Look to close season strong
by Than Acuff
After dropping three games to league opponents, the Crested Butte Titans soccer team rattled off two consecutive league wins and are looking to carry their momentum through the end of the season.
The Titans came off a 4-1 win over Bayfield last weekend with renewed confidence in their new line-up and continued to improve as they handed the Cortez Panthers a 4-1 loss on Friday, October 9.
The trip to Cortez is never an easy one as the team spends five hours on a bus before taking the field for the game, and the effects of the bus trip always render the Titans nearly useless for the first half.
Despite dominating possession in the first half, the Titans’ play was slow and ineffectual as Cortez turned away the Crested Butte offense with relative ease and turned up-field immediately on attack. The Titans defense was disjointed and flat but heroic efforts from Nate Hoskin and a couple of big saves from goalkeeper Josh Pruett helped hold off the Cortez attack until the 20th minute.
Cortez brings a threat on throw-ins with a long-toss specialist who dropped the ball inside the 18-yard box that bounced unattended until a Cortez player tipped it past Pruett while the Titans stood and watched for a 1-0 Panthers lead.
“We knew they had a kid that could throw far and he took the throw and we basically just watched,” says coach Ben Davis.
Typically a goal can jar the Titans out of their fog, but they continued to struggle with creating any opportunities on offense as the Cortez team handcuffed Crested Butte once they entered the attacking third and held on to the one-goal advantage at halftime.
“There were glimmers and overall great play but just slow play,” says Davis.
Terse words from the Crested Butte coaching staff at halftime woke up the Titans, punctuated by a comment from one of the players who pointed out that “10 hours on a bus is too long to lose a game.”
The Titans took the words of wisdom to heart and picked up the pace of play to complement their passing, opening the second half by pinning the Panthers in their half. The back of the net continued to elude the Titans until the 50th minute, when Noah Dumas carried the ball to the end line and crossed it to Cam Curtiss for the finish, tying the game 1-1.
Ten minutes later Oliver Houseman crashed the net on a long throw from Hoskin and flicked a header over the Cortez keeper for a 2-1 Titans lead. The Titan train continued to gain steam as they netted their third strike. Patrick Seifert sliced through to the end line and dropped the ball to Alden Watkins at the top of the penalty area. Watkins settled the ball, stepped to his right and drove a low, hard shot through traffic that rippled the Cortez net. Houseman closed out the scoring with his second goal of the game, capitalizing on a loose ball from a cross by Walker Carroll.
“We told them to play the same, just double the speed,” says Davis. “As the second half progressed, it got faster and it paid off in four goals.”
Unfortunately, just as things are starting to click for the Titans, they now enter the October break. Workouts are planned during the vacation as the coaches attempt to keep the team focused for their final two matches of the season next week.
“There are some theories they will come back from the break sluggish but we put together a 3v3 tournament for them to start things off fun and active, and hopefully the three practices over the break will give them enough steam heading into the final week of play,” says Davis.
The Titans will play their final home game of the season on Tuesday, October 20 at 4 p.m. against Ridgway, and then finish the season on Thursday, October 22 when they head to Telluride.
“Hopefully we can capitalize on how we played in the second half of the Cortez game—it was everything we’ve been looking for, passing and a faster pace,” says Davis. “We want that same attitude and same drive, but it’s really up to the kids.”