Soccer: Basalt runs wild against Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Soccer: Basalt runs wild against Aspen

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesThe Longhorns' Willy Salamanca slips a shot past Aspen goalkeeper Maret Schwab on Thursday in Basalt.

BASALT – The Basalt soccer team needed this.

While the Longhorns have consistently performed well, the prevailing sentiment is that their offense has yet to gain much traction – as evidenced by three 2-1 losses in their first five matches. They reversed the trend Tuesday with a dominant 13-goal effort against Grand Valley but were eager to prove themselves against a top-flight Region 3 opponent.

Basalt (4-3) got its chance Thursday at home against rival Aspen. The Longhorns passed the test – and then some – scoring twice in each half, controlling possession throughout and rolling to a 4-1 home victory.

“(Tuesday) does help our confidence, but it wasn’t the game we wanted because it wasn’t challenging,” Willy Salamanca said. “We needed this win a lot.”

That sense of urgency was on full display Thursday. In the first 10-plus minutes of the opening half alone, three Basalt runs resulted in powerful blasts that sailed mere feet wide.

Salamanca narrowly missed a header off a corner kick in the 23rd minute. He made amends soon after, though, knocking a well-placed cross from a teammate into the net before colliding with Skiers goalkeeper Maret Schwab and injuring his knee. Salamanca limped toward midfield but stayed in the game.

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The Longhorns tacked on one more goal about two minutes before the break. Senior speedster Sean Ryan blew past the Aspen defense on an outside run and then hit teammate Elmer Rodriguez in stride for an easy tap-in.

“They’re a good team, but at the end of the day we gave them too much respect, sat too far off them and let them play,” Skiers head coach Junior Sutherland said. “They pressed us, put us under pressure and deserved the victory today. No question.”

That pressure continued during the second half. With a defender on his back in the 47th minute, Salamanca controlled a pass and was knocked to the turf as he attempted to drive toward the net. Ivan Loya left no doubt on the ensuing penalty shot, ripping a liner into the bottom corner.

Salamanca provided some insurance about five minutes later, flicking the ball up and over Schwab from about 20 yards out to all but put this contest out of reach.

“Those were really great passes from my team. We did some great plays,” Salamanca said. “It feels good to score four today.”

Aspen could muster just one – a 62nd-minute header from Ramiro Perez set up by a perfect corner kick. The Skiers, now

2-3-2, have scored four goals in their past five games and have not won since Sept. 6.

“We were 4-0 down before we started playing,” Sutherland said. “These kids were intimidated, afraid. I don’t know what it was, maybe two double-overtime games in a row or three games in six days.

“Our bench is all defenders. There’s not really anyone to bring in to give the forwards or midfielders a rest right now. We’ll have an additional three players next game, so we’ll have 16 or 17 when it really counts.”

Thursday’s match, the first these two sides will play this season, did not count toward the Region 3 standings. League play begins in earnest next week.

“They kept their wits about them for the most part and put in a good, full game. It was nice to get a couple on the scoreboard,” Basalt head coach Brent Hayes said. “We’ve got games Tuesday against Vail Mountain (School), … then Roaring Fork here (next Thursday to open conference play). Then we have Coal Ridge the following Tuesday. It goes from games that count, but not really, to make or break. It’s tough. Because of the new format this year, only three (playoff) qualifiers will come out of this league. That puts pressure on us for sure.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com