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Kickers soccer struggles over weekend

Another weekend of 1-1-1

by Than Acuff

oo much of a good thing can cause it to be a bad thing. Too much alcohol, too much black powder in a homemade explosive, too many people saying “Yeah, I think you can drive through the Slate River at Pittsburgh” and too much talent on a soccer team.

The Crested Butte Kickers found that out the hard way this past weekend at the 25th anniversary of the Crested Butte Soccer Invitational adult coed tournament.

It’s nothing new for the Kickers to have too many people wanting to play in the home tournament, at least too many guys. The women are harder to come by, but this year the women’s side was flush with talent and the perfect amount of players as a couple of women from Texas joined local diehards Ellen Teague and Polly McGrane to cover their bases with subs. Goalkeepers also prove tough to find but Drew Canale is back in town after several years in the Philly leagues and agreed to stand between the posts for the Kickers.

But it was the men who were the problem. As many as 15 local players wanted to play and all of them ranged in ability from good to really good. Unfortunately, none of them were able to get the time needed on the field to gel as a unit, making for erratic play all weekend long.

The Kickers opened the tournament bright and early Saturday morning against Telluride. Thirty-year player/manager Brian Fenerty summed it up overlooking the squad: “We’re an odd mix, but I like odd.”

Odd was what ensued as the Kickers struggled to find any cohesion in the opening 15 minutes of play. A flurry of subs then came onto the field for Crested Butte and they started clicking, creating chances on offense but a deflection in the Kickers’ 18-yard box trickled past Canale’s outstretched hands and into the net for a 1-0 Telluride lead.

Crested Butte responded five minutes later though, as a couple of new additions to the field helped pick up the pace for the Kickers and it paid off. A heel flick from Graham Koval set up Ryan Conrad and Conrad drilled his shot into the side netting to tie the game 1-1 heading into halftime.

Just as the Kickers were looking to continue building in the second half though, a mishap ensued and created insurmountable chaos on the Crested Butte side.

The Kickers looked to press high and were making a difference but it left them open for big ball counterattacks by Telluride. Ten minutes into the second half one such big ball left Canale no option but to charge off of his line, resulting in a collision with a Telluride striker. Once the ringing in their ears stopped, Canale was shown the red card and had to leave the game, forcing the Kickers to play a man down.

That also resulted in continued confusion on the Kickers’ side and Telluride netted two more goals to finish off Crested Butte 3-1.

The Kickers returned to the field later that morning to face the Durango Hooligans. Jaime Watt, former Kickers player and longtime organizer, was on scene and Crested Butte appeared to have found the right mix for better play and more cohesion. Granted, they continued to try to push up the middle but found some success on the flanks and owned possession for most of the first half, yet still struggled to score, leaving the teams locked in a 0-0 tie at halftime.

Cal Fenerty was called into action in net to replace Canale and came up with a couple of huge saves early in the second half to keep things even and the Kickers finally found the back of the net as Koval fought off a defender to turn and shoot for a 1-0 Kickers lead.

Durango tied the game back up eight minutes later but the Kickers eventually rose above as Lisa Berry flicked a throw in onto Tom Lewis up top and Lewis turned and fired to net the game-winning goal, breathing a little life back into the Crested Butte side as they headed into Saturday night festivities.

The Kickers appeared to have shaken off Saturday night’s fun in time for their game Sunday against Distant Third, a beleaguered Grand Junction squad. The two teams shook off the rust over the course of the match, trading off goals the entire time. Distant Third took a 1-0 lead only to have the Kickers tie it up when Berry was taken down in the penalty area and Koval converted on the ensuing penalty kick.

Distant Third retook the lead early in the second half but the Kickers responded once again just two minutes later as JJ O’Neal played a set piece into the 18-yard box and Ryan Abbott sliced through the flesh mass to put the finishing touch on and tie the game 2-2.

The teams battled through the remainder of the half with the fireworks coming in the final 10 minutes. Distant Third scored with 10 minutes left in regulation, hoping to knock the Kickers down for good but Crested Butte had the final say when Collin Dill ran onto a cross from Koval and punched the game-tying goal by the Distant Third keeper in the final minutes to finish with a 3-3 draw.

Pick-up soccer continues through the summer Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays as managers look to field a team for the Telluride tournament in August.

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