Matt Hundley’s dream endorsement might be a couple of years away from reality.
During an interview after Switchbacks FC’s training session Thursday at Pride Soccer Complex, goalkeeper Andre Rawls, also on loan from Colorado Rapids, asked the young professional an important ice breaker.
“What’s your favorite place to eat?” asked Rawls, the Switchbacks’ expected keeper for Saturday’s 6 p.m. tilt against San Antonio on Saturday at Weidner Field.
The 18-year-old didn’t spend much time pondering.
“Buffalo Wild Wings, for sure,” Hundley answered. “For sure.”
That led to discussion of his order (medium order of boneless wings, half Asian Zing, half Honey BBQ), the nearest location (he’s got it timed at six minutes from a Colorado Springs apartment he shares with Sam Raben, another player on a Rapids contract) and the joy that would come should the restaurant ever want to talk business.
“That would be the happiest day of my life,” he joked with teammates. “Even better than when I signed.”
His signing wasn’t long ago.
A product of the Rapids and U.S. Soccer Development academies, Hundley spent one semester at UCLA — where he led the Bruins with five goals and seven assists, earning second-team Pac 12 honors — before the Rapids approached with a four-year homegrown contract in January.
“I knew I definitely wanted to be a professional,” he said. “So when the opportunity arose, I just decided to take it.”
Fast forward a couple of months, and Hundley made his pro debut for the Switchbacks in the season-opening win over LA Galaxy II, coming on as a late substitute.
“It was pretty cool. I’ve never had the name on the back of my jersey,” Hundley said. “I’m just taking it step by step and hopefully there’s bigger things to come.”
That was nearly the case a week later when he came on in the second half with the Switchbacks looking for an equalizing goal. Shane Malcolm played a ball across the box and, for a moment, it looked as if the teenager might have his first professional goal until a Sacramento defender made a sliding block to preserve Sacramento’s 1-0 result.
“I was hoping, but sometimes it doesn’t work out as you would like,” he said.
He’s likely to get plenty of other chances, as he’s got coach Steve Trittschuh’s trust. The Switchbacks coach said he’s known Hundley since he was 13.
“I know what type of player he is. I’m not afraid at all to use him. If he has to be a starter too … he’s close to being a starter on this team,” Trittschuh said.
“If somebody drops off, then I know he can step in.”
It seems to be a matter of time for Hundley. Trittschuh said the United Soccer League Championship club’s role in his development is grooming him for the future, which could be in Major League Soccer. When asked if that’s where Hundley could be playing in a couple of years, the coach sounded as certain as the winger when discussing his favorite restaurant.
“Oh for sure,” Trittschuh said. “I believe so. We’re just grooming him to hopefully get there. He’s got qualities to him, and I know his qualities.
“He’s just got to keep getting better and better.”
Buffalo Wild Wings uses the slogan “Wings. Beer. Sports.” in advertisements.
The winger checks two of the boxes, but it will be a few years before he can legally saddle up at the bar for a post-match pint, should he so choose.
He’s focused on making more of a name for himself with the Switchbacks.
“I definitely want to score some goals, get as much playing time as I can and hopefully become a starter,” Hundley said.
The Switchbacks will again have an assortment of Rapids available for Saturday’s match. Rawls is expected to be in goal after Clint Irwin was recalled following last week’s game.
Center back Kofi Opare, however, will be with the Switchbacks on Saturday and is expected to start without a minutes restriction, as was the case last week when he subbed out after a little more than an hour.
In all, it’s been a better week of preparation for the club after last week’s storm forced the club inside for much of the preparations for Sacramento.
“It’s been a better week of training,” Trittschuh said. “It’s been a little bit more consistent because we’ve been able to be outside. We got more things done.”
On the other side, San Antonio is expected to be without Billy Forbes due to an international callup with Turks and Caicos.
Saturday’s visitors still have plenty of quality in the attack in guys like Bradford Jamieson, Lance Laing, Jack Barmby, Ever Guzman and Cristian Parano.
“Right now, in the whole league, they’re creating the most chances in the attacking half, so we’ve got to be ready defensively for them,” Trittschuh said. “We’ve got to maybe take advantage of their defense. They’ve got four brand new guys.”