Editorial – A quarter of the way through the 2018 USL season and we find the Colorado Switchbacks in a largely unfamiliar territory.
What is the Colorado Springs Switchbacks Plan of Attack?
Historically, the club has struggled to score on the road. On their travels this season, though, the Switchbacks have scored 1 more goal than at home, 5 total, albeit with 4 of those strikes coming in the blow-out of Reno 1868. More worryingly, the team has only registered 4 goals in their four home games. By comparison, even the wretched 2017 season yielded 8 goals in the same number of home games.
With just 9 goals scored in 9 games, the Switchbacks have the second lowest goal haul of teams currently occupying the 8 playoff spots.
The Switchbacks have no shortage of attacking talent. AJ Ajeakwa, Saeed Robinson, and Shane Malcolm have the pace to burn and are all technically excellent. That said, none of them boasts a prolific scoring record in the USL, with Malcolm’s 5 goals last year representing the most that any of them have notched in a single season. As an attacking unit this year, the trio have contributed just 2 goals and 2 assists.
The bench contains yet more offensive talent. The imposing Toby Uzo and clinical Marty Maybin offer differing, high-quality skill sets. The recent addition of Colorado Rapids loanee Niki Jackson gives the coaches another option, though it’s too early to say what real impact he might have on the Switchbacks offensive return.
If the attacking ability is comparable to previous seasons, certainly the first two, then why does the ‘goals for’ column continue to keep Switchbacks fans up at night?
In previous years the Switchbacks were able to vary how they could get to goal. They certainly possessed an intricate passing and moving game but could also switch to a quick long-ball transition if needed. Increasingly their wing-backs became more influential, adding to the threat both on the front line as well as that coming out of midfield. Which underscores a second, arguably more important observation.
The Switchbacks have traditionally offered a variety of goal threats, too. They have always possessed a dangerous center forward, whether that be Mike Seth, Chandler Hoffman, or Kevaughn Frater. They are yet to identify that player this season.
There were always dangerous, goal-hungry wide-men such as Charles Eloundou, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris James, or Masta Kacher. There has been no regular goal contribution from the wings yet this season.
At the attacking full-back positions Josh Suggs continues to contribute assists from the left but the excellent Taylor Hunter on the right-hand side, arguably a more defensively astute option than Jordan Burt, does not have Burt’s same eye for goal.
Burt has been deployed in central midfield this campaign. Given his athleticism and ability to effectively crash the box, it looks as though he’s being asked to play the Luke Vercollone roll of old. In that regard, things just aren’t clicking for him yet, either.
So, whereas the Colorado Springs Switchbacks plan of attack of previous years found a way to mine goals from several different areas of the field, this season they are struggling to get any of them going. The soccer being played is good. The resilience being shown defensively is important. But if the coaches can’t get at least some of those various sources of goals back on track and soon – or identify new and different options – this talented roster risks falling short of fulfilling it’s potential in 2018.