Summit shows grit against top-ranked Steamboat |

Summit shows grit against top-ranked Steamboat

Summit vs. Steamboat Springs

Score 1st 2nd Final

Summit 0 0 0

Steamboat 1 0 1

FRISCO — The Tigers soccer team (1-9) went cleat to cleat with a top-ranked Steamboat Springs crew (9-1) on Tuesday, losing 0-1 to the overall league leaders in a tough, physical match on a damp and chilly night at Summit High.

The lone goal came with 19:40 left in the first half, when Summit was caught off-guard by a meteoric throw-in from Steamboat midfielder Jack Salyer. He’s the sort who can place a ball exactly where he wants in the goal box, even from 25 yards away on the sideline, and the Sailors have obviously practiced capitalizing on it. Summit defenders Ty Michalowski and Andrew Karoly were left alone with Steamboat’s blazing fast forwards — Charlie Beurskens, Cruz Archuleta and Alex Coffey — who took just three quick touches after reeling in the toss, buying time for Beurskens to bump it past goalkeeper Kyle Wertz.

The Tigers had already seen this three-person attack in the 1-2 away loss on Sept. 15, but it’s a tough tactic to defend. It’s how Steamboat has dominated the 4A Western Slope: Crowd the box when the other team isn’t looking and patiently pick apart the defense.

“Our league is really good this year,” Gogolen said. “The level is really high, and that’s been pushing our guys to match that level. It’s good when they see that. It makes us better.”

Before the brief defensive collapse (and for the remainder of the game), Summit played up to Steamboat’s level, making the state-bound Sailors work for every sideline run and crowded goal box.

“This was the Summit of old, just hard-nosed soccer,” head coach Tommy Gogolen said after the game. “The boys now know what it feels like to play at that level, as far as the effort it takes.”

And man, was this match physical. It was probably the grittiest the Tigers have played all season. There was plenty of jockeying for position on the fringes of both goal boxes, the sort of mostly clean contact you to see in bruiser MLS matches — and the sort that tends to win 50-50 balls, the bane of the Tigers’ existence this season.

It also leads to penalties. The offensive-defensive struggle resulted in one heart-stopping free kick for each team, both taken from just outside the goal box, along with a no-call late in the first half after Summit senior Caden McCann took a seemingly blatant body shot from Steamboat goalie Andrew McCawley. That one came in the box. McCowley’s teammate, forward Coffey, drew a yellow card less than five minutes into the second half for nailing Summit’s Wertz, evening out the karmic imbalance. Or something.

But anyway, the 0-1 score only tells half the story. This game was tough and tight for the full 80, and, despite a bit of sloppy passing at midfield, both teams had pulse-pounding near misses when they finally managed to find opportunities in enemy territory. Summit and Steamboat were nearly tied for shots on goal, with 15 total for the Tigers and 21 total for the Sailors. Both teams had nine each in the second half, and both goalies were brick walls.

For the first time this season, the Tigers managed to match and nearly outlast their opponent. In the second half, the passing was crisper, the touches were cleaner and the team as a whole seemed hungrier than Steamboat, which was in the thick of a seven-game win streak.

McCann and frontline counterpart Gerson Martinez had two beautiful streaks down the sideline, picking through the Sailors defense both times with confident touches and smart, heads-up passing. One ended when McCann barely slipped the ball past the far post; the other ended when Steamboat’s McCowley had a clutch block from the ground.

For all the close calls in the final 20 minutes, the Tigers were still plagued by poor first touches in the midfield and a spotty transition offense.

Gogolen’s been preaching those two points all year, and, with five games remaining in the regular season, they could mean the difference between winning a few more and recording just a single win.

“The boys were up for the game tonight,” Gogolen said. “We’ve been talking about effort, just bringing everything we have to the field. I’d love to see us take this forward to the rest of the season.”

The next varsity game is Summit at Palisade (1-10) on Saturday at 11 a.m. The Tigers beat the bottom-ranked Bulldogs on Sept. 19 for the only win of the season.

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