to do with the supporters in the stands. Leading the USL in average attendance, the crowds at Isotopes Park have effectively become a 12th man on the pitch. Not only does United draw upon their energy, but the fans also get into the heads of opposing teams. The roar of the crowd is a stark difference from many of the places United has gone this year. They’ve often found themselves playing in front of fewer than a few thousand fans, and there’s a visible difference in the level of play.
Even with that advantage, United came out flat against Orange County SC the last time they were at home. Lesesne knows that his club can’t continue to do that if they want to make the playoffs and they improved on that last week against OKC Energy FC.
After improving to 7-0-6 when scoring first, United has every reason to feel confident this weekend. They’ve already beaten Colorado Springs twice this season, once in league play and once in the Open Cup. Now, they’re looking to complete the hat trick.
Switchbacks FC struggled each of the first two times these clubs met, conceding four times to Kevaughn Frater alone. With Frater still in danger of being handed another suspension due to yellow card accumulation, Lesesne has been trying to manage his time on the pitch. After being used as a sub against Energy FC, there’s a strong possibility that he will be a starter this weekend. For Frater to be the most effective, he will need to focus on two areas; maintain his composure and run at the defense.
United’s defensive issues are well known across the league. Even with a much-improved showing against Energy FC, there were still lapses. Justin Schmidt and Rashid Tetteh will lead the defense against the worst scoring club in the USL. Switchbacks FC shouldn’t be overlooked, just like any club and United will need a repeat performance of what they did last week.
Player to Watch
Kevaughn Frater – Frater has been nothing short of a nightmare for Switchbacks FC to deal with in the first two meetings. Provided he can stay out of the referee’s book, Frater could not only find the net multiple times but also put himself in a position to possibly have a yellow card rescinded next week.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Frater (14)
Chances Created: Chris Wehan (49)
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC is desperately looking to find something positive in their season. A mid-season coaching change hasn’t helped their fortunes, and while not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet, they are well outside the realm of possibility of making the cut. Winless since July 20th, they have not been able to find a way to stop anyone defensively.
One of the most significant issues for Switchbacks FC on the season has been their lack of a regular scoring threat. With only 25 goals scored on the year, their attack hasn’t struck any sort of fear in the hearts of their opponents. Jordan Burt does lead the club with six goals but hasn’t found the net since August 10th. For Switchbacks FC to beat the odds, they will need to overcome the league’s worst scoring and one of the worst defensive units.
Player to Watch
Shane Malcolm – The midfielder is one of the few threats coming from the Switchbacks FC roster. With solid play throughout the year, he’s been a bright spot for the club. He makes few mistakes and is capable of finding the net when given space.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Team Leaders
Goals: Burt (6)
Chances Created: Ismaila Jome (47)
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 7:30 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, September 14. International viewers will be able to watch the match live on YouTube. ESPN+ is viewable online via the ESPN app or across a variety of mobile and connected living room devices, including Amazon’s Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and more. The match will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM and via The TEAM App as well as Estrella TV 7.2.
photo courtesy Josh Lane/New Mexico United