Finish with home win and road loss
by Than Acuff
After rattling off two big wins, the West Elk Soccer Association (WESA) u19 boys team fell in their final match of the spring to finish the season .500.
WESA was fresh off a big win the week prior against a Montrose team, when they hosted Roaring Fork on Saturday, May 26 at Rainbow Field and the team looked to carry that energy into the match-up.
“I told the guys before the game that we were coming off a 5-1 win and to keep the momentum going,” says captain Dylan Eaton.
West Elk opened the scoring five minutes into the game when Nathan Miller pressed forward to play a cross into the 18-yard box. While the ball slipped through unattended, Hayden Faivre crashed the far post to find the ball at his feet and poke it past the Roaring Fork goalie. Five minutes later West Elk struck again when Dylan Eaton sprinted ahead to pick up a pass and then threaded his way through three Roaring Fork defenders to put West Elk up 2-0.
Three minutes later, West Elk added a third goal when Tommy Linehan ran onto a pass from Faivre behind the Roaring Fork defense to score, allowing West Elk to ease off the throttle for the remainder of the first half, settling into their three-goal lead.
“The first half was good and it was nice to be the team that scored first rather than getting scored on first like it had been all season,” says Eaton. “We had some missed opportunities later in the half but it definitely was not from a lack of effort.”
While a three-goal lead can be reassuring, it can also cause complacency and after some words from the coaches and captain, West Elk was refocused upon taking the field in the second half. It took just 45 seconds of play for West Elk to re-establish their prominence as Carlos Franco found Eaton running down the flank with a chip pass. Eaton settled and fired a cross into the penalty area and Linehan leapt up for the instep volley to put West Elk on top 4-0.
“That was one of the prettiest goals I’ve ever seen,” says Eaton. “That showed that not only could we beat that team, but we can do it well.”
A slight mishap by West Elk allowed Roaring Fork a goal, but minutes later West Elk struck again. Franco started it off again as he slipped the ball to Kai Matlock just outside the 18-yard line. Matlock took a touch and fired and his shot cracked off the post and to Eaton’s feet. Eaton proceeded to finish the job to put West Elk up 5-1.
West Elk settled down for the next 15 minutes to focus on possession rather than penetration but still tacked on two more goals as Faivre assisted on Linehan’s third strike of the game and a final tap-in from Franco made for the 7-1 result.
“I was happy with how we played,” says Eaton. “Rather than boot the ball up to try to score, we played more composed to try to create opportunities.”
West Elk would have their hands full the next day as they headed to Montrose to face another Avalanche powerhouse. Not only that, but injuries and Memorial Day weekend had West Elk down to 11 players for the game.
West Elk opened the game, matching Montrose’s pace and possession and the two teams traded off attacks for the initial 15 minutes. While West Elk’s back line of Nathan Miller, Alex Eldridge and Zane Reda kept a tight lock on things, Montrose came close on several occasions but Slater Weil was in the midst of a human highlight-reel kind of day and came up with numerous big saves.
Eventually the pressure gave way to a Montrose goal but Jovany Aguirre’s work wide and the effort of Matlock, Finn Smith and Eaton at midfield still offered a number of counterattack chances for West Elk and they entered halftime down just 1-0.
“I thought the first half was great and we carried our composure from the day before into the game,” says Eaton. “Slater played lights out and the defense did a great job figuring out how to play in the new formation against a good team.”
Fatigue started to set in on West Elk, though, and Montrose scored a second goal but West Elk responded when Henry Bryndal caught the Montrose keeper sleeping and poked a loose ball past him to close the gap.
Minutes later, West Elk had another great chance but the shot in close was turned away and Montrose closed the game out with two more goals while West Elk spent the remaining 20 minutes of the game running on fumes but continued to grit it out.
“Usually this season I felt like our team got defeated both emotionally and score-wise, but this game they didn’t,” says Eaton. “The heart everyone showed and playing like the game isn’t over until it’s over was great and it was nice to see that happen. The score is what it is but I’m happy with the way we played.”
The players will now take a break for the summer before opening the high school soccer season in mid-August.