Switchbacks midfielder Luke Vercollone had an unexpected reunion with one of his fellow 2004 MLS SuperDraft picks Friday night as the team hosted Las Vegas Lights for the first time at Weidner Field.
Lights forward Freddy Adu was the No. 1 pick overall pick in that draft and became the youngest American to sign a professional contract at 14 with DC United.
Vercollone was drafted in the fifth round by Columbus Crew after a college career at Seton Hall but ended up signing with New England Revolution.
It was Vercollone’s goal in the 70th minute that helped the Switchbacks take three points from Las Vegas and the former teen sensation.
“I don’t think he remembered me. I remembered him,” Vercollone said. “He was a big name at the time.”
Adu did little to test the Switchbacks, as the Lights failed to put any of their nine shots on target, giving Steward Ceus another clean sheet. The Switchbacks have only conceded once, a penalty kick at Orange County, in their past four matches.
“These guys defensively are playing very well,” Switchbacks coach Steve Trittschuh said. “Jamal (Jack) and Pascal (Eboussi) are on top of their games, and (Jordan) Schwietz(er) in the middle, he’s fricking making the difference right now.”
Vercollone's goal came when he controlled a ball in the box, turned toward goal and chipped a ball past the keeper.
The Switchbacks had chances for a more comfortable win. Outside back Josh Suggs saw a shot deflect off the post in the first half, and Toby Uzo, who came on as a second-half substitute, created chances late, but the hosts were forced to sweat out the final minutes.
“To put the game away, we need to score those goals so it doesn’t come down to the last play of the game or something,” Trittschuh said.
The Switchbacks also had a goal taken away when Eboussi crashed into Las Vegas keeper Ricardo Ferrino before Jordan Burt was able to tap it over the line. It was one of multiple instances where the teams had to be separated by the referee who oversaw 90 physical minutes.
“Oh my gosh, it felt like, to me, playing men’s league back home,” Switchbacks winger Shane Malcolm said. “It was very physical.”
Malcom, too, has an Adu story. Growing up in Florida, Malcom ran into Adu and U.S. men’s national team forward Jozy Altidore and got a picture with the duo.
“It’s me, Freddy and Jozy Altidore, and he would never remember that,” Malcolm said, “but for me, it was huge.”
Trittschuh, while with the Colorado Rapids, coached against Adu. He remembers the story for cautionary reasons - too much praise and pressure for the promising player at a young age.
Having not scored or won at home since April 7, the Switchbacks were under a different kind of pressure Friday and handled it thanks to their 2004 MLS draft pick.
“We felt it,” Malcolm acknowledged. “It feels like we got a monkey off our back, having a win. We just gotta keep that going.”