OAKLAND, Calif. – Jeff Caldwell delivered a masterful goalkeeping display with a five-save shutout as Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC earned a 3-0 victory against Oakland Roots SC on Saturday night at Laney Stadium to retain first place in the USL Championship’s Western Conference at the end of the night.
Roots SC had a good chance to grab an early lead in the sixth minute as Dariusz Formella was played into the left side of the penalty area only for his chance to be closed down by Caldwell. Colorado Springs was also denied in the 15th minute as a turnover in midfield led to a quick counterattack that set up Zach Zandi for a chance that was saved by Oakland goalkeeper Benny Diaz. Caldwell had to come up big again to deny Ottar Magnus Karlsson two minutes later on a close-range chance at the top of the six-yard area after a good low cross by Edgardo Rito before Colorado Springs’ Malik Johnson made a key interception to deny another chance for the hosts.
Oakland got the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot on the half-hour mark, though, as Jose Hernandez was brought down in the penalty area by Switchbacks defender Triston Hodge, but Caldwell again came up big as he denied Karlsson’s penalty kick to the left side of the net. Charlie Dennis then also went close for the hosts in the final minute of the half but sent his free kick just wide the top-right corner as the sides went to the break scoreless.
Caldwell continued to shine as the game entered the second half as he scrambled across his net to deny Rito from seven yards after Karlsson had laid on a big chance for the hosts, and that save proved even more crucial as the visitors took the lead in the 56th minute. After gaining possession in midfielder, Beverly Makangila picked out a pass to Zandi in space to turn just inside the penalty area for a low shot to the bottom-right corner of the net.
The hosts had a chance to level in the 59th minute when Rito’s cross from the right found Alejandro Fuenmayor at the back post but the forward couldn’t direct his header on target as it floated wide of the right post. The Switchbacks doubled their lead with 20 minutes to go, however, as Hadji Barry found Michee Ngalina moving forward on the right, and the Congolese winger created space to shoot home at the near post for his fourth goal of the season.
Caldwell had to come up with one final late save in the final minute to preserve his shutout as a shot by Johnny Rodriguez deflected in front of the net before being parried wide. Deep in stoppage time Barry wrapped up the points for the visitors as they turned over possession in the Oakland end, setting up the 2021 Championship MVP for a finish from the right side of the penalty area and into the net moments before the final whistle arrived.
USLChampionship.com Player of the Match
Jeff Caldwell, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Caldwell recorded a five-save shutout, including a first-half penalty kick save, to keep the visitors in the game before they pulled away for victory.
COS – Zach Zandi (Beverly Makangila) 57’
COS – Michee Ngalina (Hadji Barry) 70’
COS – Hadji Barry 90+4’