Playoffs assured, Colorado Springs Switchbacks face desperate Seattle squad during hunt for Western Conference crown

September 13, 2016 Updated: September 15, 2016 at 9:46 am

Colorado Springs is reaping the rewards of its strong defense and a surging offense by playing its best soccer as it readies for the United Soccer League playoffs next month.

"Defensively we have been very strong in the past two shutouts," said Switchbacks captain Luke Vercollone, who was named to the USL team of the week for his two goals in a 2-0 road win over fourth-place Vancouver on Sunday. "We have been good defensively all season, but now our offense is clicking."

That offensive uptick for the second-place Switchbacks (13-8-7), winners of two straight over playoff contenders, has the second-year franchise in the postseason for the second year in a row and in the hunt for one, perhaps two home playoff games.

With some help, the top seed in the Western Conference is within reach. First-place Sacramento (13-6-9, 48 points) leads Colorado Springs by two standings points and hosts sixth-place LA Galaxy II on Saturday.

A win over 10th-place Seattle (9-11-8) in Saturday's regular-season home finale would assure Colorado Springs of a top-four finish and a first-round home playoff game and keep hopes at a top-two finish alive.

Finishing first or second in the West could give the team a chance at two home postseason contests while the conference crown could allow them up to three, including hosting the conference title game. USL regular-season champ and overall top seed New York Red Bulls 2 has home-field advantage throughout including the USL Cup league championships Oct.‚ÄČ23.

But first things first; beating a Seattle team scrambling for points trying to reach the playoffs. Keep in mind that while a playoff berth is assured, Colorado Springs could drop as low as sixth if the Switchbacks lose their final two regular-season games.

"They are a good team and playing desperate," Colorado Springs coach Steve Trittschuh said. "The guys are really focused on finishing as high as we can in the standings, but we cannot get ahead of ourselves."

Forward Miguel Gonzalez is available to play this weekend - work visa problems kept him out of Canada - as is Colorado Rapids loanee Conor Doyle.

The improved offensive performance by Vercollone, who has three goals and an assist in his past two games, and Mike Seth (two goals in two contests) has the Switchbacks playing with more confidence.

"Absolutely," Trittschuh said. "Luke has really stepped it up and with Mike and Miguel also scoring, that gives the other team a lot more to worry about. We are playing well at the right time. We just need to keep doing so."

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