Colorado Springs Switchbacks Face a Swope Park Stacked Deck

Editorial – Sporting Kansas City put the Colorado Springs Switchbacks to the sword in this mid-week match up. No, that’s not a typo. When one team’s starting eleven consists of eight players from another teams’ roster, as was the case when Swope Park Rangers hosted the Switchbacks on Wednesday evening, then let’s just call it like it is. It’s no good Colorado Springs fans complaining about the injustice of facing a primarily MLS-based team in USL game, though. Swope Park did absolutely nothing wrong. They broke no rules. It’s the rules that are the problem.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks Face Sporting Kansas City in Swope Park Rangers Clothing

To be clear, I have no problem with reserve, B, 2, or youth teams. However, when they so egregiously benefit a team so as to make them almost unrecognizable from one week to another, providing a wholly unfair leg-up over the competition, that’s a problem.

MLS 2 teams or affiliated clubs such as Swope Park to Sporting Kansas City are essentially feeder teams. They are a place for players, typically younger players, to develop in the hopes that one day some might be able to make the step up to MLS. The problem is that too often these affiliations are abused, leading to situations such as the one the Switchbacks faced this week.

There are those that would argue the system is fine. Players develop in the USL and they progress – or not – to the MLS. Players on MLS roster in need of playing time or first team experience drop down, spending some time in the USL. What’s the problem?

During the off-season, the Switchbacks announced a significant partnership with a local youth soccer organization, Pride Soccer. Their plan appears to be to create a breeding ground for young talent who might then graduate to the newly formed Pride PDL team. From there, some players might one day realize their dream of making it pro should the Switchbacks pick them up.

How many of the Switchbacks roster do you imagine might go the other way, dropping down to play for the PDL team? Maybe one or two very occasionally, the youngest among the roster, those getting no minutes in the USL? Possibly. But the answer is more likely no one. The system the Switchbacks are helping to create isn’t engineered for back and forth, unfairly benefiting a team further down the ladder.

If the USL isn’t interested in addressing this imbalance in their rules, then maybe they should consider addressing it monetarily. When an affiliated team is hit by injury or suspension, their MLS ‘Godfather’ can swoop in and save the day. The Switchbacks, a team in a small market, managing a very tight operating budget, don’t have that luxury. They can’t simply recruit players, even loanee’s, on a whim. But perhaps with a little financial aid from the USL, they could.

Despite wholesale changes in the Swope Park line-up, it was the Switchbacks who looked the more disjointed of the two teams in the first half on Wednesday night. Every final pass fell short or ran long. Players appeared out of sync. The degree of disconnection was concerning. Players seemed less familiar with each other in this, game four than they had in the first game.

Thankfully, the team established more of a rhythm second half, though they still lacked that killer pass or clinical finish. Issues in the attacking third that began to manifest in the frustrating defeat to the Timbers in game 2 have since taken on a worrying familiarity. The Switchbacks have now failed to score in open play in 335 minutes, their longest goal drought in franchise history. A single goal after just 6 minutes of play settled this latest contest, with an MLS player assisting the MLS match-winner, naturally.