Coal Ridge’s boys soccer team was very frustrated at halftime Saturday morning.
The Titans dominated play throughout the first half against the visiting Telluride Miners, yet Coal Ridge found itself trailing 1-0 on one shot before knotting the game up heading into the half.
Possession was grossly lopsided in favor of Coal Ridge, yet the Titans couldn’t finish chances in the final third, which had been a problem early in the season coming into Saturday’s matchup.
Senior team captain and striker Ivan Gallardo, who led the Titans in goals last season with 17, was visibly frustrated at the break. Fortunately for Coal Ridge, the senior captain turned that frustration into jubilation in the second half, scoring 4 second-half goals in an offensive eruption, carrying the Titans to a 6-1 win over the Miners on the final day of Coal Ridge’s home soccer tournament.
“I started checking more, and we started playing more possession instead of playing the ball over the top,” Gallardo said.
That possession kicked in right away as Gallardo finished off a great combination play from sophomore Eduardo Salazar, freshman Ezra Williams, and sophomore Tony Ayala, allowing Gallardo to slip behind Telluride’s defense for an off-balanced shot into the upper right corner of the net, stunning the Miners and setting into motion an offensive onslaught for Coal Ridge.
Thanks to a fired up halftime speech from head coach Michael Mikalakis, and timely leadership from Gallardo, the Titans turned on the jets and put away the Miners for good.
Shortly after taking a 2-1 lead, Gallardo made it 3-1 41 seconds later, tracking down a throughball behind the Miners’ back line, firing the shot past Telluride’s diving keeper, turning a close game in scoreboard only into a rout.
Just over two minutes later, Gallardo struck again as the Miners turned ball over in the final third. Coal Ridge senior JP Gallardo settled the ball, flicked a pass into the air and let Gallardo run under it, getting his left foot onto the ball in the air right before Telluride’s goalkeeper could get his hands on it, pushing the lead to 4-1 with more than 34 minutes left to go in the game.
“I said at the half that it was unbelievable we were dominating the way we were and just not finishing,” Mikalakis said following the 6-1 win. “We were dominating the back third, the middle third, and the front third, and nothing was happening on the scoreboard for us. Obviously that changed in the second half.”
Gallardo made it 5-1 with just under 30 minutes to go in the game, tracking down another throughball to slip his fourth goal of the half – and of the game – past the helpless Telluride goalkeeper, putting Saturday’s tilt out of reach for the Miners.
What was once a grimace across the senior’s face in the first half was a smile as wide as the valley as the senior helped flip the script, pushing his teammates to victory.
“Ivan’s a very passionate player and person,” Mikalakis said. “Once we can channel that passion the right way, he’s a wonderful player. That’s a key for him. Once he sees one go in, it’s a very positive change for not only himself, but the team as well.”
After Gallardo’s fourth goal found the back of the net, the final nail drove into the coffin of Telluride’s chances on the day as the Titans kept up the pressure and dominated the ball, suffocating Telluride’s offensive attack, forcing the ball back the other way for scoring chance after scoring chance.
Midway through the second half, junior Jack Price put the exclamation point on the win, firing home a penalty kick drawn by freshman James Webber, sending the Miners home dejected. Webber scored the Titans’ lone tally in the first half, tracking down a throughball from Ayala, slipping his shot inside the near post down the right wing with 8:52 left in the first half, getting the Titans back to even at 1-1.
The win pushes Coal Ridge to 2-2 on the season. Coal Ridge travels to Salida Thursday to take on a top 10 team in 3A, before then returning home Saturday for a tough showdown with 5A Mullen.