Before the downtown sky was lit up with fireworks Sunday night, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC players put on their version of a Fourth of July spectacular on the Weidner Field turf.
Facing Real Monarchs SLC in a USL Championship Western Conference Mountain Division match, the home club throttled the visitors 3-1 in front of a sold-out crowd of 8,023.
“We jumped ‘em in the first half and should have had five or six again,” Switchbacks coach Brendan Burke said. “It’s a little frustrating not to be burying chances, but we create a lot. More than most teams in the league.”
The Switchbacks had goals from three players. Deshane Beckford got the scoring started in the 16th minute when he took a pass from Michee Ngalina and drilled it past Monarchs 17-year-old goalkeeper Jeff Dewsnup.
Six minutes later, Hadji Barry scored his league-leading 11th goal of the season off an assist from Beckford.
The goal was Barry’s 49th in his 100th USL Championship match, one goal short of tying the all-time league mark for quickest to 50 goals.
The Switchbacks’ third goal of the half was perhaps the most important of the night and involved what could be a future Colorado Rapids combination.
In the 32nd minute, Sebastian Anderson, on loan from the Rapids, sailed a beautiful corner kick in the direction of Michael Edwards, also on loan from the Rapids. Edwards dove toward the ball and headed it in for his first professional goal and a 3-1 Switchbacks lead.
“We planned it all week and it felt great,” an elated Edwards said. “That was Sebastian, all day. We worked on it and I was lucky to be on the end of it.”
Edwards played a pivotal role in another exciting Switchbacks moment in the 87th minute when he fouled Douglas Martinez in the box and received a yellow card.
Noah Powder set up 12 yards from the Switchbacks goal for the free kick. But his shot never made it into the net because Colorado Springs goalie Sean Melvin dove to his left and used all of his 6-foot-4 frame to knock the ball harmlessly away.
“That’s huge,” Melvin said. “It fires up the team and yourself and it feels good. And it ends the game well for us. It’s like a relief of pressure for us.”
The Switchbacks (5-3-2, 17 points) earned three points and moved within one point of El Paso Locomotive FC for second in the division three points behind first-place Rio Grande Valley FC.
The Switchbacks finished up a grueling stretch of six games in 22 days, winning four, tying one and losing one. They return to action Friday at New Mexico United in Albuquerque.
“They’ll get a day or two off here before we start training and head down there,” Burke said.
The Switchbacks will have eight days off following the New Mexico match.
“That will be welcome,” Burke said.
The July 17 game against San Antonio at Weidner Field should mark the return of Switchbacks midfielder Zach Zandi, who fractured several bones in his face during a training session accident in early June and had to undergo surgery.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out there,” Zandi said.