Critical three games ahead
by Than Acuff
The Basalt Longhorns are another non-league 3A opponent the Crested Butte Titans add to their schedule to get a glimpse of the bigger soccer world statewide. Sometimes it pays off, other times it does not, but each year it makes for a tough contest and true test of where the Titans stand.
This game in particular would test the mettle of the Titans. With their two starting strikers out with injury and three starters missing most of the game due to SAT testing, Crested Butte’s backs were against the wall before the opening kick off.
The coaching staff rearranged some positions and called on some of the younger players to fill critical roles off the bench but the outright speed of the Longhorns proved troublesome in the opening minutes.
While Basalt’s midfield appeared to have a noticeably quicker step to the ball than the Titans, their lone striker definitely had a speed advantage and Basalt scored two minutes into the game when the Longhorn striker outran the Titans’ defense to a through ball and slipped it into the corner for a 1-0 lead.
“We weren’t ready, we had guys in new positions and we got burned,” says coach Bob Piccaro. “It was a wake up call.”
After a frantic few minutes to follow the first goal of the game, Crested Butte’s midfield started to match the pace of their opponents with Carlos Franco working diligently to bridge the gap between the Titans’ defense and offense. Hayden Faivre and Nathan Miller provided additional work and movement in the middle of the field, Brendan Hartigan provided some quality minutes on the flank and Eric Lain, Spencer Berv and Chris Myers spent the remainder of the half on point on defense to stem any additional threats from Basalt.
Still, with their two starting strikers missing, one of whom is the leading scorer for the team, the Titans struggled to create any significant opportunities against a solid and well-organized Basalt defense.
“Their defense played us perfectly,” says Piccaro. “They allowed us to fumble around with the ball outside of the box but did not let us penetrate. They would bend but did not break.”
Crested Butte’s three starters made it to the field by halftime following their SAT test and the hope was that they would provide a necessary spark to the Titan team. While having Finn Smith and Owen Berv back on defense provided a level of security to push players further up field, the scant number of shots the Titans managed to fire sailed wide of the net or into the hands of the Basalt goalkeeper.
A red card had Crested Butte playing up a man in the final eight minutes but Basalt circled the wagons in their defensive third to close off the Titans attack and hand Crested Butte a 1-0 loss.
“We were getting close but we can’t wait until the 73rd minute to get to that level of intensity,” says Piccaro. “You gotta want it all game.”
The Titans have a tough finish to their season now as they face the undefeated Ridgway Demons, Alamosa Mean Moose and close out the regular season against Telluride.
The next home game will actually be in Gunnison at the high school football field as they face the Mean Moose under the lights on Thursday, October 10 at 6 p.m.
“It left a bad taste in the team’s mouth, one they don’t want to replicate,” says Piccaro. “It’s a good taste to have moving forward to motivate us as we get back into league play. Fuel for the fire moving forward.”