Famine and feast
by Than Acuff
It was a tale of two teams this past weekend as the West Elk Soccer Association (WESA) U18 squad lost to Basalt 5-0 on Saturday, only to come back on Sunday and defeat Montrose 5-1.
Basalt came into the game the heavy favorite, sitting on top of the league standings with an undefeated record and having conceded just one goal all year. Meanwhile, WESA’s ride has been erratic to say the least, dropping their first three games only to recover to take down Aspen 2-1 a week ago.
The hope going into the Basalt game on Saturday, May 14 was that the team would continue to build on their success and be the first team to hand Basalt a loss. Unfortunately, hopes were dashed early as Basalt jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game.
“We were intimidated and disorganized and our defense was definitely out of shape,” says player Woody Martineau.
Ever resilient though, the WESA crew picked up their game to match wits with Basalt for the remainder of the half, holding them to their two-goal advantage heading into the break.
“I thought that went well,” says Martineau. “We started connecting passes in the midfield and were able to shut down some of their more skilled players by getting to the ball first.”
The second half looked to be WESA’s redemption, down just two goals with a chance to regroup. But that soon faded as Basalt stepped up their game to rattle off three more goals in the second half to take WESA down 5-0.
“It seemed everyone was just tired and there wasn’t that much motivation,” says Martineau. “I feel like we just didn’t show up, weren’t making traps, and weren’t making accurate passes. We definitely could have played better.”
WESA lined up the following day to face Montrose on Sunday, May 15. This time they made absolutely sure to take matters into their own hands from the opening kick-off. Intent and hustle were off the charts and the renewed spirit paid off in the opening five minutes. As WESA pressed Jovany Aguirre played a through ball splitting the Montrose defense. Montrose looked to play the ball back to the keeper but Walker Carroll jumped on the back pass and poked the ball past the keeper for a 1-0 lead three minutes into the game.
Seven minutes later WESA struck again as Liam Reilly floated his shot over the Montrose keeper. The ball struck off the crossbar and Elior Bilow followed up to punch it home for a 2-0 lead.
“That first goal really motivated us and to score two goals from crashing the net was really good,” says Martineau.
Noah Dumas capped the first half attack in the 32nd minute, taking a pass 35 yards out and turning immediately up field, touching the ball to his right and then blasting a low hard shot past the outstretched hands of the Montrose keeper for a 3-0 lead at halftime.
When the two teams took the field for the start of the second half, a brutal storm rolled into town, blowing directly in the faces of the WESA players. Montrose seized on the chaos, resorting to long passes forward and sending numbers up field, scoring six minutes into the half and rattling the WESA side. WESA managed to hold off the attack for the next six minutes before a weather delay was enforced and the teams retreated for a 30-minute break while the storm played through.
“I feel like the weather was the only reason they scored,” says Martineau. “We just couldn’t see.”
The break served WESA well as they took the opportunity to regroup and pull their game back together, returning to their style of play from the first half. The switch played out as hoped as WESA fired off two more goals. Zane Reda fired a shot from 25 yards out that bounced loose and Dylan Eaton followed to push it in and then Jordi Nichols broke free in the 72nd minute to carry the ball to net and drill it top shelf, icing the 5-1 WESA win.
“After the break we definitely pulled it back together and outworked Montrose in the final 30 minutes,” says Martineau. “Our style of play is improving a lot. We’re managing to play more possession soccer and stringing together passes, which led to the opportunities on goal.”
The WESA U18 team is headed to Gunnison on Thursday, May 19 to face Gunnison at Jorgenson Park at 5 p.m. and then will head to Carbondale on Saturday, May 21.