Kickers take second in 15th annual Crested Butte home soccer tournament

Strongest squad in years

Local adult coed soccer team the Crested Butte Kickers rose from the ashes this past weekend to dominate group play and take second at the 15th Annual Crested Butte soccer tournament.
It’s been a while since the Kickers had a solid roster to fill all of the necessary spots for soccer success.
For a team to be competitive it needs a stout defense led by the goalkeeper.
Heading into the weekend the Kickers were flush with defensive talent with Mike Martin and Drew Canale to set up in the middle flanked by Nancy Calhoun and Kelly Remboldt. The night before the tournament, Martin was called away to attend the birth of his child, so Kyle Thomas stepped in his place adding a step of speed and ownership of the air. Twenty-plus-year veteran Brian Fenerty stepped in the middle to remind the defense of their role, dominate, destroy and defend and Stephen Gardner shook off a mystery hip flexor strain to add fresh legs to the back four.
In net was six-foot, seven-inch-tall Todd Dohlman offering a size advantage inside the 18 that the Kickers never had as well as collegiate goaltending experience. Sure, they had maniacs in net like Duane Johnson in the early  ‘90s and a nut ball who slathered his hands in orange juice before games in the mid to late ’90s. And they’ve had catlike-reactive goalies like Jon LaDuke who was unconscious side-to-side. But never all of the above plus height like they had in Dohlman.
Next step, you need a midfield.
The Kickers had four players rotating through the middle with Evan Keeling and Hans Von Briesen teaming up and Ian Elder and Jason Lakey paired together.
The RMBL women answered the tournament call on the outside as Paige Howell and Jaime Winternitz jumped on the team and veteran Karen Barney returned from retirement seamlessly giving the Kickers additional possession on the outside. Beda Calhoun was instrumental both at midfield and defense.
Then there’s the strikers, players on the field with one purpose and one purpose only, putting the ball in the back of the net or, as they say across the Atlantic, denting the onion sac.
Rodrigo Gonzaga established himself as a pure striker for the Kickers over the past several years and is good for a handful of goals per tournament.
Kyle Anderson grew up playing soccer in Crested Butte as a kid and returned to his roots this past weekend adding in a slice and dice style up front.
Brandon Clifford came back to Crested Butte fresh off a stint battling Samoans in the Hawaiian leagues bringing with him a much-needed finishing touch. Karina Steele has spent the past 10 or so years on and off the field but saw fit to bring her talent up front to the Kickers team this season. Kadesha Otzko is a summer resident who proves her finishing capabilities year in and year out.
Ultimately, the team needs a player who brings talent, speed and endless lungs, a young gun to run whenever and wherever possible. Topher DeFelice was just that, overlapping to join the offense at one moment and then diving in front of a shot the next.
Over the course of the past several years, the Kickers had two of the four parts—sometimes three of them, but never all of them. Furthermore, the Kickers never had a manager, a person to “herd the cats,” as it were. A person to make sure everyone is on the same page, to make sure that when a player was tired, he or she was replaced at a moment’s notice.
That role was handed to Than Acuff. Those who can’t play, coach, or manage. Plus with the talent that was there, Acuff’s magic proved more beneficial on the sideline than on the field.
The Kickers got the first test early Saturday morning against Grand Junction. Grand Junction is a perennial powerhouse on the summer tournament schedule racking up several titles over the years.
The Kickers took immediate control of the game from the opening kick off and never let up.
With the defense fully in tact, the strikers and midfield were given the green light to push the pace.
Nerves rattled the Kickers on early scoring opportunities but Clifford took advantage of a Grand Junction breakdown to break the scoreless tie 25 minutes into the first half.
Fifteen minutes into the second half Dohlman caught Gonzaga breaking free with a cannon toss from his penalty area. Gonzaga settled and drew two defenders before finding Otzko wide open in front with a pass and Otzko finished.
Grand Junction tapped one in late in the game but the Kickers sealed the gaps on defense to hold on for the 2-1 win.
The Kickers returned to action an hour later to face Winter Park.
After a sloppy opening 15 minutes of play from the Kickers, they settled in to take over possession of the game. Fenerty found Winternitz open up the side and Winternitz pushed the ball ahead to Gonzaga for the breakaway to score, giving the Kickers a 1-0 lead at the half.
Clifford and Anderson rattled the cage in the second half but couldn’t find the back of the net, but Thomas, Canale and crew were unbeatable in back.
Winter Park had one last chance at an equalizer until DeFelice dove in front of the shot for the block, preserving the 1-0 Kickers win and concluding group play with a perfect 2-0 record.
The two wins set up the Kickers to face a young and surly team from Boulder Sunday morning.
Early in the game Dohlman collided with a Boulder player, forcing an EMT call and firing the Boulder team up for revenge.
Boulder’s tempers flared as they looked to seek physical revenge on the Kickers but cooler heads prevailed as von Briesen pushed a loose ball to the corner of the net for the lone goal of the game and a 1-0 Kickers win sending them to the finals to face Denver Sporting.
The Front Range club team proved too much for the Kickers, taking an early 2-0 lead.
Gonzaga closed the gap in the first half, threading through four Denver defenders to score, leaving the Kickers down 2-1 at halftime.
The Kickers took control of the game in the opening 15 of the second half but Denver Sporting added an insurance goal to beat the Kickers 3-1 and take the tournament title.

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