Battle Mountain blanks Pueblo West, 2-0
PARKER — Let’s go nuts. Let’s go nuts. Let’s go nuts, Battle Mountain.
Huskies soccer is going to Colorado’s grandest stage — Dick’s Sporting Goods Park — for the 4A title game on Saturday against The Classical Academy after beating Pueblo West, 2-0, on Wednesday night at EchoPark Automotive Stadium in Parker.
Juan Macias from Erik Solis in the 50th minute helped send Battle Mountain to its second title game in five years. Mr. Macias to Tony Velasco iced it.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Velasco said. “I’ve never been close to a playoff final, so it’s a dream come true.”
“It’s pretty awesome,” the Huskies’ David Barajas said. “We’ve worked hard all season to go to the final. We’re going to try our best to get the state title.”
“Back to the promised land,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “We’re thrilled. It’s awesome.”
Biding their time
The Huskies (17-2), apparently not phased by the big stage, controlled the first half, knocking the ball all over the 75-yard wide pitch. The only thing missing was a goal. A large and vocal fan base, powered by two busloads of partisans in addition to a fleet of travelers who made the trek down Interstates 70 and 470, could have been worried about zeroes at the half. But this team has found a way during what is now a 13-game wining streak.
The goal was vintage Battle Mountain. Solis, who had the game-winner during Round 2 at Silver Creek, made a brilliant run up the left side and cut it back to the top of the box. Macias was there, and the junior has been absolutely clutch of late — a hat trick against Steamboat Springs on the final day of the regular season, and four more in the playoffs — and slotted it home.
Solis, who was injured for most of the year, has one goal and one assist all season. As noted above, those have been important moments. So enter Tony Velasco, whose season scoring line this year is all of one goal and two helpers. Of course, his job as a defender is to stop goals instead of scoring them. But he roared down the left side and spotted his shot to the far corner to close it out essentially with 10 minutes left in regulation.
“I just saw an opportunity because no one was marking me,” Velasco said.
“That was an awesome overlap from our left back to score the second goal,” Cope said. “I think that shows what we are, a well-rounded soccer team with a lot of weapons. We look like and we play like what America needs to look like, and I love it.”
And the reaction when the shot went in?
“We won. We’re going to the finals,” Velasco said.
Holding down the fort
Meanwhile on the other side of the field, the Huskies were prepared for 1-2 punch of the Cyclones. Pueblo West’s Michael Peters entered the game with 30 goals and his teammate Dylan Stanley had 24 assists.
They were the source of major attention.
“We don’t give to much away to TCA, but the idea was to keep the ball more, and they would have less chances statistically,” Cope said, artfully dodging articulating the strategy. “Then also if we could hold off the passes into those guys, rather than deal with them with the ball, that was the idea.”
Let’s just put it this way — hats off to the defense of Taylor Staughton, Velasco, Miles Joersz, Brandon Rodriguez with Barajas as the holding midfielder. They did the trick. Do not forget goalie Alan Villegas, who was spectacular late. Also do not forget Michael Staughton, Taylor’s father, who celebrated his birthday on Wednesday.
Kickoff for the final against TCA on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is at 1 p.m.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.