“The team had to dig deep and battle through a lot to beat Salida”
By Than Acuff
With wins over Salida and Caprock Academy last week, the Crested Butte Titans soccer team’s record improved to 5-1 as they head into a little downtime before jumping into a long stretch of league play.
Salida has been a perennially tough non-league opponent for the Titans for years as their disciplined and possession-based style of play provides a great challenge for Crested Butte.
“I have a genuine respect and appreciation for how Salida runs their program,” says coach Matt Wilson. “I expected nothing less than a knockdown, drag out, battle against an incredibly strong opponent.”
And that’s just what the Titans found when they hit the road to face the Salida Spartans on Tuesday, August 29. Despite the Spartans’ efforts to dominate possession, Crested Butte came out on top 3-0.
Heavy midfield pressure by Salida handcuffed the Titans from the opening whistle, but patience and diligence by Crested Butte soon paid off as they struck first in the seventh minute when Sawyer Barney capitalized on a cross into traffic to drive a low shot under the Salida keeper for a 1-0 lead.
Salida had its chances as the first half continued, but shots either missed the mark or were turned away by goalkeeper Joseph Sudderth and Crested Butte carried its slim one-goal lead into halftime.
Crested Butte doubled its lead 10 minutes into the second half when pressure high up the pitch forced a turnover and Marin Gardner took a pass and drove a 30-yard shot to the upper corner of the Spartan net.
Gardner, Shawn Moran and Will Harpel continued to battle with Salida’s pressure and the Titans’ back line remained compact to thwart the Spartan attack. Salida did get two more chances on goal, but the shots missed the mark. Crested Butte eventually closed out the game in the 70th minute when Kai Greene battled with a Salida defender to win the ball and push up the field. As they looked to close on Greene, he dished a pass to the weakside to find Sawyer Barney open and Barney pushed the ball past the Spartan goalie to seal the 3-0 win.
“The team had to dig deep and battle through a lot to beat Salida,” says Wilson. “It was a very physical game overall, but our boys were relentless on the pitch and really leaned on each other to steal that win on the road. I think the boys learned just what they’re capable of accomplishing if they play for each other, and the entire coaching staff learned a whole lot of patience that day.”
Crested Butte returned home to host Caprock Academy for its first league game of the season on Saturday, September 2. Caprock started a soccer program three years ago, and while spending the first three years building it, they’ve turned a corner the past year and came into the game 4-0, including a win over league opponent Ridgway.
Featuring a back five designed to stymie the Titans attack, Crested Butte looked wide to find the needed room past the Caprock defense, but crosses slipped through the 18-yard box unattended or cleared of danger by the Caprock team.
It wasn’t until the 15th minute when the Titans opened the scoring as Greene finished a corner kick from Gardner for a 1-0 lead. Fifteen minutes later Crested Butte struck again as Eli Hulm drove in from the flank with the ball to find Moran open 25 yards out and Moran drilled his shot into the upper corner for a 2-0 lead.
Caprock was not without its threats though. For the first 30 minutes of the game the Titans defense had its two talented strikers locked up, but a miscue led to an opportunity and Caprock seized the opportunity to score with five minutes left in the first half putting the Titans into a slight sense of panic the remainder of the half.
Crested Butte calmed themselves at halftime and focused on still using the wide channels for success, just more patiently.
The Titans built a little breathing room five minutes into the second half when Greene assisted Moran on his second goal of the game, and 12 minutes later Magnus Sandusky dropped a pass to Gardner for Gardner to score from outside the 18-yard box and the Titans finished the game with a 4-1 win.
“We spoke about the need for communication in the middle and the importance of staying connected, focused, and engaged throughout the rest of the game,” says Wilson. “The boys really took that to heart, because we came out firing on all cylinders and put the game away very early on in the second half.”
Crested Butte looks to continue gaining speed as they head back on the road on Friday, September 8 for their second league game of the season when they take on the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale.
“We turned a corner in the second half against Caprock, and found a completely new gear,” says Wilson. “I’m hoping our boys can continue this upward trend in momentum and continue fighting for the team and for each other. If they can do that, then sky’s the limit for sure.”