Alex Molano
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Midfielder Alex Molano (front) during his Switchbacks debut Saturday in Los Angeles. (Courtesy photo)

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Alex Molano quickly made his presence known in his Switchbacks debut last Saturday, despite it also being his return to competition after more than a year.

At the end of the 2017 season, Molano tore an ACL while playing for North Carolina FC in the North American Soccer League. The injury led the midfielder to go unsigned in 2018, while he did what he could in his hometown.

“I had to find training wherever I could back in Dallas. I was coaching on the side, just trying to stay in shape and wait for any opportunity,” Molano said. “I’m grateful the Switchbacks gave me that opportunity.”

Once healthy, Molano traveled to practice with the Switchbacks late last season, but did not join the team until the offseason.

“Alex trained with the team last season for a few weeks and did well but we were unable to add him to the roster," Switchbacks coach Steve Trittschuh said in the club release announcing Molano’s addition. "He has experience and qualities that will help us this season.”

Diego Zaltron, the club’s League Two coach (formerly the Premier Development League), was the initial link.

“I’ve known Diego since I was little. He knew me back in Dallas, and he invited me out in August. Unfortunately, it was right at the end of the season, so it couldn’t work out. They kept it touch and now I’m here,” the 26-year-old Molano said. “I really like it.”

Molano started in the Switchbacks midfield alongside Jordan Burt and Rony Argueta in the club’s 4-1 win at LA Galaxy II in Week 1. He played 80 minutes, completing 91 percent of his passes, creating two chances and putting a shot on goal.

In his 10th minute, Molano played a corner kick from the left side onto Mike Seth’s forehead. Seth put it back across goal, and Shane Malcolm finished the first of his three goals. Molano also played a role in completing Malcolm’s hat trick, the first in club history. The midfielder scooped a ball to Seth, who set Malcolm up for a second time in the 76th minute.

“Through preseason we gathered ourselves a nice little chemistry with the front line, me, Mike Seth, Saeed and Alex behind us,” Malcolm said. “We’ve scored a lot of goals in preseason and it’s beautiful we got to bring it into the season.”

Molano nearly added his first goal around the half-hour mark when he settled a ball in the box and volleyed a shot that was touched over the bar for another corner.

He didn’t get the goal, but he already has one at Weidner Field, where he could be featured in Saturday’s home opener against Sacramento Republic.

Molano scored a 95th-minute, equalizing free kick for Swope Park Rangers in 2016, the same year he made his lone MLS appearance with Sporting KC in a CONCACAF Champions League game.

He hasn’t played in the United Soccer League since 2016, but Molano knows enough to expect a tough showing from Saturday’s visitors. Sacramento Republic finished second in the Western Conference and won a pair of one-goal matches against the Switchbacks last year. Villyan Bijev is back in Sacramento after scoring both game-winners against the Switchbacks in 2018, while Charalampos Chantzopoulos scored last week’s goal in a 1-1 draw with Phoenix Rising.

“I’ve been out of the USL for a while, but they’re an experienced team, so I’m sure it’s going to be a very tough game,” Molano said.

Rapids, Switchbacks swap keepers for short time

The Rapids and Switchbacks swapped goalkeepers ahead of Saturday’s match. The Major League Soccer side recalled Andre Rawls, who was in the Switchbacks goal for last week’s win. In return, the Rapids loaned MLS veteran Clint Irwin to the Switchbacks.

Kofi Opare, who recently joined the Rapids after five years with D.C. United, will also be with Colorado Springs on Saturday.

The club release states Irwin and Opare will be recalled immediately following the Switchbacks’ home opener.

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