November 12, 2014 — Switchbacks FC will hold the club’s inaugural tryout at the Pride Soccer Complex east of Colorado Springs from November 22 to 23. Capped at 140, the pool of trialists paid $150 each for a chance to make the new USL Pro roster for the 2015 season.
A week before the tryout, head coach Steve Trittschuh said, “We have so many good players in this country. Tryouts give us a chance to find a diamond in the rough.”
“I’m a big fan of tryouts,” Seattle Sounders top assistant coach Brian Schmetzer noted in 2013. “In the first open tryout for the [Sounders] USL team in 2002, we were playing in Memorial stadium. Chance [Fry] and I sat in the stands watching 100-some guys. I remember Chance saying, ‘you gotta look at this this guy [Zach Scott]. He has won every headball that has come his way.’ He was head and shoulders above everybody else. He was tenacious. But he wasn’t very technical. All he could really do was head the ball. The more I watched him, I said I’d take him. We only took two guys. So Zach signed with us. I sent him to Andy [Schmetzer, Brian’s younger brother] who was coaching the Cleveland Crunch. I told Zach, ‘Your feet are terrible. Go play some indoor soccer, and maybe that will get your feet better.’ Andy called me up and asked, ‘why did you send me him? He’s terrible.’ Testament to Zach’s character, he kept working and working. Now he’s improved, and he’s a starting center back on one of the better teams in MLS. We got him from an open tryout.”
Trittschuh has been scouting games in Colorado at all levels lately, a process he’ll continue after the tryout weekend. “I’ve been in contact with coaches,” Trittschuh said, noting affiliation with Real Colorado (PDL Foxes and youth), Rush, Pride, Corinthians, and other clubs and colleges. Trittschuh’s scouting work for academies also gives him insight into rising young talent.
Trittschuh recalled the great relationship developed between clubs when Lorne Donaldson coached the Colorado Foxes and he played for the Rapids. “When I was a player, and then as an assistant, I learned how important these relationships are. We’ll be on the same page with the clubs in Colorado.”
Schmetzer described the scouting process in Seattle. “We’ll watch a lot of college games this year,” Schmetzer said. “We have a whole scouting department that goes around and watches games. Personally, I get more out of going to an actual training session and watching players. You have to assess players based on a final product, an 11v11 game. But the details and layers are revealed when you watch them train, watch them adapt to whatever drills the coach has.”
Through tryouts and scouting sessions, coaches look for a blend of attributes. “Every coach would want to have talent, plus desire, plus character, plus smarts… any number of those key attributes,” Schmetzer said. “If you watch a training session, you can check more of those boxes, or not check them if the player doesn’t have it.”
Schmetzer praised his club’s top goalkeeping coach, Tom Dutra.
“Tom looks really closely at goalkeeper warmups,” Schmetzer said. “Their footwork, their angles… you get more information than you do during a game.” Schmetzer noted how goalkeepers don’t get to demonstrate all their strengths in a game, particularly a dominant game without much action.
Trittschuh will have plenty of time to fully test the goalkeepers at the tryout next weekend, and field players should have ample opportunity to show their unique blend of attributes. As Trittschuh assembles his roster, November 22 will mark an important day in the development of Switchbacks FC. For the 140 trialists, this day could mark a new direction in their lives.