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Western Conf. Notebook – Switchbacks, Reno Ready for Rematch

By CHRIS HOCKMAN -, 05/04/18, 7:31AM EDT


Saint Louis only looking forward as record looms; Rising FC aiming for relaxed approach

Photo courtesy David Calvert / Reno 1868 FC

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It's been three weeks since Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC took a 4-0 victory at Greater Nevada Field against Reno 1868 FC in a stunning offensive performance away from home, but since then Reno’s form has drastically changed, with a three-match unbeaten run setting up Saturday’s rematch at Weidner Field as one of the more interesting in the Western Conference this weekend (8 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN+).

With the memory of the April 14th meeting between the club's still relatively fresh in the memory, the Switchbacks are expecting a strong test from their visitors.

“Reno is a quality team and has a good quality coach,” said Switchbacks Head Coach Steve Trittschuh. “He will have them ready to play against us because of the 4-0 score when we were in Reno. We need to be aggressive in the attack and be focused defensively to get a positive result.”

The result in the first meeting this season is certainly proving a strong motivation for 1868 FC, which is aiming to produce a big response this week as it heads to Colorado Springs to try and reverse that result and continue its best run of form this season.

“Whenever you have a chance to face a team that got the best of you the first time, a rematch always creates that extra energy, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” said Reno 1868 FC Head Coach Ian Russell. “We are looking to build off our recent form. I think we learned that we cannot make the same defensive mistakes we made the last match because they only lead to more chances for the opposition.”

Since that match the two teams have been trending in opposite directions. Reno's three-match unbeaten run has put the side on an upswing, while the Switchbacks find themselves in the middle of a three-game winless streak. Colorado Springs fell to Western Conference leader Orange County SC in its last outing, and has scored only once in three games since its attacking outburst in Reno.

“We have done well in the build-up to create scoring chances but either the final pass or the final finish has not been there the last couple of games. We need to be more aggressive when we get in those situations,” said Trittschuh.

STLFC FOCUSED ON NEXT GAME: In the middle of a five-match unbeaten run, Saint Louis FC has been steadily rising up the Western Conference standings without attracting much attention. But the chance to set a new club record with a positive result in Saturday’s match against the Portland Timbers 2 (8:30 p.m. | Match Center | ESPN+) is not a concern for Head Coach Anthony Pulis.

“The culture we're putting in place here has no emphasis on admiring what’s happened in previous games, our focus is always on the next game and making sure we're constantly improving,” said Pulis. “The biggest danger with a little bit of success is complacency creeping in and that won't be tolerated here.”

Saint Louis went five games undefeated between April 2 and May 7 in the 2016 USL regular season, a span that saw the side outscore its opponents 9-3 as it went 3-0-2 before falling to Kings' Cup rival Saint Louis FC. Two years on, STLFC hasn't been as emphatic in its performances in matching that with each of its three wins coming by a one-goal margin. That has left Pulis looking for improvement in the club's play in the attacking third.

“We've been defending well as a team but have conceded really poor goals which we have to stop,” said Pulis. “We've created some excellent chances but not converted enough of them which is something else that has to change moving forward.”

Strong undefeated runs are familiar to Pulis, whose Orlando City B side notched a 12-game undefeated streak last season. By generating a method to take the team through the week leading up to a match, Pulis has created an efficient team that works together to improve, with the club's current run of form the payoff as STLFC looks for its first trip to the USL Cup Playoffs at the end of the regular season.

“The way we keep our run going is by trusting and believing in the daily process which is to hold each other accountable to improve all aspects of our game every single day,” said Pulis.

PHOENIX READY TO TURN DRAWS INTO WINS: For a lot of teams a three-match unbeaten run that would be pleasing news, but not for Phoenix Rising FC, which is coming off back-to-back home draws earned via late equalizers over the past two weekends. The players and coaches are keen to get back in the win column at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex on Friday night when Rising FC welcomes LA Galaxy II (10:30 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN+).

“It’s not easy as players,” said USL Team of the Week member Solomon Asante. “We have confidence and we have experience enough to come back, to do something for the club. I think we need to relax and then work on defensive tactics. I think it will work for us this week.”

The frustration at having to settle for draws has seen the players step up this week in training, pushing each other on as they look to replicate the 1-0 victory the side earned in its first clash with Los Dos this season, when Didier Drogba's goal earned all three points at StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium.

“I think this week it has gone amazingly because the spirit is high because we need to do something exceptional to win this Friday,” said Asante. “I think we’ve pushed everything. The work that we are doing, there’s no reason that we should lose now. We have to get the maximum three points.”

After fighting back to earn a point despite being down to 10 men last Saturday night against Fresno, Rising FC is looking for a disciplined display that will produce enough chances to pull out its second home win of the season.

“I think that we are going to keep doing what we’re doing. I think everything has been there, we just need to score, we need to take our opportunities in front of goal and make the most of them,” said Rising FC midfielder Collin Fernandez. “But I think we are just going to keep doing what we are doing because I think we are doing everything fine and doing everything well. I think we are just going to keep doing what we are doing and take our opportunities in front of goal.”

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