Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC needed a hero Saturday night at Weidner Field, and Matt Mahoney, with an assist from sidekicks Deshane Beckford and Sebastian Anderson, was up to the task.
On a night where fans donned costumes of their favorite superheroes, the Switchbacks found themselves down a man and a goal against Rio Grande Valley. The visitors, thanks to Frank Lopez’s goal in the 80th minute, maintained the lead into second-half stoppage time before Mahoney, Anderson and Beckford put on their capes and created the equalizer that earned a 1-1 draw.
“He’s resilient, and I can put him anywhere on the field and I know that I’m going to get every ounce of him,” Switchbacks coach Brendan Burke said of Mahoney. “He dug the team out of it tonight with Beckie and Seb as help.”
Beckford played Anderson in behind the Toros back line in the first of four minutes of stoppage time and Mahoney streaked toward the six-yard box.
“I saw Beckie drop into the pocket. Obviously, that’s my cue to go in behind,” Anderson said. “I went in behind. I saw (Darren) Yapi flash across the front post like any good forward would do. Matt was there, luckily, behind him to pick it up.”
Anderson’s ball made it to the middle of the box where Mahoney smashed his first goal for the club into the roof of the net.
“Honestly, I blacked out a little about how I ended up up there. It was getting close to the 90th minute. I knew we were down one,” Mahoney said.
“It was swinging around and Seb’s good at serving the ball. So I figured get inside the box, and I was lucky the ball landed right at my feet. All I had to do was tap it in from the six. Fortunate to get a point on a night where a lot of other things went unlucky for us.”
If Mahoney was the hero, Lopez and the center referee served as the Switchbacks’ nemeses Saturday. Switchbacks captain and center back Jimmy Ockford received a straight red for taking down Toros striker Elvis Amoh in the 45th minute. Ockford was the last defender between Amoh and the goal, but Burke saw minimal contact when the ball was nearly to goalkeeper Sean Melvin’s feet, negating the denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.
“He’s 22 meters from the ball when he goes down, and the ball is at Sean’s feet when he goes down,” Burke said, citing a screenshot captured post-game. “By definition, there is no way on God’s green earth that that’s a red card. It’s not a goal-scoring opportunity when the person who could score the goal is 25 meters away from the (expletive) soccer ball.”
Burke liked the start from his team before the red card, comparing the Toros to a boxer with wobbly legs in the 12th round. Beckford had a couple of chances but Rio Grande Valley keeper Tyler Deric made a save in the final action of the first half to keep it scoreless.
“With 11 men in the first half, you saw what we could do,” Mahoney said. “They sat in a low block. We were trying to break them down. We still had a couple of chances where if we were a little cleaner, we could have put some away. We’re a confident group. We’re leading scorers in the whole league.”
The Switchbacks continue a busy stretch of the season when they return to action at home Wednesday against Mountain Division leaders El Paso Locomotive before a trip to Rio Grande Valley on Saturday.
“I think we have guys that are hungry and fresh that can go after El Paso and allow these guys who just survived whatever I just watched out there from the referee,” Burke said. “Now they can take the Wednesday game, and we can go down to RGV and try to take back what was ours tonight.”