Switchbacks

Switchbacks FC defender Triston Hodge handles the ball Oct. 29 against the Sacramento Republic FC in the USLC Western Conference semifinals.

The Switchbacks have been busy in the offseason adding players to the roster, but with offseason additions also come offseason departures. 

Wednesday, Colorado Springs announced a quartet of players who would not return to the club for the 2023 season. Forward Kharlton Belmar, midfielders Beverly Makangila and Issa Rayyan and defender Triston Hodge were released.

Hodge played in 26 games for Colorado Springs in 2022 and started in 21 of them. He ranked in the top five on the club in clearances with 41, blocks with eight and interceptions with 25. He ranked second among Switchbacks defenders for duels won with 163 and had one assist on the year. Hodge had a passing accuracy of 81.1%. He joined Colorado Springs before the 2021 season. 

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Makangila also joined the team before the 2021 season. In 2022, he recorded 17 starts for the Switchbacks on 27 games played. He had a passing accuracy of 85.9%. He had 26 clearances and 39 tackles. 

Joining the Switchbacks before last season, Belmar had just three starts with the club but made 28 appearances. Belmar often came in as a substitute for forwards late in games but was unable to find the back of the net in 2022. He did have one assist, four key passes and a passing accuracy of 70.1%.

Rayyan who came to Colorado Springs before the start of last season, registered 21 appearances for the club, including five starts. He made 11 key passes and had a passing accuracy of 74.1%. 

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"We would like to thank all four players for their time with the club, whether this was their first season or one of multiple, and wish them all the best success in their future career endeavors," the Switchbacks said in a release.

Wheeler nominated for Comeback Player of the Year

Veteran forward Aaron Wheeler was nominated by the USL Championship for the league's Comeback Player of the Year Award. Wheeler, 34, joined Colorado Springs in June following a nearly five-year hiatus from professional soccer. 

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Wheeler played in 21 matches for the Switchbacks in 2022 and scored four goals for the club. He had two starts and mostly came off the bench for Colorado Springs.

Despite limited time on the pitch, the veteran made an impact on multiple occasions last season, notably scoring a game-tying goal against El Paso Locomotive FC in stoppage time Oct. 5 after the Switchbacks gave up a 3-0 lead against the visitors. Wheeler also scored twice in the waning moments of the club's first playoff home game at Weidner Field against Rio Grande Valley FC. 

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