Boys soccer: Basalt wins thriller at Aspen

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Basalt's Javier de la Cruz (8) goes on the attack in the Aspen zone Saturday during the Western Slope League match at Aspen School District Stadium. De la Cruz was responsible for both Basalt goals in a 2-1 win over the Skiers.
Jeremy Wallace / The Aspen Times |

In a match that featured more attacks and counterattacks than a Republican presidential debate, the Basalt Longhorns had the last word.

The Basalt High School boys soccer team scored two goals in a 21/2-minute span late in the game and then held off rival Aspen for a 2-1 victory Saturday at sun-soaked Aspen School District Field.

With the teams trading attacks with extending passing possessions, the match appeared headed for a scoreless tie until the 69th minute of the 80-minute match.

The Longhorns drew an Aspen foul near the Aspen end line at the corner.

Basalt’s Javier de la Cruz lined up the virtual corner kick and curled a hard shot right to the front of the Aspen goal where it was deflected by a Skier defender into the back of the net.

Less than 3 minutes later, de la Cruz scored Basalt’s second goal off a short-corner kick at the opposite corner.

He turned and blasted the shot for a goal and a 2-0 Basalt lead with 8 minutes to play.

In yet another quick counterattack, the Skiers regrouped with a crowd-pleasing goal from Ilex Cherry from the right side as Aspen pulled within 2-1 with 7 minutes to play in injury time.

Another pair of Basalt attacks finished the extra time.

“It was a great win. We’re (unbeaten) in league. We’ve got to keep it going,” said de la Cruz, a Basalt captain.

He said that on the free kick from near the corner, he tried to knock the ball hard into the middle of the box.

“I took a rip, and luckily it got in,” de la Cruz said. “The second one, we went with our … short-short corner. I gave it to (Pedro Rivera), and he gives it right back for another ripper.”

De la Cruz, the son of Javier de la Cruz and Josephina Avila, said the Longhorns played as a team.

“It think key was possession, of course,” de la Cruz said. “But our defense really came through today.”

Basalt head coach Brent Hayes said the Longhorns made adjustments in the second half to enhance their possession.

“They took it to us in the first half,” Hayes said. “I think we were pretty fortunate to come out of the first half without them scoring. We tightened up a few things in the second half and controlled the ball a lot more. We created a lot of chances.”

He said the Longhorns, who have gone six games without a loss (including a 1-1 tie with Coal Ridge), played well under pressure.

“I was proud of them. They’ve proven their mettle in close games with good teams,” Hayes said after Basalt won the season rematch with Aspen. The Skiers beat Basalt 2-1 in a nonleague match to open the season.

He said the Longhorns did a good job executing from the corner in Saturday’s win.

“In these tough games against quality teams, it usually comes down to set pieces,” Hayes said.

Aspen coach Dave Francis, for his part, was ecstatic with his team’s level of play and effort Saturday.

“I thought we played really well for a large part of the game. I thought we controlled a lot of the first half,” Francis said. “I loved the way that we played. It’s just a shame we’re not getting the results.”

He said the Longhorns have become stronger as the season has progressed.

“Yes, it was a really good game. We’ve got a very, very good team. We’re just not getting the results these guys deserve,” Francis said. “But that’s soccer.”

The Skiers (2-5-1 overall, 0-2-0 in the Western Slope League) will play at Vail Mountain School on Tuesday before hosting Roaring Fork in a homecoming match Thursday.

Basalt (5-5-1, 3-0-1 in league) will host Roaring Fork on Tuesday before a trip to Moffat County on Thursday.