Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – 2018 in-review, 2019 in-focus      

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Photo Courtesy Isaiah J. Downing/Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Editorial (November 12, 2018) – Well, that’s that. The 2018 USL season done and dusted. Eastern Conference Louisville City FC defeated Western Conference challenger, Phoenix Rising, notching unprecedented back-to-back USL Cup titles in the process. The final itself, however, was a largely dour and frenetic affair.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – 2018 in-review, 2019 in-focus

Long stretches of frustrating, disconnected play punctuated by a few moments of inspiration. It felt rather like the Colorado Springs Switchbacks season overall.

Based on the stats, 2018 represented the Switchbacks most disappointing season to date.

The team registered its lowest ever league position (11th), with its fewest goals scored, collecting its slimmest points haul (39, and over two more games than played in previous seasons) and poorest points per game at just 1.1 (they recorded 1.3 PPG in 2017). The only statistical silver-lining was in the ‘goals against’ column, the 39 tallies conceded representing a significant improvement on the 55 of 2017.

So, with the recent announcements of a new downtown stadium scheduled for the 2020 season and the affiliation with MLS side Colorado Rapids, the Switchbacks must be looking ahead with greater optimism. But how many of the current roster will be around to enjoy this bright future? Based on sources, probably very few.

Goalkeeper options will certainly narrow by at least one. The defense will also suffer losses, with Taylor Hunter’s Switchbacks future understood to be in the balance, and skipper Josh Suggs already confirmed as returning to his home state, signing as he has with New Mexico United.

Better news in central defense where the rock that is Jamal Jack appears set to return in 2019. That will provide ‘Backs fans with some comfort, at least. Jack was one of the few consistently bright spots in 2018, impressing Colorado Springs supporters with some herculean performances in his debut season. No confirmed word yet on Eboussi or Tambe, though it seems unlikely that both will return next year, if either.

Midfield looks set for a total overhaul. With stalwart Luke Vercollone having announced his retirement, Sam Hamilton back to the Rapids, and Kim Tae-Seong returning to South Korea, pickings were already looking slim.

Not unsurprisingly Uriel Macias, who appeared for a sum total of 38 minutes last season, will also not be returning. And with an association stretching all the way back to game 1 of the inaugural 2015 season, Jordan Burt looks to be taking his talents to pastures new. That leaves Hanlin and Schweitzer.

Hanlin had by most fan’s assessment a pretty anemic first year with the club; whereas Schweitzer was arguably the season’s stand-out. It would good to see both return, though. Hanlin has more to give and something to prove. And with Schweitzer having demonstrated his undoubted quality, he may even be a fit for the vacated captain’s armband.

The attack looks similarly blitzed. Marty Maybin has returned to Europe, sadly not on a return ticket. The precocious young Nicolas Amoako won’t be donning the black and blue again. The return of Toby Uzo, Saeed Robinson, and AJ Ajeakwa remains in the balance, but sources suggest that two of the three, possibly all three, could depart.

On the flipside, the mercurial Shane Malcolm looks set to represent Colorado Springs for a third season. Malcolm, alongside Suggs, Jack, and Schweitzer, was one of the most consistent performers of last year. Indeed, he finished 2018 with most tallies on the forward line, his 6 goals making him joint top goal-scorer with midfielder Burt.

We know that next season the plan is for the Colorado Rapids to provide the Switchbacks with at least 3 or 4 season-long loans. In addition, we expect to see a few more players rotating in and out and needs dictate. Still, those players combined with the few that remain from 2018 may not be enough to ensure a post-season campaign for the first time in three years.

New General Manager Brian Crookham, Coach Trittschuh and co still have some recruitment work to do in the off-season. As I mentioned in a previous article, this work is some of the hardest the Switchbacks have to contend with every season. But maybe the Rapids affiliation will make that work a little easier, a little more fruitful? All Switchbacks fans hope so, as they look to 2019 with cautious optimism.

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