“That was an important win”
[ by Than Acuff ]
The Crested Butte boys soccer team hit the road for another showdown with non-league opponent Alamosa and came up short falling 1-0. The team returned home to face perennial league standout Telluride and edged out a dicey 3-2 win to improve to 3-1-1 overall.
The Alamosa Mean Moose are known primarily for two things, a well-organized and stifling defense and a potent striker duo up top. Both of those came to fruition in the game Tuesday, March 23 in Alamosa as Crested Butte struggled on offense and while they gave up one open look on net, and that was all Alamosa needed to score for the win.
The game started out with the Titans dominating possession in the midfield while their defense held the Alamosa strikers in check with great positioning and quick steps to shut off a succession of long passes over the top and down the middle.
Unfortunately, 20 minutes into the first half, one long ball bounced through the Titans’ defense and onto net and while keeper Alex Eldridge came off his line, the Alamosa striker managed to tap it past him to fire off a shot. Center back Eric Lain had stepped behind Eldridge to block the initial shot but the second Alamosa striker followed on the loose ball to punch it through for a 1-0 lead.
“I think that was partially due to our new formation and we weren’t used to it which gave them the opportunity,” says captain Nathan Miller.
The Titans did have their fair share of opportunities from distance but shots were off their marks and the Mean Moose took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
The rest of the game remained in flux for the Titans. While they played keep-away from Alamosa with possession play and beat their midfield to every 50/50 ball, Alamosa was quick to pack their defense and deny the Titans any clean looks on net to hold on for the 1-0 win.
“It was our first loss of the season so we were down but they’re a non-divisional 3A team so it wasn’t too bad,” says Miller. “Still disappointing though.”
A loss like that is tough to recover from but continued work on the Titans’ new formation in the ensuing days had them more prepared to host the Telluride Miners on Saturday, March 27.
“We learned a lot in the Alamosa game, and worked on how to create opportunities and move the ball more efficiently on attack through possession during practices after that,” says Miller.
The Miners brought the energy in the opening minutes of the game as extensive ball pressure had the Titans scrambling a bit and forcing long passes up the field for relief from the midfield battle. While not the game plan, the impromptu effort did pay off as a long ball to Gabi Marmolejo had him drawing a foul inside the penalty area and he scored the ensuing penalty kick for a 1-0 lead at halftime.
Crested Butte settled their game down in the second half to try and find space in the midfield for a more cohesive attack. The shift in attacking style found a seam in the Miner defense as Marmolejo slipped a pass through to Jacob Bernholtz and Bernholtz fought off the defender to poke the ball past the Miner keeper for a 2-0 lead.
But Telluride is notorious for their resiliency and they scored two minutes later and took over the momentum of the game. The Titans held off the ensuing surge for the next 10 minutes but Telluride tied the game in the 22nd minute of the second half.
Despite dropping a two-goal lead, Crested Butte’s composure showed through in the remaining 20 minutes of the game. The Miners kept hammering at the Titans but Crested Butte’s back three held tight and the midfield continued to battle and find some access to the flanks.
They eventually found the right combination with five minutes left in regulation when a pass out wide found Nathan Sawyer open and he clipped the ball over the Miner defense to Marmolejo who settled the ball and punched it past the Miner keeper for a 3-2 lead that held until the final whistle.
“That was an important win,” says Miller. “It was not our best game but we battled through it well enough to win.”
The Titans have a fairly quiet week as they have just one game on Saturday, April 3 against Caprock in Grand Junction.