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Titans’ soccer wins opening league game

Finishes first week of season 1-1

by Than Acuff

The Titans kicked off the season last week and after falling in their opening match to the Salida Spartans, they recovered to win their opening league game against the Alamosa Mean Moose.

Salida is a perennial 3A powerhouse, often reaching the latter stages of the annual state tournament. While the Titans often fall to the Spartans, they continue to draw the non-league opponent to get a sense of the bigger soccer picture statewide.

Their match-up on Thursday, September 1 was no different, as the Titans fell 3-0 in Salida. Despite the tireless effort of Crested Butte, Salida proved too strong to rattle and managed to hold the Titans at bay.

Crested Butte opened the game matching Salida’s possession style of soccer with some playmaking, producing the first scoring chance seven minutes into the game.

Salida dodged the early bullet and refocused, but the efforts of Tate Young and Alden Watkins on defense held the Salida attack off as midfielders Patrick Seifert and Oliver Houseman battled in the middle.

Ultimately, Salida broke the scoreless tie in the 36th minute when its target striker turned on a throw-in to get a clear path to net and chipped the ball over keeper Josh Pruett.

Crested Butte lost a vital part of its attack when starting striker Merlin Mapes was sidelined with an injury, and while Crested Butte fought hard, Salida converted on a set play and a turnover to seal the 3-0 win.

“I didn’t think we were ready to win against that team but we played well,” says assistant coach Prawit Durgan. “I was surprised with how well we played. I saw some good hustle and they tried to do what we’ve been teaching them. It just broke apart in the second half. The best part for us all game was our defense.”

The Titans returned to the pitch on Saturday, September 3 when they hosted Alamosa at Rainbow Field. The lessons learned during the Salida game were applied against Alamosa as Crested Butte looked to the flanks to open the game more in the middle.

Crested Butte struck first in the 12th minute on a corner kick as Cam Curtiss dropped the ball inside the 18-yard box. Alamosa looked to clear it but Jovany Aguirre kept the ball live and fed it into the six-yard box for Noah Dumas to poke it past the Mean Moose keeper.

Ten minutes later, a series of passes opened up the middle and Seifert slipped a pass through to Tommy Linehan, who punched it home for a 2-0 Titans lead. Jordi Nichols put the Titans up 3-0 when he rose above the Alamosa defense to head home a corner kick from Seifert, and Dumas put the finishing touches on the first half when he slipped a direct kick around the wall and into the low corner for a 4-0 lead at halftime.

Alamosa brought a renewed effort in the second half and out-hustled Crested Butte for the first 10 minutes, but patience proved key for Crested Butte looking to build an attack rather than force the issue up top. Crested Butte set up several more chances on net but the shots missed their marks until the 75th minute, when Eric Hodgers took a pass from Michael Hensley at the top of the 18-yard box and drilled a shot in stride to cap the 5-0 win.

“I definitely wanted a win and a shutout and we did both,” says Durgan. “I expected us to play our game, which we did for the most part, so, overall it was a pretty good game.”

The Titans continue with league play, with games against the Ridgway Demons and Cortez, and Durgan is looking to push the Titans to a better game as they head into continued league match-ups.

“Overall, everything is there—it just needs some fine-tuning,” says Durgan. “Our holes are in the midfield and I think the team is good but we just need to distribute better out of the back, connect with the midfield and then connect with the strikers. I don’t like how when one thing goes wrong the whole team shuts down, instead of fixing the problem. We need consistency throughout the whole game.”

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