Three weeks ago, everything seemed about perfect in the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC universe.
The USL Championship team had a five-game unbeaten streak and was on an upward trajectory toward the top of the USL Championship Mountain Division standings.
But in what seems like a blink of an eye, the Switchbacks have lost three of their last four matches. The latest was a 3-2 setback to San Antonio FC at Weidner Field on Saturday in front of 4,875 as a national television audience watched on ESPN2.
“We need to be better,” Switchbacks coach Brendan Burke said. “We were all over the place in the first half. Our back four was all over the place. We didn’t perform. Didn’t take balls out of the air early. Allowed (San Antonio) to press us.
“We were just generally bad. And that starts with me.”
Burke was also unhappy with the officiating.
“We played poorly in the first half, but we got turned over in the second half by the referees for the seventh time this season,” he said. “And that’s being generous to the referees.”
Making matters more frustrating for Burke and his crew was the fact that San Antonio hadn’t won a game in nearly two months, a span of seven matches. Its last victory was May 22, 2-1 over Birmingham Legion FC.
“We need to get back to our identity” Switchbacks defender Matt Mahoney said. “We probably leak too many goals. We have to do better than that. Especially with who we have going forward.”
On Friday, the Switchbacks host Louisville City FC, the first-place team in the Central Division and No. 4 – down from No. 1 last week – in the latest USL Championship power rankings.
“That game against Louisville will show what kind of team we are and what kind of character we have,” Mahoney said. “Louisville is always up in the power rankings. It seems that way in the five years I’ve been in the league.”
Mahoney, through frustrated by the team’s recent skid, felt he let his teammates down when he failed to convert what could have been the game-tying goal in the 79th minute. He had a clear shot on net from about six yards, but booted it over the crossbar.
“As a defender, you don’t get a lot of those chances,” Mahoney said. “I would like to have that one back.”
The Switchbacks trailed 1-0 seven minutes into the match on a goal by Nathan Fogaca.
Six minutes later, Hadji Barry tied the score with his league-leading 13th goal when he made good on a loose ball in the San Antonio box. He celebrated the goal by doing an impromptu dance with fellow forwards Michee Ngalina and Deshane Beckford.
San Antonio responded with two more goals – both on penalty kicks – before halftime to take a 3-1 lead heading into the second 45-minute stanza.
The Switchbacks pulled within a goal in the 73rd minute when Zach Zandi fired a shot past San Antonio goalie Matt Cardone for his first score of the season. The goal was especially sweet for Zandi, who missed the team’s previous six matches after suffering four fractures in a his face when he was accidently kicked in practice by a teammate.
“It’s nice to get on the scoresheet, but it’s unfortunate I wasn’t able to help the team more,” said Zandi, who entered the game in the 60th minute wearing a clear faceguard for protection. “It’s a good thing for me. I’m happy with it. I was out for a long time. I’m happy to be back and happy to be helping the team.”