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Titans soccer sees mixed results on the road

New formation brings new energy

by Than Acuff

With morale at an all-time low after falling to both Telluride and Alamosa last week, the Titans soccer coaches looked to bring new energy to the team with a new formation. While the overall effect has been positive, it took a game for the team to wrap their heads around it and they ended up splitting their two games over the past weekend.

“After Telluride and Alamosa we noticed things weren’t clicking and we decided to go back to the drawing board with a new formation to try to create more of a possession-style game that we’ve been coaching,” says coach Ben Davis.

Hopes were high heading into Pagosa Springs on Friday, October 2 to face the top team in the league and the top-ranked team in the state, the Pagosa Springs Pirates.

The Pirates are undefeated this year with a potent offense that has been lighting up opponents all season and while Crested Butte fell to the Pirates earlier in the season 3-2, they were hoping to exact revenge in their second meeting.

photo by Joel Priest
photo by Joel Priest

The stage was set for a phenomenal showdown as the game was scheduled for Friday night, under the lights. And with the Pirates surging this season, there was no doubt the local fan base would be out in support.

Given the scene, the Titans had a tough game ahead of them and were dealt a blow when they learned starting center midfielder Patrick Seifert would be missing another game to recover from an injury, and starting outside defender Nate Hoskin would also be unavailable.

“Going into the game things were a little unpredictable,” says Davis. “We basically worked on the new formation for about two or three days so we were a little unsure of what might happen.”

While the Titans opened the game still confused by the new formation, their effort on loose balls and defense made up the difference in the opening 20 minutes. Despite being pinned in their half for a majority of the time, they denied Pagosa any clean looks on net as Kaleb Adamich stepped into his varsity role without a hitch on the outside, Dylan Eaton shut the other flank down and Woody Martineau and Thomas Taaca held Pagosa’s top scorer in check.

But the constant pressure eventually paid off for the Pirates as they forced the Titans into a loss of possession and turned immediately up-field to score. Ten minutes later, they broke through again and were on top 2-0 at halftime.

“Our defense was pretty solid,” says Davis. “The main thing was that the midfielders had a tough time figuring out their place on the field and we still fell back into our old habits of trying to force things up the middle.”

A 2-0 lead is a dangerous lead and the Titans were hoping to bring the game back in the second half. Alden Watkins proved to be stout as a defensive midfielder as he assisted in shutting down Pagosa’s explosive counterattack. Meanwhile, the Titans offense started finding seams in the Pirates defense and their efforts eventually paid off as Justin Smith scored on a direct kick and the momentum started to swing.

“The momentum completely shifted and we started to surge,” says Davis.

Unfortunately, the second goal eluded the Titans and the Pirates regrouped and were awarded a penalty kick with 10 minutes left in regulation. They converted and held on to finish off the Titans 3-1.

“The team was still trying to understand how to create offense with the new formation and we just couldn’t quite execute on offense and get that second goal,” says Davis. “I think there were some positives though. The new formation exceeded our expectations and they started to fill into their new positions.”

Crested Butte woke up the next morning to head to Bayfield, looking to break their three-game skid. While the effects of a late dinner and hotel stay the night before hampered the Titans in the opening half, they managed to build a 2-0 lead. Gus Hensley broke the scoreless tie 13 minutes into the game, crashing the far post to poke the ball through on a corner kick, and then did it once again in the waning minutes by converting on a throw-in for a 2-0 Titans lead.

Bayfield climbed back into the game late in the second half on a direct kick but after a shaky 10 minutes, the Titans regrouped to put the game out of reach. Taaca threaded his way through the Bayfield defense to fire a shot off the post that then hit off the goalkeeper and trickled in. Five minutes later Jordi Nichols crashed on a corner kick from Smith to slip the ball through and ice the 4-1 Titans win.

“The win over Bayfield solidified the new formation and how to execute it,” says Davis. “I think the weekend as a whole was a highlight of the season. We saw more hustle and more determination out of them.”

The Titans return to the road this Friday as they travel to Cortez for another league showdown before heading into the October break. They look to get a boost from the return of Seifert and will continue to work on their new formation as they prepare for an end-of-the-season run.

“We took a big step forward heading into the final weeks of the season and into the upcoming years,” says Davis.

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