Editorial (September 1, 2018) – The Colorado Springs Schizophrenics, sorry, I mean the Colorado Springs Switchbacks circa 2018 are Dr. Jekyll meets Mr. Hyde. Bruce Banner and The Incredible Hulk. Dwight Schrute and Jim Halpert. Terrifying at times, unfathomably timid at others. Explosive and implosive almost simultaneously. They are both the villain of the piece and the hero of the hour. Consider a recent cross-section of their season to demonstrate the point.
Will the REAL Colorado Springs Switchbacks Please Stand Up?
In the past three games, the Switchbacks have conspired to lose to a team who had previously won just one game all year, were battered into submission by a playoff spot rival, and then outplayed and triumphed over the best team in the Western Conference, arguably in the entire USL.
For fans of the ‘Black and Blue’, the Switchbacks are in equal measure infuriating and inspiring. You’d think the air of unexpected that has followed them around all year might make for an exciting supporter experience? I can tell you first-hand, it hasn’t. It’s made for a frustrating one. That said, perhaps a .500 record is the best Switchbacks supporters have any right to expect?
Consider this; Colorado Springs is the smallest market in the entire USL, after Reno. This impacts a lot of things, but nothing more than the financials. Less money from ticket sales, jerseys, and merchandise, fewer opportunities for sponsorship and commercial deals; all of it impacts what happens on the field of play.
Small margins impact player compensation. Although USL contract and salary details aren’t made public, few players in the league have to work as hard for as little as Switchbacks do. That’s not a criticism or a slight on the team owners, it’s just the reality.
Couple that with the fact that despite the Switchbacks clearly punching above their weight in their inaugural and sophomore seasons, the past two years have been much less fruitful. Enticing the cream of the soccer crop to Colorado Springs is about as tough a job as there is in the club.
Forget coaching, tactics, and player motivation; getting the right raw talent to town in the first place is undoubtedly the hardest thing Steve Trittschuh and his team are tasked with doing.
The 2018 crop was well recruited. Their collective talent and technical ability has been evident, even if this roster is lighter on experience than last season. The crux of the Switchbacks problems this year is that there are just not enough of them. The Starting XI, and the next 5 or 6 players, all quality.
But the squad simply isn’t deep enough to accommodate the absence of players to injury, suspension, or loss of form. Everyone needs to stay at the top of the game all season long, free of injuries, and away from yellow and red cards; an entirely unrealistic expectation, especially the last one when USL officials are involved.
The good news is that despite personnel challenges causing the team to blow hot and cold all season long, things have the potential to improve any number of ways in the near future. The recently announced new stadium could help increase attendance and ticket revenues.
The newly formed USL DIII could provide a less costly home should the club decide to become a more overtly developmental organization. Indeed, were they to go that route, then a formal affiliation with the Colorado Rapids might also be a possibility, providing the Switchbacks more routine access to high-quality players, creating that deeper roster.
Some options might enable the organization to become more profitable, and some might make the ongoing cost of club ownership more tenable. As unclear as their future direction may be for right now, one thing is for sure when it comes to the Colorado Springs Switchbacks; they’re never more unpredictable than on match day.