COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KXRM) — If losing five of the previous seven games wasn’t already disappointing enough, falling behind in the second half to a team near the bottom of the USL Championship standings is even more frustrating.
With his team trailing 2-1 to Charleston Battery — which had the second-fewest amount of wins entering the game Saturday — Jairo Henriquez made his long-awaited Switchbacks debut in the 67th minute.
Not even five minutes after Weidner Field dawned its lights on the 28-year-old El Salvadorian, Henriquez used his quickness to break away from a defender in the midfield to open a passing lane to Switchbacks’ leading scorer Hadji Barry, who deposited his team-leading 12th goal of the season to tie the game.
“He sees a pass, and we saw that with Hadji’s goal,” Switchbacks FC Brendan Burke said. “Now we just have to give them time to gel. It’s not going to click right away. His first couple starts, you might not see all the same pop that you saw in those 25 minutes, but I think what we’re hoping is that pop will translate after he gets three or four games under his belt.”
“This is the best thing that could’ve happened to me,” Henriquez said through his teammate and translator Christian Herrera. “From now on there’s just some pressure as a player to continue performing in that way. I just have to keep working to make sure that’s the standard.”
Another five minutes after setting up the game-tying goal, Henriquez drew a penalty, and he was rewarded with the chance to give Colorado Springs the lead.
He blasted his first USL Championship goal with his right foot inside the left post, capping off one of the most impressive 10-minute stretches one can have in a debut, let alone coming off the bench as a sub.
“That was as close (to perfection) as you’ll get, yeah,” Burke said. “In 25 minutes, to have a goal and an assist, and to do as much running and defending as he did, I think he showed what we can hopefully expect over the long term.”
“It was fantastic watching him play,” Switchbacks FC forward Elvis Amoh said. “I’d just love to see more from him like that.”
Charleston (3-14-4, 13 pts) ruined a storybook ending by scoring in stoppage time to avoid what would’ve been a stunning defeat against one of the Western Conference’s best teams — Colorado Springs (13-7-1, 40 pts).
“For me, it’s simply about helping the team in whatever way possible,” Henriquez said. “Whether that’s defending, getting tackles in or making passes for the team, as a midfielder you can always look for the assist.
Switchbacks FC visits Phoenix Rising (7-10-4, 25 pts) Saturday at 8:30 p.m.