By Patrick Shea

Switchbacks FC traveled to Grand Junction this week for the team’s first game against another USL side on Wednesday, a 1-0 loss to Real Monarchs from Salt Lake City. Both teams are new to the league, but the Monarchs played like old friends.

“I think there are a lot of guys on the team who know each other,” said Switchbacks head coach Steve Trittschuh. In recent years, many of the Monarchs spent time at the Real Salt Lake academy facility in Casa Grande, Arizona, so they knew a common system as well as each other. The Monarchs held the ball for most of the first half, and Ricardo Velazco’s game-winner in the 61st minute concluded a 12-pass sequence.

“They’re a bit of a played-in team,” Trittschuh said, “but I thought we did well. We wanted to see what they could do. They had possession, but they didn’t do much with it. It gave us some confidence defending as a team. In the second half, we opened it up a bit.”

Trittschuh used 22 players to beat a gritty University of Colorado at Colorado Springs squad 2-1 last Saturday, and different faces played for him in the 1-0 victory over Colorado State University—Pueblo the week before.

“Up until now, we’ve only been playing college teams,” Trittschuh noted. “Playing against these guys showed us where we are. We’re less than two weeks before the first game, and we’re looking for our starting 11. We put five subs in, which is what we get for the season. So I tried to play this like a real game.”

Historically, USL teams would play back-to-back games on consecutive days to minimize travel costs. So the league allowed teams to use more players for each game.

“That will probably change next year. This season it’s still five,” Trittschuh said.

Including three goalkeepers, Trittschuh now has 23 players fighting for starting spots.

“You can have up to 30,” the head coach explained. “But as a first-year team with a first-year budget, we’re pretty much where we are. We’ll possibly get some loan players from some other MLS teams I’ve spoken with.”

The Switchbacks start their first season together next Saturday when they travel to Texas to face the Austin Aztex.