Aidan Daniels’ time with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC could dictate the course of his career.
At 21, Daniels is more experienced than his age might suggest after making his professional debut in 2016. But he’s already on his second shot at professional soccer after Toronto FC, the club that also gave him his first Major League Soccer minutes in 2018, declined to pick up his option following the 2019 season.
“Aidan is a player that has the talent and potential to play at a higher level. There’s no ifs ands or buts about it,” Switchbacks FC coach Alan Koch said Friday. “But he’s had that chance already and didn’t grab it. This is his second chance to grab it, and I think he’s shown in moments that he can definitely do it.”
Daniels figures to get another chance to showcase his ability in Saturday’s 3 p.m. match against New Mexico United at Weidner Field. The Canadian attacking midfielder has started all five matches with Colorado Springs, including a 2-1 loss to New Mexico on July 11 that included his right-footed blast from outside the box that went down as first goal with the club. With the Switchbacks coming off consecutive losses in a shortened season and starting a six-game homestand Saturday against another Group C opponent, Daniels and the Switchbacks will be looking to get back on track.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here so far. We have a great group of guys here,” he said. “It’s just, you know, everything’s better when you’re winning, so I think we need to get out of this little slump we’re in and start putting some games together.”
New Mexico will start Saturday with 10 points through six matches. El Paso Locomotive, which beat the Switchbacks 4-2 last weekend, is two points back of United, while the Switchbacks and Real Monarchs sit on four points, though each have at least one game in hand.
“Essentially at times the game was boys against men,” Koch said of last week’s loss in Texas. “And I think that’s our biggest challenge with our group. We have to go from having a lot of young players, but also having some less experienced players to grow to become a group of men.”
Koch said the direction of Daniels’ career could come down to his consistency.
“He can use this as a platform to go play at a much higher level, and that’s our goal for him. We work with our individual players to help them achieve their goals, too. I know he wants to do that, but I know he also wants to have success here,” Koch said. “He’s had some success here, but then he’s also had moments (that are) challenges, too. He is a player who’s younger, obviously ... I think what he can do is make sure he’s consistently good in training. When you’re consistently good in training, more often than not, that leads to consistently good game performances.”
Last year, an injury prevented Daniels from getting into a groove. He said just as he was stringing a few games together, an injury that wiped out four months of his season. Then, he was without a club before signing with the Switchbacks prior to the 2020 season.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself just based on what I know I can do, and how I can help teams. I think the next two to three years are going to be very big for my career in the long run,” Daniels said. “I just need to buckle down and push myself every single day. With the help I get here from Alan, the rest of the coaching staff and my teammates, I think I’ll be able to do that.”