Still finish weekend with three wins
by Than Acuff
Expectations were tempered among the Crested Butte Kickers soccer team heading into the 23rd annual Crested Butte Invitational adult soccer tournament last weekend. The Kickers were coming in hot, both literally and figuratively, after winning the Hotter Than Hades tournament two weeks ago in Grand Junction, but they lost a couple of key players from that team since.
Nevertheless, by the opening game on Saturday, June 17 against Winter Park, the Kickers picked up a number of replacements for the squad and were still able to field a solid team that, with the right amount of skill and luck, could make a run at their hometown tournament title.
For starters, while they lost famed goalkeeper Patrick Buggy, they found a more than adequate replacement in Katie Simpson, the starting goalie for the WSCU women’s varsity team. In addition, Kyle Pendleton made it out for the home tournament to fill the shoes of centerback JJ O’Neal and Ellen Teague, a former Tennessee all-state standout, was in uniform for the weekend. In addition, Ian Elder returned to action coming off the injured reserves; Marty McGrane signed on; and Junior Silva and Garrett McCaffety were game-ready as were former Titan high school players Luis Aguirre and Thomas Taaca.
Adding them to the team that won the Grand Junction tournament made for a solid crew leaving only two questions really: Could they gel and how would they stack up against the teams from the Front Range? Fortunately, they had player/manager Brian Fenerty laced up and ready to play once again and help the team find its groove.
Their first test Saturday morning was a good one but not overwhelming, allowing the Kickers adequate time to get their feet beneath them. The Kickers typically see success against Winter Park but have been upset in the past by the plucky crew from the Fraser Valley.
The Kickers established possession immediately with Pendleton and Prawit Durgan closing off the middle, Dana Shellhorn and Taaca shutting down the flanks and McGrane and Cole Brittain doing everything possible to try to set up striker Tom Lewis.
The Kickers play up-field was hamstrung by Winter Park’s offsides trap and their roving keeper, but Crested Butte adjusted accordingly, pushing the ball wide before looking down the middle.
The shift in attack paid off as Elder chased down a diagonal ball to the flank and drove to the end line before crossing it low into the six-yard box for Teague to stuff it home. Crested Butte continued to press but Winter Park’s net minder came up huge with several saves. The Kickers added a second goal in the final minute of the first half as Aguirre drew a foul in the 18-yard box and Brittain finished on the ensuing penalty kick for a 2-0 Kickers lead at halftime.
Crested Butte picked up where they left off, pressing hard with a number of shots in the first five minutes of the second half. Pendleton smacked a shot off the crossbar, Elder flared one just wide of the post, but they found the back of the net once more as Taaca pushed up-field to take a pass from Elder and pick the low corner for a 3-0 Kickers lead.
Winter Park gained some momentum midway through the second half but the Kickers sealed the win as Lewis chased down a through-ball and fought off a defender and the goalie to drive a low hard shot through, capping the 4-0 Kickers win.
A no-show by one team to the tournament left the Kickers to face Winter Park once again. Somewhat subdued from the effort that morning, they eased off the throttle and cruised to a 2-0 win with goals coming from Pendleton and Lewis. The two wins set the Kickers up for a semi-final showdown with Boulder Sunday morning. It would take a Herculean effort by the Kickers to upset Boulder, who established themselves as the top team in the tournament on Saturday. The youth and teamwork of Boulder proved too much for the disjointed Kickers team as they fell 5-0.
The Kickers had one more shot to finish the weekend on a positive note as they faced Glenwood Springs in a consolation final match. Unfortunately, after the first 35 minutes of play it appeared the Kickers would finish on a low note as Glenwood built a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.
Down but not out, the Kickers regrouped for the second half. Paced by one goal from Brittain and two from Lewis, the Kickers came back to finish the weekend with a 3-2 win.
Pick-up soccer will continue throughout the summer as the Kickers take a break from tournaments before closing out the summer season with the annual tournament in Telluride in early August.