Editorial (March 26, 2018) – Josh Phillips was the first Switchbacks player to talk to me. By talk, I mean have a proper conversation. I still remember it vividly.
Josh Phillps, The One That Got Away from the Colorado Springs Switchbacks
With a fellow Switchbacks fan, I had just launched the Back Chat Show a couple of weeks earlier. Our existence was known, and players were starting to warm to us. After the July 4 game in 2015, fans were invited on to the field to enjoy the fireworks. I was stood there waiting for the show to begin. Glancing to my right, I saw none other than Josh Phillips still in full kit. He flashed that goofy smile of his, raising a hand in acknowledgement. I almost did that thing where you look behind you to see who he was actually saying hi to. Then he walked towards me.
My heart began beating ridiculously fast. He didn’t even introduce himself, instead just launching into a conversation about the recently concluded game. With me. Like I had something to contribute! I was standing there talking to a professional soccer player in the aftermath of a professional soccer game. It was surreal. I came to learn that this was not an uncommon occurrence for Josh Phillips.
Though seemingly brash and full of bravado (‘faster than a cheetah!’), Josh was really an approachable, down to earth kind of guy. I know several Switchbacks fans got to close him during his three seasons in Colorado Springs, whether through soccer or in sharing his passion for fishing and the outdoors.
A Burgeoning Star
Josh and I went on to have several interesting conversations over the next few years. He talked with me at length about how difficult it was dealing with a prolonged period on the sidelines as he recovered from his self-inflicted broken collarbone injury. During that time, he even co-hosted the Back Chat Show with me. He would occasionally talk about his desire to play in MLS as well as on the international stage, saying that his ancestry made him eligible to represent a couple of different countries.
He was bursting with self-belief and clearly ambitious. From our visits, I knew what was coming. It was no surprise to me then when he recently announced his departure from the Switchbacks by confirming a move to Portland Timbers 2. Aside from being closer to home, this also gave him the opportunity to be directly under the MLS microscope, something I knew he’d relish.
Return to Colorado Springs
This past weekend, we ‘welcomed’ Josh Phillips back to Weidner Field in Timbers colors. It looked for long stretches of the game as though his return would end ignominiously. Despite a high-tempo Timbers start where they bossed the first 15 minutes or so, they offered very little else the rest of the match. Phillips cut a frustrated figure, cajoling and commanding those around him in his role as captain in an attempt to make things click.
The Switchbacks by contrast, despite not playing exhibition football, created the most and the best of the chances. The game looked destined to end in a frustrating draw for the home team, though if there were to a winner then it surely could only be them. But this was one of THOSE games, when possession and chances ultimately count for naught as the opposition made the most of a rare counter-attack. And so Portland picked up their first points of the season, via their first – and most unlikely – win ever against the Switchbacks.
Josh Phillips’s victorious return to Colorado Springs provides him a neat book-end to his Switchbacks story. But I can’t help imaging that a season or two from now when the enthusiastic angler retells the tale of this triumph, it’ll resemble a ‘big fish story’. Portland Timbers 2 were the ones that got away…with 3 very lucky points.