Rams put up defensive fight in loss to Skiers
Bo Gallagher made sure not to make the same mistake twice. Two minutes after he bashed a header wide of Roaring Fork’s goal on a corner kick from teammate Nicky Anastas, the Aspen senior defender again found himself in front of the net with a perfect cross from Anastas heading in his direction. Gallagher hit the second header perfectly – the ricochet pushing the ball just inside the near goal post and just outside the grasp of Rams junior goalie Torrey Udall. Surprisingly, the eighth-minute goal was the only Skiers’ shot to go in out of 25 that were directed at Udall in the first half of a 2-0 win. It wasn’t that Aspen’s shots were weak, or off target, it was just that Udall was that good.The 6-foot-6 junior plucked jump balls out of the air as if he was pulling down rebounds on the basketball court, swallowed up long blasts and charged on Aspen’s forwards whenever he saw a chance to cut down an angle.The gutsy performance kept the young Rams within a goal of the Skiers for nearly 70 minutes, and kept the Skiers visibly frustrated in their first home game played under the lights on their new turf field.Aspen coach Junior Sutherland only nodded his head in agreement afterward when asked if the game was frustrating.”It’s stuff that can be simplified by putting the ball low instead of putting it high with a tall keeper,” Sutherland said. “Overall, it was the first game under the lights, the first game on the new field and the kids were nervous. … The most important thing is that we got the win.”Still, it was apparent Aspen would have liked to pump a few more goals into the net in front of the home crowd. Roaring Fork was clearly overmatched in the first half, putting only one shot on goal and rarely pushing the ball past midfield.In the second half, however, with the Skiers up only 1-0, the Rams nearly tied up the game when freshman Anthony Flores knocked a header off a corner kick right at the Aspen goal. Skiers senior goalie Andy Connaroe was right in front of the shot and snatched it out of the air.Five minutes later, in the 67th minute, the Skiers got some insurance when Anastas drilled a low shot past Udall for the second goal.Senior Matt Butler set up the shot when he charged from the right wing and skipped through two defenders before dumping off to Anastas in the middle of the box.Udall, who also plays wide receiver for the Rams football team, said he expected to see a lot of shots from Aspen’s talented front line of players Thursday. He just didn’t expect the Skiers to keep shooting so high.”That’s my favorite type of soccer,” he said. “That’s how I like to play. That’s playing right to my strengths. I mean, all the teams try to play me low, so if they’re going to put it in the air, I’ll take all of it.””He’s pretty good,” Gallagher said of Udall. “With a big goalie like that, he can stretch out pretty far. … It wasn’t frustrating today, I just wish we got some lower shots.”One Skiers player who was visibly frustrated was senior forward Stephen Buzbee, last year’s league co-MVP. Followed by a Rams defender the whole game, and hemmed in every time he touched the ball, Buzbee finished without a score – a contrast to the Skiers’ previous three games where he netted six goals.The Rams played with six defenders back for most of the game, and packed the box anytime anyone drove in on Udall.Udall credited his defense for keeping Buzbee tied up.”They saved me as much as I saved them,” he said. “[Stephen] is all state. He’s just amazing. When we come out and have a performance like that as a team, for me as a player, it’s great to see.”Both teams also didn’t look entirely comfortable on the artificial turf. The surface was fast, but at times the ball didn’t seem to keep up.”It’s one of those surfaces where you’ve got to keep your eye on the ball at all times after you get that first touch,” Sutherland said. “It’s very important that the kids have a good first touch.”The only thing to do is to continue to play on the surface, and learn from mistakes, Sutherland said.”The kids showed their passion,” he said. “Credit to Roaring Fork. They played five, six guys at the back and tried to soak us up, but we brought them down. The second goal was long overdue.”First-year Rams head coach Hal Templeton was upbeat after the loss – his team’s first contest of the season.”Their challenge today was to come together and work hard and they did,” he said.
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.