The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will be playing the role of David when it battles the Goliath-like El Paso Locomotive FC Saturday in Texas.
“El Paso is the best team we saw in preseason and I expect them to finish at the top of our (Mountain) Division. Without question,” said Switchbacks coach Brendan Burke.
El Paso (3-0-1) is the lone undefeated team in the USL Championship Western Conference. It has 11 points, second behind Rio Grande Valley FC’s 13, for the top spot in the division.
El Paso is also ranked No. 1 among 31 teams in the USL Championship power rankings. The Switchbacks (1-2-1) are ranked 25th.
On Wednesday, El Paso completely dominated Indy Eleven, 2-0.
“Indy didn’t even look like Indy belonged on the field with them,” Burke said. “For (El Paso) to pick apart a team like that is very impressive.”
The Switchbacks have just four points and are last-place in the seven-team Mountain Division. But their record is deceiving.
The Switchbacks have played three of their four games against division opponents. They lost at San Antonio (9 points), 4-0, in the season opener, and tied San Antonio (1-1) last Saturday at Weidner Field.
Their other division game was against New Mexico United (10 points) – a 3-1 loss on May 21.
The Switchbacks’ victory was over Central Division foe Sporting Kansas City II (7 points), 4-0, on May 14.
Burke maintains that his club has not played at full strength this season due to injuries and other issues.
Last week, the starting 11 included goalkeeper Sean Melvin and forward Deshane Beckford (both making their season debuts) and defender Stevie Echevarria (his first start of the season).
“You want to be a part of everything, especially with the new stadium and the atmosphere,” Melvin said. “If we get everybody healthy and everybody in who wants to be in we have a very promising team.”
Beckford was especially pleasing to watch as his speed, intimidation and grace were long-awaited. He joined fellow starting winger Mishee Ngalina and striker Hadji Barry for a formidable force up front.
“That started with addition of Deshane and both wingers being able to threaten you,” Burke said. “That freed up Hadji a little. And with (midfielder Zach) Zandi now starting to come into form I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface.”
Burke added that at least two other midfielders – Rony Argueta and Andre Lewis – could see significantly larger roles in the coming weeks.
“We have a full group of center mids. A lot of interchangeable parts that are pushing for their minutes,” Burke said.
Switchbacks center back Michael Edwards will miss the trip to El Paso after receiving a red card last week against San Antonio.
Burke said the team’s relatively slow start to the season – it will be almost one-fifth of the way over on Saturday – is not a reason for concern.
“This is our first year in,” the coach said. “We still have a lot of roster adjustments to make. We’re adapting to a very difficult new style of play.
“We will be difficult to deal with for anyone. We’re extremely fast on both sides of the ball. And clean with it.”
The Switchbacks return to Weidner Field Wednesday when it hosts Tacoma Defiance in a 7 p.m. kickoff.