“It took a while but they did it”
by Than Acuff
It took until the fourth game of the 2017 season, and third league game, but the Crested Butte Titans earned their first win of the year when they edged out a 1-0 win over Cortez in double overtime on Saturday, September 9.
The Titans struggled through the first two weeks of play, as they appeared disjointed and confused on the field. They battled hard against Salida to open the season, eventually falling 3-0, but couldn’t build off the initial effort as they dropped their first two league games, losing to Alamosa 3-2 and Ridgway 2-1.
As is often the case, there was a silver lining to the initial three-game slide. While the team had given up eight goals in three games, only two of the goals came from breakdowns, while the six others were bad luck, bad bounces and a penalty kick.
The real trouble for the Titans came in three distinct areas: the attacking third, winning loose balls and communication. As a result, the coaching staff switched formations to try to generate more offense and worked diligently with the team to tidy up the effort on 50/50 challenges and get the team talking.
“It was obvious the players were having a hard time with the new formation so we decided to go with what they do understand and work from there,” explains assistant coach Mike Eaton. “Their work on loose balls, though, was a big red flag so we had to address that immediately.”
Ultimately, the work paid off as they took the field against the Cortez Panthers. While Cortez always has the capacity to score off of pure effort, the Titans defense anchored by Tate Young and Woody Martineau, and the hard work of midfielders Oliver Houseman, Dylan Eaton and Carlos Franco, left the Panthers little room to capitalize.
“I felt like defensively we were as tight as we had been all season and the midfield started to assert themselves on both sides of the ball,” says Eaton.
Meanwhile, the Titans turned their attention to attacking the flanks and the switch offered up numerous shooting opportunities in the first half. Unfortunately, most of the Titans’ shots missed the target or were swallowed up by Cortez’ talented keeper.
“We got things moving on offense but were missing the finishing touch,” says Eaton.
The same could be said for the second half and goalkeeper Slater Weil came up with two big saves to turn away the lone chances from Cortez. The Titans continued to press with the back four dictating both the pace and possession of the game.
“Slater came through when needed in goal and our defense really set the tone for the game,” says Eaton. “They shut Cortez down with high pressure and turned the ball back up field on attack.”
Cortez’ defense hung tight though and their goalie had a series of great saves to keep the game deadlocked in a scoreless tie and force overtime. The Titans continued to dictate the play in overtime and remained patient and diligent in their effort to win the game.
“There wasn’t a sense of panic at all, we just had to keep doing what we were doing and hopefully the goal would come,” says Eaton.
The two teams remained tied 0-0 after one overtime but the Titans finally connected three minutes into the second overtime as Gabi Marmolejo broke loose down the right side to play across into the 18-yard box. The ball sailed over two Titans and the goalie but Carlos Franco was on the far post to knock it home for the 1-0 win.
“It took a while, but they did it,” says Eaton. “They played well for all 93 minutes with no let-down, so that was huge. Now we need to see if we can do the same against the stronger opponents in our league.”
The Titans host Telluride on Friday, September 15 for the annual Homecoming game at Rainbow at 4:45 p.m. They remain at home Saturday to face Bayfield at High Noon.