Scottish pro leads AHS basic training
Soccer’s simplicity sets it apart from other team sports.It’s also the reason soccer is the world’s game – a ball, two goals, players and a patch of grass or dirt is all that’s required – and a game religiously rooted in fundamentals.So as 24 Aspen High School players gathered yesterday afternoon for the second session of their first day of practice – the first day for team sports practice across the state (with the exception of already under way golf) – it came as little surprise to hear how a decorated pro distilled “football’s” essence for the Skiers.”Passing is the most important aspect of the game,” said Richard Gough, a 25-year professional from Scotland. “If you can’t pass, you can’t play.
“The only difference is, the higher you go, the less time you’ll have to pass. So let’s get to work …”Gough, 41, a former Scottish National Team player with 61 international caps and the stalwart defender who helped the Glasgow Rangers to nine consecutive titles in the Scottish Premier League through 1997, led the young Aspen players through a series of ball-handling and quick-touch passing drills to emphasize his point.And the Skiers – last year’s No. 2 team in the Class 3A Western Slope League, behind No. 1 Basalt, at 8-8 overall – seemed to take in Gough’s advice like sponges.”He’s a crazy great player,” AHS sophomore Nicky Anastas said later, “and it’s cool to be able to pick up some of his tricks.”Gough, who played in the 1986 World Cup, Scottish Premier League, English Premiership and, most recently, Major League Soccer of the U.S. with Kansas City and San Jose, took time to offer some demonstrations: like a cannon-blast penalty kick, for instance.
Time and again, his magicianlike footwork left the Aspen players’ jaw’s agape.Until Aspen opens its schedule, with a Sept. 3-4 preseason tournament at Montrose, the Skiers will be practicing twice a day. That’s “track work” in the morning session, according to longtime Aspen coach Junior Sutherland (also a Scot, and friend of Gough’s), and “ball work” in the afternoon.”We’ll be young, with only a couple seniors, but we’re talented,” said Sutherland, who coaches Aspen with John Gillies, an Englishman.Sophomores like Anastas, Stephen Buzbee and Ryder Fyrwald, and freshman Tyler Moore, have been playing together as a team under Sutherland and Gillies since they were 9 and 10 years old. “They do have a bit of good history, which we like,” said Sutherland.”But I think Basalt could win it all this year,” Sutherland added. “Us, maybe next year. But we’re gonna give it a go.”
Later, during a scrimmage, Gough offered this advice to the Aspen squad: “Anytime you have a chance to shoot, make sure you have a target. Even if it’s not the best shot, make the goal keeper work for it.”For players like Anastas, it was just good to be back on the field. Gough was a nice bonus.”We’re pretty young,” the 15-year-old said, “but I still think we have a good chance of it. We’re maturing and we’re gonna have fun with it. Just touching the ball out here in practice is awesome, and having a legendary player like Richard here helping us out, it’s neat what you can pick up on.”Until the season starts, however, the AHS Skiers will be practicing at 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Double sessions.
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Aspen Mountain opened for the season on Wednesday, a day earlier than originally planned. Top-to-bottom snowmaking, a solid recent storm and well-behaved guests made for a great experience despite all of the extra precautions.