COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KXRM) — Aaron Wheeler’s header in stoppage time helped Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC avoid a collapse in front of the home fans, picking up a 4-4 draw against El Paso Locomotive FC Friday night.
Brendan Burke’s club stormed out of the gate, scoring three goals in the first nine minutes. Hadji Barry’s 14th and 15th goals of the season preceded Elvis Amoh’s 12th of the year.
It stayed 3-0 into the second half, where El Paso stunned the Switchbacks FC players, coaches and supporters with four goals in a 14-minute span to take a 4-3 advantage in the 67th minute.
“We should’ve stepped on their throats and took the joy of football away from them,” Wheeler said. “That’s what needs to happen. This isn’t Sunday league football. This is professional football. If we want to be the highest standard in the Western Conference, we have to close out these games. We have to.”
“You can’t lose a three-goal lead on the road or at home and to do it at home is shameful,” Burke said. “We’re very disappointed for the crowd that was here. I’m sure they were entertained, they saw eight goals, but the reality is we’re growing into a club that wants to win something now. This one hurts. That’s two points out the window.
“That one never should’ve been a tie. We let ourselves down, we let our families down, we let the city down. I’m proud that the guys kept fighting. That’s a good sign to me that we have playoff credentials, but we just need to tighten some things up.”
It was the second-straight game that Colorado Springs needed a goal beyond 90 minutes to salvage a point. The Switchbacks forced a 3-3 draw at Orange County SC six days before.
Locomotive FC had multiple visible frustrations throughout the night, but none moreso than seemingly the entire 11 El Paso players on the field after Wheeler’s goal was allowed even with one of their teammates on the ground with an apparent head injury.
“I don’t have one sympathetic thought toward El Paso,” Wheeler said. “That’s what you get for flopping all game. It wasn’t a head injury. He’s faking it. That’s irrelevant to me. The ball stays inbounds. At that point, it’s who wants it more. We showed that we had the character to come back again.”
Burke, who was in the process of walking off the field after being sent off by officials just moments before Wheeler’s game-tying marker, was able to celebrate with the goal scorer after Wheeler ran to the nearby field-entrance tunnel.
Wheeler’s ensuing shirtless demonstration resulted in the 10th yellow card of the night.
Perhaps a reason for the chippy play were the unique struggles from Colorado Springs (13-8-3, 42 PTS) and El Paso (9-10-7, 34 PTS) going into the Western Conference showdown. Switchbacks FC had won just twice in 10 prior games, while Locomotive FC entered with a four-game losing streak.
Switchbacks FC will visit Sacramento Republic FC Wednesday. Kickoff is set for 9 p.m.