Baby steps the focus of spring ball[ by Than Acuff ]
Even though the WESA U18 boys’ soccer team continues to struggle during spring play, the team is far from pushing the panic button.
The team headed to Delta on Saturday, April 30, falling to the Delta Force 4-0 as the Crested Butte team continued to struggle with transitioning into a cohesive attack. But the most glaring concern came from the team’s effort in the opening 20 minutes of the game. Delta set the pace with their effort on the field as they outhustled Crested Butte and established dominating possession in Crested Butte’s half.
Fortunately, with Alden Watkins, Woody Martineau and Dylan Eaton anchoring the defense, Crested Butte managed to turn away numerous Delta attacks. And while Crested Butte’s defense made a concerted effort to find targets, things stalled at midfield.
“I thought we were passing well but we just couldn’t get it into their half that much,” says Martineau. “Our distribution was better compared to the last two games.”
A massive substitution midway through the first half provided a needed spark for Crested Butte as the work rate of Michael Hensley, Jovany Aguirre, Elior Bilow and Tommy Linehan allowed Crested Butte to build an attack out of their defensive third.
But the Force is not just in name only as they were equally organized on defense, getting players back and leaving little opportunity for the Crested Butte attack. Ultimately, Delta’s constant pressure paid off and they managed to score in the final minute of the first half to take a 1-0 lead into halftime.
“It was definitely good play by the younger crew,” says Martineau. “A little slower speed-wise, but they were passing the ball well.”
Crested Butte reverted to the simple things as they focused their effort for the second half: hustle. With Delta dictating play by winning loose balls and playing with more intent, Crested Butte looked to stir the pot by matching the effort of their opponent.
The shift in desire paid off in a much more concerted effort from Crested Butte to open the second half. The work of Walker Carroll and Turner Peterson outside and Noah Dumas and Oliver Houseman in the middle created some room for Jordi Nichols at striker. Nichols did break through a couple of times but Delta remained composed and with little help on attack for Nichols, Crested Butte’s attacks eventually petered out.
“I guess we just decided to pick it up,” says Martineau. “It was tough playing into the wind but I think that benefited us because we had to focus on passing the ball instead of just kicking it up field.”
While Crested Butte was playing some of their best soccer of the spring in the opening 15 minutes, the team remained committed to their initial plan. Rather than focusing on results, the idea is to expose the entire roster to the higher level of play and ask them to play out of their comfort zone. As a result, the switch was made midway through the second half to bring in another legion of players and mix up the lineup.
While small gains were made as players were forced to receive short passes inside their defensive third and deal with the pressure from Delta, the end result proved somewhat crushing as the Force capitalized on missed passes by Crested Butte to turn them into scoring opportunities, netting three more goals before the final whistle for a 4-0 win over Crested Butte.
“We played well for three-quarters of the game but just let down at the end,” says Martineau. “We definitely played better than the first two games.”
Crested Butte will head to the Roaring Fork Valley on Saturday, May 7 for a game against Aspen and then will face Gunnison, in Gunnison, on Thursday, May 12 at 5 p.m.
“If we can play the entire game like we did the first three quarters of the Delta game, we could pull out a win,” says Martineau.