This is an odd time to be a Switchbacks fan. Following an incredible inaugural season, during which the we quickly warmed to and fell in love with the new hometown team, we now sit with fingers crossed, waiting on announcements regarding next season’s roster.
The Switchbacks first player announcement of the new season was to confirm that talismanic captain, Luke Vercollone
, would be donning the number 4 jersey again — much to every Switchbacks fans relief. But what of the rest of the team?
Let’s start between the sticks. Despite attracting interest from Major League Soccer teams, the club also recently confirmed the important re-signing of our starting goal keeper last season, Devala Gorrick
. This is huge boost for the Switchbacks, Gorrick kept nine clean-sheets last season, third most of any USL goalkeeper.
It appears unlikely, however, that we will see the return of either of our other two keepers, Samir Badr
and Jeremy Crumpton
. Though no official announcement has yet been made, there is word suggesting that Crumpton has already been released, and Badr has signed for Eastern Conference USL club, Bethlehem Steel
One keeper left from three will obviously be a concern for the fan-base, but it's one that this fan is confident the organization leadership will address as a priority.
As for the back-line, we know that defensive dynamo Josh Phillips
, attracted the attention of at least one MLS team after having trained with the New England Revolution
back in October of last year. Following their recent press release, the club will undoubtedly be delighted to welcome Phillips back to the Springs this season. Phillips can look forward to reestablishing his central defensive partnership with the ever reliable JJ Greer,
who the Switchbacks confirmed just this week as returning. Jordan Burt
looks likely to be applying his trade at Fortress Sandcreek again this year as well. On the flip-side, Kareem Smith
, who only made a few appearances last season, is not expected to be back.
Rounding out the defensive personnel, neither Nate Robinson
or Jamie McGuinness
status have, at time of writing, been confirmed.
In midfield, it looks as though veteran Shintaro Harada
, and youngster Rony Argueta
, will rejoin Vercollone in the center of the park, which would be superb given how much this trio contributed to the Switchbacks success last season. Likewise, fans can be confident of welcoming back midfield workhorses, Davy Armstrong
and Kevin Durr
. The only midfield ‘casualty’ appears to be Carlos Contreras
, who, despite being a solid player, struggled to secure minutes last season.
Competition for attacking places should, thankfully, be as fierce next season as it was last. The team's second-top goal-scorer Miguel Gonzalez
, trained with the Colorado Rapids
in the off-season, but he and speed-demon Saeed Robinson
, have already been officially confirmed by the club as returning.
And there’s nothing to suggest that they won’t be re-joined by Mike Seth
, Martin Maybin
and Aaron King
, reuniting one of most potent forward lines in the entire USL last season.
So as far as retaining last season's stars is concerned, the Switchbacks leadership has done an excellent job so far. But what about new players that will undoubtedly be needed to not only provide depth on the roster, but also the additional quality that will take us even further in the play-offs in 2016?
We know the coaches have been scouting extensively in the U.S., as well as further afield. This is more good news, as certainly the multi-cultural make up of last season’s roster — 11 nationalities represented the Switchbacks — really worked for us.
So, are we feeling a little better now Switchbacks fans? A touch less anxious? A bit more relaxed? Enjoy it. You only have until February 1st, when the players return to Colorado Springs for pre-season when the anxiety and tension will return in spades — but hopefully excitement along with it!
The Switchbacks know what a long, hard USL season feels like now, and after making the play-offs they will acutely remember how close they came to championship glory last year. But if they can display the same fight, the same togetherness, the same positive mindset, then expect great things from our hometown team in "Year 2." In return, they’ll be hoping for crazy-enthusiastic support from their "12th man," the residents of Colorado Springs.
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 weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain, and co-hosting 'The Back Chat Show' on KCMJ 93.9 FM. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett.