All-time regular season series: First match
San Antonio FC (1-2-1, 5pts) finish up their three game road trip with a stop on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains to face the Colorado Springs Switchbacks (2-0-1, 6pts). SAFC are coming off their first loss in club history, and the season. A penalty kick was the difference in a 1-0 decision in Orange County that sent the Lone Star boys home without any points and only a single point from their time in California. The squad created many chances, none closer than two Rafa Castillo shots that both hit the post to deny the veteran Colombian of equalizing. The team put together a decent defensive showing, highlighted by captain Josh Ford's phenomenal one-on-one save to keep SA in the match.
The Switchbacks are coming off their first loss of the season as well, a 1-0 loss in Seattle vs S2. They are lead by the Northern Irishman, Martin Maybin, who has two goals on the season, one in each of their first two matches. The weather in Colorado should hold up for the match on Saturday, but SAFC will have to deal with the high altitude for the first time. Colorado Springs is 1 mile + 755 ft (6,035 ft) above sea level which comes to 5,385 ft higher than San Antonio is. At higher altitudes, the players will experience lower levels of oxygen than they are used to. Full acclimatization can take days or even weeks, so with the short time SAFC will be up in Colorado, altitude will surely affect the players.
Q & A with Jason Smith of the SB Nation blog Burgundy Wave:
Alamo Soccer: According to Google Maps, Colorado Springs is about an hour away from Denver, why aren't the Switchbacks an affiliate of the Colorado Rapids? The distance would seem to make more sense than the Charlotte Independence.
Jason: It's funny, the Rapids question is always the most popular question asked by other cities. The team actually takes great pride in being an unaffiliated team. The city is very independent minded, so being a 'farm' team doesn't seem appealing to many. It also allows us to take on loanees from many different teams, instead of giving minutes to an MLS fringe player. No one really knows the behind the scenes reasons, but I would be very surprised to see us become an affiliate in the near future.
Alamo Soccer: How has the community embraced the team? Switchbacks Stadium has a listed capacity of 4,000 but the team only averaged just over 2,700 in 2015. Why are there so many empty seats?
Jason: The 2,700 average was about in the middle of the league attendance last year. Colorado Springs is a bit different than many of the existing clubs/cities who have a history of pro teams. Tulsa for instance has a pro soccer tradition and fan base that goes back into the 70s. Colorado Springs does not. The club, and the supporter groups have really been on the ground, educating the public and trying to build interest and educate the city. Every seat that is filled, someone worked hard to sell that fan over. It really is a grass roots, non-traditional, DIY kind of organization.
The 2,700 might not look like much to the teams who are jockeying to get in MLS (SacRep, San Antonio, Cincy, even OKC). We have no MLS ambitions, and take a bit of pride in being a USL team. I would imagine we will have several games in the 3,500-5,000 range this year, which would be a success for us.
Alamo Soccer: How does this team play? Strengths? Weaknesses?
Jason: We are an aggressive team that aims to start with high pressure, score early and then rely on our defense. We have a strong veteran team with captain and mid fielder Luke Vercollone and defender Josh Suggs. Forward Miguel Gonzalez has a future in higher leagues, he is extremely talented, and I can see this being his break out year. Our one weakness is not being able to put teams away. Last year we often would give up goals late and pass on opportunities to put teams away, and it cost us points in the standings.
Alamo Soccer: Prediction for the match when San Antonio comes to town?
Jason: Boy that's tough. I suspect we will return with a chip on our shoulder looking to make a statement to the rest of the conference. Defending our home stadium (Fortress Sand Creek as the fans call it) is a top priority. The elevation is no joke, and I see the Switchbacks bouncing back and bagging a 3-1 victory.
Keys to the game:
San Antonio played decent against the Blues last weekend. Just put one of Castillo's crossbar shots in the back of the net and we walk away with another point. More concerning were the defensive mishaps that allowed Trevin Caesar multiple scoring opportunities. With the altitude a factor in this match, concentration and poise will be extremely important if San Antonio want to leave Colorado with points in their hands.
Don't expect the crowd to play a factor in this game as the Switchbacks averaged about 2,700 in 2015. Jason expects some games to exceed 3,000 - maybe with the upstart Texas team we'll see an increase in the Colorado crowd.
The entire match will be a tough test for the Alamo City boys as they deal with the altitude. With the Switchbacks' history of giving up games late, SAFC should leave Colorado Springs with at least a point, if not more. Late heroics will give SAFC the 2-1 away victory, me thinks.
I'd like to thank Jason for answering a few questions so we can know the Switchbacks a little better! Jason covers the Switchbacks for Burgundy Wave, he also covers the team as a writer, and occasional guest host on Back Chat, a Switchbacks dedicated radio show in Colorado Springs on KCMJ 93.9FM. Podcasts can be found every Wednesday on SoundCloud and iTunes. He can also be found at BackChat.net, and his personal Twitter handle is @AndJasonSez.
The game is this Saturday, April 23rd at 2:30pm CST. #COSvSA
How to watch:
San Antonio FC & the USL
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