Basalt soccer rolls against rival Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Basalt soccer rolls against rival Aspen

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesThe Longhorns' Arnold Diaz lines a penalty kick past Aspen goalkeeper Erik Wehse during the second half Thursday at Basalt High School.

BASALT – Basalt head soccer coach Brent Hayes admitted he didn’t quite know what to expect in Thursday’s showdown with Aspen – particularly after a vexing week of practice.

“We were sloppy, people were chippy with one another. It was terrible,” he said. “I was quite scared, to tell you the truth.”

Those concerns were put to rest in the early going Thursday, as the Longhorns thoroughly dismantled their upvalley rivals. Willy Salamanca scored twice and assisted on another as Basalt (4-0) raced out to a four-goal lead in the first half. The Longhorns tacked on two more in the second and cruised to a 6-0 victory.

“It feels good to beat Aspen like this. They’re our biggest rival, and we always have close games with them,” a beaming Salamanca said afterward. “Today we came to play and played hard. … I’m proud of my boys.”

Added Hayes: “There was very little to find fault with. Every single person on the field played well. … It was as solid a win as I could ever have hoped for.”

Hayes last week deemed the Aspen contest “a big statement game for us [that] will dictate a lot of how the rest of the season goes.” If Thursday’s effort is any indication, his squad likely has emerged as a conference title contender.

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Basalt controlled possession from the outset against a smaller and more inexperienced Skiers side. Its crisp passing produced a host of prime scoring chances; Salamanca set up the opening goal in the fourth minute with a well-placed through ball that Jerson Orellana flicked up and over onrushing Aspen goalkeeper Erik Wehse.

Soon after, a Skiers defender was whistled for a hand ball in the box; Hector Morales converted the ensuing penalty kick, ripping a low liner into the bottom left corner of the net.

“That was challenging for [us],” Aspen assistant Ryan Bennett said of the Longhorns’ rapid start. “We certainly didn’t recover from it. … Basalt had a little more experience and a little more composure on the field today.”

“We haven’t had those quick early goals, so it was nice to get them today,” Hayes added. “From there, things just opened up.”

In what appeared to be a fit of frustration, Wehse grabbed Bertilio Garcia as the two were chasing down a loose ball near the goal line in 37th minute. The keeper was whistled for an unsporting penalty, and Salamanca finished off the PK to stretch the lead to three.

The diminutive midfielder was not done. With little more than a minute remaining before the break, a strong-footed Garcia drilled a through ball near midfield that bounded up the left side of the pitch; Salamanca tracked it down in the corner and skillfully knifed his way through two defenders before slipping a shot past Wehse.

The Longhorns struck twice more in the first 11 minutes of the second half to put this one out of reach. Arnold Diaz clipped the net on a PK following another Aspen unsporting penalty in the 43rd minute, then Hector Morales turned and fired a sharp-bending line drive from about 20 yards out.

“It’s gratifying to come out and get a solid win like this,” Hayes said. “Like I told the boys, people are going to be ready for us now even more so. We have to have even more focus.”

The Skiers (2-3) host Rifle at 11 a.m. Saturday. Basalt will take on the Bears at home at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com