Soccer is a game of constant change. Just ask Claudio Ranieri. As such, The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC aren’t immune to the realities of a pre-season roster shake-up. Already the club have announced numerous new faces, who can only be accommodated when old faces depart.
We caught up with three departing players from last season; Saeed Robinson and Shintaro Harada, who were with the team from day one, and Christian Ibeagha, who despite only spending one season in Colorado Springs, was a fixture in the team and fast became a fan favorite. So why leave the Switchbacks now, and what’s next for them in the soccer careers?
Mark Turner (LWOS): Sadly, we won’t be seeing you guys in Switchbacks jerseys again this season…how was that decision arrived at?
Saeed Robinson: My contract was up, so I was a free agent when last season ended. I wanted to weigh up my options. I had some USL teams from the Western Conference interested in me, as well as one of two teams from elsewhere.
Shintaro Harada: I didn’t play so much last year, so that wasn’t good. I think that’s the reason I won’t be back with the Switchbacks. I wanted to play with the Switchbacks but, yeah…I’m still wanting to look to play somewhere.
Christian Ibeagha: The decision was largely based on my family. We came together and discussed the situation and the options. It was a hard decision because I had a great connection with the fan base, and we had a great group of guys in the team last season. If we weren’t going to stay in Colorado Springs, it was important that I found a place that would be good for raising a young family.
Mark Turner (LWOS): We know soccer can be a short and volatile career, putting players in a position of having to be as flexible as possible when making career choices. What plans do you have for the next step in your soccer careers?
SR: I choose to move to North Carolina FC (NASL). It felt like the best option for me. They have a plan for the future. They are rebranding the team and making a push for MLS. Also, playing in the NASL will be a new experience for me, something I wanted to try. They have great facilities and I’m excited to get started. Another big reason for wanting to move here is that it puts me nearer to my family. Growing up, my Mom used to be at all of my games right through high school, so I wanted her to see me play at least one professional game. Because I was at college in Arizona and Texas, it was hard for her to see me play live (being in Jamaica). My Dad died two years ago so he couldn’t get to see me play either; the last time he got to see me play live was also high school. So, yeah, I really wanted my Mom to be able to see me play again.
SH: I’m playing indoor soccer right now to stay sharp (playing for Arena FC in the Rocky Mountain PASL). Once I hit 30 years old I had started thinking about my future. I definitely want to be a coach, and even one day be the coach of a professional team. I’ve already started coaching with Pride (a youth soccer organization based in Colorado Springs), so I’m enjoying looking at the game as coach. But even though I’m 36 now, I still feel fit enough to play 11 v 11. I don’t want to end my playing career with a season like last season, so would be willing to move somewhere else.
CI: So, I just signed for North Carolina FC (NASL). I’ve been here a little while training, and just finalized the contract paperwork. For me I think it’s a good situation for a variety of reasons. They have a great set up here, they have wonderful facilities, and I’ve actually spent a lot of time in this area previously. I went to school at Duke which is about a 20 minute drive from here, so it’s kind of a home-coming for me. I played PDL with these guys all through school as well. In fact the NCFC Assistant Coach, Dewan Bader, was my PDL coach all through college, so that’s helping with a smooth transition, too. I’ve always thought that Carolina is a great place to raise a family, and somewhere we could live long-term. And for my wife in her field of work there are some great opportunities out here, so in the end it just looked like the best fit for me and my family.
Mark Turner (LWOS): Finally, all three of you were much-loved by the fans at ‘Fortress Sand Creek’ (Weidner Field), but obviously didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to those supporters. What message do you have for the Switchbacks fans?
SR: I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there to say goodbye in person, because the fans really made me feel at home in Colorado Springs. That’s my one regret that I couldn’t tell the fans goodbye. But I hope they know that I really appreciated all of their support.
SH: Switchbacks fans are awesome! Good fans and very nice people. They would always chant a lot for me, which gave me some good memories, so I really appreciate their support for the team and for me, and thank them. I wished I could have seen them again this season, but I hope to see them again soon.
CI: I definitely want to say thank you to the fans – they were incredible! That’s probably the first and last time I’ll have my own cheering section in the stands! (the Iguana crew) I’ve never known anything like it in my career, it was great. Anytime you move somewhere new and people take you in that quickly, and essentially love you they way they did me, that’ll make anyone feel great. That’s the part that stung the most coming to the decision to move, having seen all the comments (on social media) about what am I doing, and will I be back, on so on. The football side of things just means we have to keep quiet until things are finalized, which is really hard. I appreciated every minute with the Switchbacks, and just want to say a big, big thank you to everyone in Colorado Springs, from the players to the fans; thank you.