Battles through game with no subs
by Than Acuff
Spring is here, sort of, and the West Elk Soccer Association u19 boys soccer team kicked off their season in El Jebel on Saturday, April 6 against Roaring Fork Soccer Club. West Elk battled for 90 minutes and—despite having no subs and a late game surge—still came up short, losing 2-1.
West Elk has 16 players on the roster but with several of them closing out their competitive ski season, the team was down to 10 players for their first game. Fortunately, they were able to call up Will Lain, a member of the West Elk u14 team, just minutes before kick-off to field a full squad.
It was apparent from the start Roaring Fork had one thing in mind: Get the ball up top as soon as possible to make use of their obvious speed advantage. West Elk’s back line of Finn Smith, Nathan Miller and Spencer Berv and midfield work of Ethan Bacon and Lain held on for the first 15 minutes but another Roaring Fork long ball led to mayhem inside the 18-yard box before a loose Roaring Fork player poked the ball past West Elk net minder Alex Eldridge for a 1-0 lead.
While West Elk continued to focus their efforts on possession, Roaring Fork continued their effort to push forward as quickly as possible and rely on brute force and speed to create chances. The constant attack was handled with relative ease by West Elk’s team positioning but any semblance of a counterattack by West Elk stalled repeatedly as they entered the attacking third. Eventually West Elk’s work resulted in a set play from 25 yards out and a golden opportunity but a miscue on the ensuing play left West Elk exposed and Roaring Fork’s speedy striker capitalized to score a second goal for a 2-0 lead at halftime.
With no subs to offer the West Elk players relief, concern grew that the game might spiral out of control in the second half. The first five minutes proved touchy for West Elk as Roaring Fork went on the attack immediately but a big save from Eldridge and compact defense held off the initial push.
West Elk then started finding the rhythm as the second half wore on. Cedar Fessenden found a seam through Roaring Fork’s defense with a pinpoint pass but the ball trickled through the six-yard box unattended.
Ethan Bacani slipped through for another chance on net but his strike flew wide of the target as West Elk appeared to gain momentum as the game continued. Their efforts eventually paid off in the 80th minute as West Elk pushed the ball up the flank to Chris Myers. Myers eventually turned the ball back to Bacani, who found Henry Bryndal sprinting up the opposite flank with a quick pass. Bryndal settled it in the corner and drove a low cross into the six-yard box and Fessenden punched it home to pull within one.
Just as they were surging looking for the equalizer, West Elk lost a player to injury, and playing the final 10 minutes a man down proved too much to overcome as Roaring Fork held on for the 2-1 win.