Big challenges ahead
by Than Acuff
Last weekend was the annual Crested Butte Titans soccer team overnight trip to the southwest corner of the state. The Titans loaded the bus Friday morning for a game in Pagosa Springs Friday evening and another game Saturday morning against Bayfield, both of which pose ample challenge for the Crested Butte team.
While practices were subdued two weeks ago, which played out to an extent in their matches, the week prior to the road trip the team appeared to have flipped a switch aware of the challenge ahead.
“It was the complete opposite of the practices the week before,” says senior captain Dylan Eaton. “The practices before these games were some of our best and I was encouraged that the boys would take that energy into the games.”
That energy did transfer into the opening 10 minutes of the game against the Pagosa Springs Pirates. The Pirates have an explosive combination of players up top with a midfield that works hard and a defense that likes to stymie teams’ attacks with depth. While Pagosa had a couple of early chances, the Titans defense adjusted accordingly and turned away the early looks to move the ball back up field.
Following the frantic start, the Titans started to find their attack on the flanks providing an opening to net but the Pagosa keeper turned away the initial attempt. Continued pressure led to a corner kick for the Titans and they converted when the initial service flew past the far post. Walker Carroll chased down the loose ball and dropped it to Josias Navarette, who carried the ball across the top of the 18-yard box and drilled his shot into the side netting for a 1-0 Titans lead 15 minutes into the game.
Then the weather hit and a rash of lightning forced officials to postpone the game, sending the teams scrambling for cover.
When the two teams returned to the field, they muddled their way through the final 12 minutes of the half with both squads getting chances on net but neither converting.
The second half had the Titans on pins and needles as they covered angles on defense to hold the Pagosa attack at bay but struggled to find the link between defense and offense.
Fifteen minutes into the second half the Titans got a break as Turner Petersen slipped through for a pass down the sideline. Petersen played a quick cross and when a Pirate defender tried to block it, the ball hit off of his leg and past the keeper for a 2-0 Titans lead.
Pagosa is never one to back down and they continued to press on offense while the Titans struggled at midfield. Pagosa soon reaped the rewards of their constant pressure finding the back of the net in the 60th minute and kept the pressure on for the following five minutes.
The Titans held on with everyone working to hold off the attack and soon settled into their game to seal the 2-1 win.
“We stopped working as a team after the delay,” says Eaton. “There were so many slots and crosses and that was a big missed opportunity. We worked well in small units but bad touches were a problem and we played the game on only half of the field.”
Happy with the win in the end, the team took to the night to celebrate and blow off a little steam and refuel for Bayfield the next day.
“We were definitely really stoked with the win,” says Eaton. “The energy that night was unrivaled.”
Continued unsettled weather plagued the match the next day as lightning forced game officials to postpone the game two and a half hours.
The two teams finally took the field and played 10 minutes of soccer before the weather turned for the worse once again and the game was cancelled.
“The delay was frustrating,” says Eaton. “We were there and we were there to win. By the time we did get on the field there wasn’t a lot of fire but we were definitely more composed than the Pagosa game.”
The Titans have a big test this week as they host non-league opponent Basalt at Rainbow Field on Thursday, October 5 at 4 p.m.
“I think we can rekindle the fire in the practices leading up,” says Eaton. “If we play as a team I think we can win this game. There’s no all-star on our team so when we work together, that’s how we score goals. That said, everyone has to show up and everyone has to play as a team and that can be hard.”
The Titans then head into the October break and complete bedlam: Due to the Bayfield rescheduled game, they will have four games in five days, including three on the road.