The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will hit the quarter mark of their season Friday with a home match against New Mexico United at Weidner Field.
“This is a statement game for us,” Switchbacks coach Brendan Burke said. “If we don’t get it, we don’t get it. But it’s still a huge measuring stick for us.”
The Switchbacks (3-2-2, 11 points) are riding a four-game unbeaten streak – winners of their last two – and have vaulted into fourth place in the seven-team Mountain Division of the USL Championships standings.
New Mexico (4-2-2, 14 points) is directly ahead of them.
A Switchbacks victory would not only net them three points into a tie with New Mexico, it would avenge a disappointing 3-1 loss to United May 21 at Weidner Field. That was Colorado Springs’ last setback.
“It’s my belief that we can challenge for the division. Not just pick teams off here and there,” Burke said. “Now we’re starting to see what we talked about from the beginning. Replicating it becomes the next challenge.”
As the Switchbacks have molded into form, their identity seems to be stretching beyond super-striker Hadji Barry, who has a league-leading eight goals. Tuesday at Austin, Barry scored the team’s first two goals, but Burke replaced him in the 81st minute and the score tied 2-2.
Nine minutes later, Yaya Toure, a late-game replacement, booted home the game winner on an assist by Philip Mayaka, making his first start of the season.
Both players are on loan from the Colorado Rapids.
“We’re starting to see depth, Real depth. It’s huge,” Burke said. “It creates belief in the group. I have full confidence to rotate the group wherever I need to.”
Mayaka, the third overall selection in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft, believes the offense will continue to grow more cohesive.
“Training together, and knowing how our strikers and midfielders make runs, the combinations come so quick,” Mayaka said. “We’re all team players. We trust each other and we keep pushing together as a team.”
Switchbacks midfielder Jose Torres, a United States World Cup veteran, returned to action Tuesday after missing the previous three games with a foot injury. At 33, he is like a coach on the field.
“The mentality of this team has changed,” Torres said. “Everybody wants to play. Anybody on this team can start now. That’s what Brendan wants. He wants that positive attitude from everybody and that positive mindset.”
The Switchbacks are beginning a stretch where they play five of their next six games at home.