Last Sunday evening the Switchbacks FC
's season ended in the cruelest fashion possible. After the LA Galaxy II beat the top-seeded OC Blues the night before, the Switchbacks knew that a road win over Oklahoma City Energy
would secure a Western Conference Final at Fortress Sand Creek (aka Sand Creek Stadium). Achieving that goal was an extremely big ask, but the Switchbacks almost did the impossible.
OKC have proven themselves to be one of the toughest opponents in the USL 2015 season, having not lost a home game in the past 13 contests, a run stretching back to May. Our boys in black came out white-hot — pressing high, pinning OKC back and notching a deserved early goal through talismanic captain, Luke Vercollone
, who defied the laws of physics to ping an impossible mid-air, tight-angled shot past the keeper.
The teams went toe-to-toe throughout the first half, the 'Backs comfortably holding OKC at bay until conceding a sloppy equalizer right before the break. Undeterred, COS came out swinging in the second half and created several opportunities to secure the win, but to no avail as regulation time ran out.
Overtime began, and then, disaster: OKC lashed in an early go-ahead goal from the edge of the box. But Switchbacks' veteran striker Aaron King
put his name in the running for Goal of the Season with a beautiful equalizer soon after.
With plenty of time for either team to win the game, a couple of late opportunities for COS could have sealed the deal and saved them the agony of penalty kicks, but the football gods had other ideas — they were determined to wring every last ounce of drama out of this contest. Sadly, when the final whistle blew, the penalty shoot-out had not gone in the Switchbacks' favor.
It's hard to summarize one's feelings on an entire season, particularly following such a titanic, climatic battle as the Switchbacks fought. Saying how proud we fans are of the team and their performance feels woefully inadequate.
I bonded with the Switchbacks during their narrow opening home game defeat to OKC — a bitter and ironic symmetry that doesn't escape me — and committed to the team there and then, which is dangerous thing to do. Committing to a team is not just about paying your money and showing up to the games, it's something more profound.
Fandom becomes affection, which in turn becomes passion, and having a passion for something exposes you emotionally to the prospect of euphoric highs, but also agonizing lows.
So was it worth it? As the Switchbacks bowed out on Sunday night, though my heart was breaking, I could say with all confidence, absolutely!
Hurry up 2016, so we can do it all again!
Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weather's good. Follow him on Twitter @melchett, or @BackChatPodcast, a Switchbacks F.C. fan podcast on which he is a co-presenter.