To call the turn-over of Switchbacks players this past off-season significant would be an understatement. Much has been written about the departure of several high-profile ‘Backs players, so let’s instead consider where the team is now, and what we can expect from the new recruits in 2017.
Switchbacks FC Preseasons a Wrap! So What Did We Learn?
On the surface of it, the Switchbacks have done a nice job recruiting a good balance youth and experience. In the former camp are players such as Gonzaga grad Connor Bevans, Cameroonian rising star Pascal Eboussi, and local lad Jack Jones, all of whom bringing energy, enthusiasm, and an eagerness to learn as well as immediately contribute.
At the more seasoned end of the spectrum the Switchbacks picked up New Zealand international Chris James, MLS fringe players Justin Luthy and Masta Kacher, former Monarchs recruit Kevaughn Frater, Guam international Shane Malcolm, and Eddy Prugh who has spent the past 3 seasons plying his trade in Sweden’s professional leagues.
In addition, retaining key starters from last season like Josh Phillips, Jordan Burt, Josh Suggs, Rony Argueta, and Luke Vercollone, as well as useful squad players such as Taesong Kim, Davy Armstrong, and Aaron King, among others, rounds out what looks to be a very strong squad. In fact, based on raw talent alone, this could be the best Switchbacks squad ever assembled. The trick is going to be taking a team who on paper look supremely talented, and transferring that potential to grass.
Though the Switchbacks concluded their preseason unbeaten (the only blemish on their all-winning record being a labored 1-1 tie vs. Real Foxes early in the schedule), there is still much work to do in the fine-tuning. That’s to be expected. To all intents and purposes this is a first-year Switchbacks team again. But the teams progression through the preseason schedule, culminating in an impressive 4-0 victory over Harpo’s (a team the Switchbacks had failed to beat by more than a single goal in either of their two previous encounters) suggests that Coach Trittschuh and crew are very much on the right path.
Circling back to the new recruits, three in particular stand out to this writer. Eboussi looks like the perfect no-nonsense central defensive replacement for the departed, dominating Christian Ibeagha. In some quarters it has been suggested that Eboussi is a phenom, a potential future star of the Cameroon national team. He’s certainly well positioned now to realize that potential under the stewardship of one of the U.S. men’s national teams’ most respected central defenders.
Kacher is another player garnering admiring glances from team-mates and opposition alike, with one Switchbacks players suggesting to me that they need only give him the ball more, and he’ll make things happen. His deftness of touch, range of passing, and impressive vision certainly indicate that he has the potential to become one of the Switchbacks most important players this season.
Finally, Kiwi Chris James, a pro with experience of playing in both England and Finland, as well as in international competition with the New Zealand All-Whites, looks ready-made to become a Switchbacks fan-favorite. This writer has certainly been very impressed with his preseason output, with James being involved in the majority of goals scored. In addition to his high number of assists and handful of goals already, his quality delivery from dead-ball situations, particularly free-kicks, is something that the Switchbacks have been crying out for from day 1. So impressed have I been with a player who’s hit the ground running – and will surely only get better as he further acclimatizes to his surroundings – that I’d even go so far as to suggest Chris James could become the Switchbacks player of the 2017 season.
Now, time for Tulsa…