Hosts first league game Saturday at 11 a.m.[ by Than Acuff ]
With five non-league games to open the season, the Crested Butte Titans boys’ soccer team is getting their fair share of tests. This past week they bounced back from a 2-0 loss to 3A power Roaring Fork to finish the week with a 3-1 win over Colorado Springs Christian.
Roaring Fork poses a challenge for the Titans with their combination of speed and skill and presented a big test for Crested Butte when they met on Wednesday, August 23.
With the early season focus on defending, Crested Butte assumed a defensive posture for the game and while Roaring Fork did break through to score two goals in the first half, Crested Butte remained stout in its efforts.
“Roaring Fork was by far the strongest opponent we’ve seen this season,” says coach Matt Wilson. “They were patient, composed, and made you pay for your mistakes. It was a great test for our boys.”
While Roaring Fork continued to dominate possession in the second half, Crested Butte’s discipline was the key to limiting Roaring Fork’s chances as the Titans held them scoreless in the second half. That effort did limit the Titans’ offense though as they finished the game with just two chances on net and eventually fell 2-0.
“I thought we played a great game overall,” says Wilson. “Roaring Fork was very dangerous in their attack, but we’ve focused a lot on defense in preseason, so only giving up two goals to a side like Roaring Fork is a win in my book and a step in the right direction.”
Crested Butte returned to Rainbow Field two days later to host 2A opponent Colorado Springs Christian. With injuries circulating through the team, Crested Butte was somewhat limited calling on several players to play full match minutes in what was expected to be another tough opponent.
“We were expecting a physical and fast-paced game, and needed to play as one unit if we were going to be successful,” says Wilson.
Colorado Springs Christian’s plan became evident early in the match as they looked to play the ball long for their lone striker to chase down and create chances. Meanwhile, the Titans remained focused on gaining possession before attacking and getting numbers forward. Their effort paid off 14 minutes into the game as Sawyer Barney played a cross into a packed 18-yard box and Kai Greene picked the ball out of the mess to fire a low shot to the opposite corner for a 1-0 lead.
Ten minutes later, Greene found Eli Hulm slipping through from the flank on the weakside with a pass and Hulm buried his shot in the far corner for a 2-0 lead.
While the Titans seemed to have a firm hold of the game, Colorado Springs Christian’s game plan eventually bore fruit as a long ball from midfield slipped past the Titans’ defense and their striker poked it past goalie Joseph Sudderth to cut the Titans’ lead to one by halftime.
“We didn’t need to make any massive changes, but 2-1 is a very dangerous score,” says Wilson. “So we challenged the boys to come out strong and fire on all cylinders in the second half.”
The Titans heeded the call of the coaches and scored three minutes into the second half when Greene dropped a pass off the endline to Marin Gardner and Gardner blasted his shot past the Colorado Springs keeper for a 3-1 lead.
The Titans had a chance to put the game out of reach as continued pressure resulted in a penalty kick, but the Colorado Springs goalie made the save to keep their chances at a comeback alive.
Those chances were nearly non-existent though as the back line of Will Lain, Archer Bernholtz, Jordan Silva and Rocco Billingsley had adjusted accordingly to stave off any long pass chances and the Titans sealed the 3-1 win.
“That third goal was huge,” says Wilson. “You could tell how bad the boys wanted to win, and scoring so early on in the second half gave us the confidence we needed to put the game away.”
Crested Butte has two games this week including one more non-league match against Salida and their first league game of the season when they host Caprock Academy on Saturday, September 2 at Rainbow Field at 11 a.m.
“We’ve got a few injuries to take care of, and a very tough away game,” says Wilson. “We’ll make some minor corrections and prepare for battle against a very tough Salida team.”