Colorado Springs Switchbacks forward Thomas Amang had missed the club’s four previous games with a thigh injury before returning Saturday night to kick his team past the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros 1-0 with a stunning game-winning goal in the 94th minute.
“It was tough because, when I signed here, the most important thing for me was to be on the pitch every time,” Amang said of his time away with the injury. “I was thinking about coming back and helping the team to move forward.”
Amang’s goal put the cap on a big night for the Switchbacks during the team’s final home game in the inaugural season for newly minted Weidner Field.
The downtown Colorado Springs stadium recorded its third sellout of the season with more than 8,000 in attendance.
The goal was assisted by fellow forward Hadji Barry, who slipped past a defender and found his teammate in stride to set up the game-winner.
Ironically, it was Barry who seemed destined to be the hero of the night.
The star forward tied Cameron Lancaster’s USL Championship record for most goals in a single season at 25 in Wednesday’s loss against El Paso.
A goal Saturday would have broken the record.
Barry’s best chance came in the 73rd minute following a touch from midfielder Zach Zandi.
Rio Grande keeper Tyler Deric deflected Barry’s shot just wide of the post.
Amang, a late substitution for the Switchbacks in the 77th minute, provided the extra little bit the team needed to push past Rio Grande Valley’s bend-don’t-break defense.
“We just said stretch it, find a little window, find a little hole, live on the last line,” Switchbacks head coach Brendan Burke said he told Amang. “All you need is a half a yard and in the end that’s all it took.”
Prior to Amang’s stoppage-time goal the play of the game perhaps came in the 55th minute when defender Sebastian Anderson made an acrobatic save after a Toros forward beat defender Dillon Serna and chipped the ball past Switchbacks keeper Sean Melvin. Anderson jumped and deflected the ball midair just as it was about to cross the goal line.
“I saw were getting a little bit broken down, Serna was just one on one with loads of space and that’s never a situation you want to see,” Anderson said. “I made my way back. Sean (Melvin) did well just close down the angle and make it predictable. All he could really do is chip it over and luckily I was back there to save it.”
On the backdrop of the potential record-breaking night for Barry, the Switchbacks kept pace in a playoff race with San Antonio FC.
San Antonio wound up locked in a tie with Colorado Springs after Saturday’s win.
Both teams are vying for second place in the USL Championship Mountain Division.
The club’s final regular season game of the year is at San Antonio, with a possible home playoff game for the victorious team.
“We’re licking our lips at the opportunity to go down there and take a home playoff game away from them,” Burke said.