Switchbacks

Switchbacks coach Brendan Burke and assistant coach Alan McCann celebrate winning the Western Conference semifinals Oct. 29 against Sacramento at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs.

If it wasn't evident already, the 2023 Switchbacks will look quite different from a season ago. 

Friday, the club announced the transfer of Switchbacks head coach and general manager Brendan Burke to the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer. Club officials said the transfer fee for Burke is the largest in USL Championship league history. 

"This was a difficult decision for sure," Burke said in a release. "I felt like we could have been here for 15 more years and had a wild amount of success. That said, I am also confident leaving the club in the hands of the people I trusted most, my staff. I believe all three of those guys will be head coaches in this league one day."

Members of Burke's coaching staff in technical director Stephen Hogan, assistant coach James Chambers, and director of performance/assistant coach Alan McCann, will remain on the team. The three are contracted through the 2024 season, according to the release. The Switchbacks are expecting to make an announcement on Burke's replacement soon, club officials said. 

The news of Burke's departure comes with Colorado Springs' preseason schedule set to begin Feb. 6 and preseason training starting Monday. 

Burke joined Colorado Springs from MLS side Philadelphia Union before the 2021 season. Through 2021 and 2022 Burke led Colorado Springs to a 30-23-13 record, back-to-back playoff berths and the club's first conference final appearance last season. He was named a finalist for USL Championship's Coach of the Year award in 2021. 

Prior to Burke's arrival, the Switchbacks were 2-8-7 in 2020 and 7-21-6 in 2019. In 2021, the club improved dramatically with 13 wins to nine losses and ten draws. The Switchbacks scored a franchise high 60 goals in 2021 and then broke that record again in 2022 with 64 goals. 

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Burke played a crucial role in bringing top-tier talent to the Switchbacks, including star forward Hadji Barry who scored 25 of the club's 60 goals in 2021, tying a league record and earning the USL Championship's Golden Boot and MVP awards. 

'I would like to make a special thank you to Brendan Burke, without him none of this would have been possible," Barry told Switchbacks personnel before transferring to Future FC. "That's the guy who believed in me from the first day I walked in here. Even before signing me, I had a tough year in 2020, and of course people maybe doubted the talent, doubted whatever, and I can't control that. But that was one guy I had never played for, and he came to me with a straight confidence and belief from the first conversation we had, and I knew right then that was who I wanted to play for." 

According to a release, the Switchbacks wanted to retain Burke and the two parties had come to an agreement on a two-year extension. However, much like how the team handled Barry's transfer, Switchbacks president Nick Ragain said the club always works to support its personnel getting greater opportunities. 

"Brendan and staff have demonstrated their ability to build a winning team and culture here in Colorado Springs," Ragain said in a release. "At first, the idea of allowing a conversation between Brendan and Houston having just extended Brendan's contract for two years was difficult to agree to. After consideration however, this process is no different than what we’ve been preaching for years: come to Colorado Springs, perform well for the fans, and we will support the right opportunities when presented."

Amid the transition, Burke reassured fans that the team would continue to be the offensive juggernaut that they have been accustomed to over the past couple seasons. 

"This environment is special, we have great memories here," he said. "I know it was a quick stint, but I feel like we created a lot of great memories and a high-flying attacking team that the fans really got behind. I would bump into fans around the city that shared their great experiences with me and none of that's gonna change. The playing style won't change, and I am confident these guys will continue to raise the bar here. I can't say enough about this organization and its fans, and I will always appreciate my time here."

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