2-2 start of six-game grind
by Than Acuff
The Crested Butte Titans soccer team is in the midst of a six-game grind that will test their limits as they proceed into the middle part of the season.
It all opened with Salida, where Crested Butte came up short, falling 1-0. The effort against the perennial 3A powerhouse could be seen in their next match of the week as they lined up against the Delta Panthers, another 3A stronghold, on Thursday, September 12 and looked somewhat depleted in energy for the match.
The Titans got on the scoreboard early as a cross from Carlos Franco found Gaby Marmolejo open inside the six-yard box and Marmolejo tipped it through the Delta keeper’s hands for a 1-0 lead.
That lead was soon erased though, as Delta struck back 10 minutes later when their prolific scorer struck from 25 yards out. That same striker tacked on a second goal not much later and then finished off his first half hat trick to give Delta a 3-1 lead.
The Titans had their chances throughout the remainder of the game, as passing rather than dribbling opened some seams in Delta’s midfield but the Panthers’ speed and physicality soon led to a fourth goal with 25 minutes left. Again Crested Butte tried to find some rhythm but Delta proved too quick to be broken down as they cruised through the rest of the game to hand the Titans their second loss in a row.
Still reeling from their two-game slide to start their first test of the season, Crested Butte boarded the bus the next morning, headed for their annual overnight trip through southwest Colorado to face Cortez on Friday, September 13 and then the Bayfield Wolverines on Saturday, September 14.
Cortez proved tough to break down in their first meeting earlier this season as the Titans eked out a 2-1 win. Cortez proved even more troublesome to open the match on Friday as they took advantage of hesitant play from Crested Butte in the opening 10 minutes. The lax pressure and slow pace of the Titans allowed Cortez into the attacking third early, resulting in a hand ball and penalty kick to give Cortez an early 1-0 lead.
A couple of fresh faces then joined the Titans on the field and proved the proper spark to the Titans attack. Once Crested Butte established possession, they turned the pace up on offense. A couple of preliminary strikes missed the target but they finally broke the seal in the 24th minute when Henry Bryndal found some space on the weak side off a pass from Jamis Matlock and drove a low shot near post to tie the game 1-1.
The Titans struck again in the waning minutes of the first half when Matlock assisted Chris Myers on his goal for a 2-1 lead at the break.
“We regained composure after giving up that first goal and started controlling the ball,” says coach Bob Piccaro. “Some fresh blood on the field brought in some energy and made things happen.”
With Finn Smith, Owen Berv and Eric Lain holding the back line firmly in place, Cortez struggled to mount much of a threat in the second half and Crested Butte continued its composed play. Still, the lead proved tenuous until the 65th minute when Matlock got a step from 20 yards out and drilled a shot into the upper corner to seal the 3-1 Titans win.
“We continued to play our game and had a lot of chances—we just can’t seem to navigate our way through the attacking third,” says Piccaro.
Crested Butte carried that same mentality into their game the next day against Bayfield. With Nathan Miller, Hayden Faivre and Kye Matlock doing the lion’s share of the work at midfield, Crested Butte was able to set up several chances on net in the first half. Still, it took until the 24th minute to break through as Jamis slipped a through ball to Davis McNeill crashing on the weak side. The Bayfield keeper and a defender looked to shut McNeill down and the three collided, leaving the ball to squirt loose. Cedar Fessenden jumped on it to push it past the pile of players for a 1-0 Titans lead.
Crested Butte tacked on a second goal in the final minutes of the half when Marmolejo blasted past two Bayfield defenders on the outside and crossed the ball for Jamis to bang home a head ball, continuing the freshman’s breakout varsity performance.
The second half played out much like the first with Crested Butte looking to set up chances mixing in possession with the occasional long ball but the back of the net and Bayfield’s keeper and defense were tough. Crested Butte got a break with a foul and subsequent penalty kick and Marmolejo finished it to put the cap on the Titans’ 3-0 win.
“Bayfield is gritty, I gotta give it to them,” says Piccaro. “We had so many chances, we have to start capitalizing on them. I think our defense played really well, though. Never got burned and were covering each other well.”
The grind continues, finishing with a game on the road on Friday, September 20 when they head to Telluride.
“We need to finish the chances we get,” says Piccaro. “We’re not going to get many against the better teams.”