Steve Trittschuh has work to do: Switchbacks Identity Crisis

Photo Courtesy Isaiah J. Downing/Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Editorial (May 15, 2019) – First and foremost, my apologies for the lengthy gap between articles. I started a new job which has been all-consuming the past couple of months. That said, I’m not going to lie; I have struggled with motivation when it comes to writing about the Colorado Springs Switchbacks this season, as anyone familiar with their record could understand. With all that’s going on, Steve Trittschuh and his players are still a work in progress.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks Identity Crisis Hampers  Steve Trittschuh

The Switchbacks currently languish 17th in an 18-team Western Conference, with a 2-2-6 record. Only four teams out of the 36 that make up the USL Championship have a worse points tally.

So, after the brightest of opening day starts, what has gone so very wrong in Colorado Springs – and what can be done to right it?

If you follow the teams’ fans on social media or walk Weidner Field on game day, it’s clear that there are no shortage of opinions. From criticism of the new affiliation with the Colorado Rapids, to the finger being pointed at the head coach, a lack of financial support from the Front Office, or the need for a legitimate goalscorer, these are just a few of the ventured suggestions.

Identifying and isolating the root of the Switchbacks problems is akin to trying to pin the proverbial tail on the donkey, though, as fans continue to stumble in the dark, frustrated, and liable to accidentally stab someone, metaphorically speaking and via Facebook.

There’s no doubt that the Rapids affiliation has not yet panned out as was hoped. The model appears fragile and unformed, an apparent exercise is bundling unsuspecting youth team players into the back of a van bound for Colorado Springs every Friday afternoon. I’m kidding, of course. Although, at this point, that approach might be as good as any?

Holding on to a proven goalscorer has always been the Switchbacks kryptonite. USL legend Chandler Hoffman came and went. Likewise, lightening Charles Eloundou (now successfully plying his trade in the Cypriot First Division).

Most recently Kevaugh Frater was allowed to slip away, and is now compounding ‘Backs fans misery by tearing it up for rivals New Mexico United. Even Mike Seth, following a banner scoring year in 2016, swiftly exited stage left. Seth has since returned to Colorado Springs but his shooting boots don’t, as of yet, seem to have followed him.

Maybe the owners are the problem? Perhaps they’re not paying their best talent enough? Well, yes, that is a factor. It’s common knowledge, often cited, that the Switchbacks are the second smallest market in the USL, but few may be aware that no franchise operates with a smaller wage bill. So, what are the owners to do?

If the income was there, they would surely reinvest it. Whilst hosting a radio show a few years ago on which Switchbacks owner Ed Ragain was a guest, I joked that the quickest way to become a millionaire was to start out as a billionaire and buy a soccer team. Who’s laughing now?

Consequently, the reality of the club’s financial situation impacts much of what the coaching staff can do. Despite that, some fans have suggested it’s time to give another man a go at the wheel. Certainly, the product on the field needs to be better but who can argue that the guy currently in the driving seat, Steve Trittschuh, isn’t making the best of what’s available to him? The hard truth is he doesn’t have much available to him, less even than in previous seasons. His position is quite honestly unenviable.

Culture is such a big part of any organization, or indeed sports team. A corrosive culture can kill camaraderie, momentum, and achievement. There is nothing to suggest that the Switchbacks team culture this year poses a significant problem, but it could become one if they aren’t able to address one key factor and quickly: Identity.

Fans knew what the 2015 Switchbacks were all about. They knew what the 2016 outfit was trying to do. Every iteration of this team, whether it worked out or not, had a clearly defined plan, an ethos, a way of doing business, an identity.

Ten games into the season, and who amongst the fanbase could say definitively what the 2019 Switchbacks represent? What is this group of players collective identity? Until they can figure that out – and communicate it to their supporter’s – 2019 will continue to be an arduous season for all associated with the Switchbacks.

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