Juan Macias lifts Battle Mountain Huskies over Steamboat Springs Sailors
EDWARDS — Big games call for big players.
And Battle Mountain’s Juan Macias filled the spotlight with two goals, barely out-starring Sailors keeper Cruz Erickson on Tuesday, Sept. 19, during a 2-0 Huskies’ win over Steamboat Springs in Edwards.
The Huskies senior scored in the 35th and the 66th minute in Round 1 between the two 4A Slope rivals to give Battle Mountain the early leg up in the league race.
“It was great to see Juan step up,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “On this team, he’s being asked to do a different role than last year, and he’s taken a lot of responsibility in midfield. So he’s not necessarily going to be in on the goals. But, when you need a goal, no better player to turn to.”
Macias and company could have had a few more, were it not for Erickson.
“He had a great presence,” Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann said. “He came up with a couple of big saves, including P.K.”
That penalty kick came in the 33rd minute. While Bohlmann did not comment on the penalty, it appeared Battle Mountain’s Jorge Membreno went down in the box as he tripped over the soccer ball with no contact from the Sailors.
In last year’s meeting in Edwards, the Huskies got on the board on a questionable penalty, and seized that momentum on their way to a 4-0 win, so Sailors fans could have been excused for having flashbacks to that unhappy episode.
Membreno got to take the kick, but Cruz made a sprawling save to his left to keep Steamboat’s sheet clean for the interim.
“The soccer gods take care of that. We didn’t know if it was a penalty or not,” Cope said of the call.
The soccer gods answered the Huskies two minutes later with Mauricio Castillo feathering a beautiful pass to Macias, who had an impeccable finish.
Cruz continued to hold off the Huskies, including a positively brilliant save on smash by Membreno in the second half. The rebound went straight to Macias, and Cruz had no chance as the Battle Mountain senior iced the game.
“It’s a great view because you see how hard he works and hard work pays off,” Huskies keeper Alan Villegas said of his vantage point of Macias. “He really holds the midfield together. It’s pretty fun to see him play.”
The stakes were high, as is usual, with the Huskies and Sailors entering with perfect league marks. Battle Mountain’s theme of the night was “poise and patience.” Cope emphasized correctly to his side that goals wouldn’t come easily on Tuesday.
“We think Steamboat’s a quality team,” Cope said. “They were undefeated coming in. They had a draw against a good Mullen team. They were above us in the (rating-percentage index), not that I was checking. It was a big game.”
If you believe that about the RPI, then Cope will sell you a bridge somewhere.
Meanwhile, Steamboat’s emotions got the better of them on Tuesday night as one of their players was sent off with a red card late in the match.
“We’ve been challenged,” Bohlmann said. “We’ve had a lot of emotionally charged games early in the season. It’s a learning process. In the end, that was one of our biggest disappointments. You have to play with emotion, but, at the same time, keep control of your emotion.”
With the win, the Huskies moved to 5-0 in the Slope and 6-2 overall. Battle Mountain is atop the table with 15 points ahead of both Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs (3-1), each with nine. More importantly, the Huskies lead the Sailors, the Demons and Summit County in the loss column by one game.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Villegas, who was credited with the shutout. “It’s good to know that we’re at the top of the league now because of the win. It’s always a tough game against them.”
It’s still early in the season and both teams are back in action on Thursday, Sept. 21. Battle Mountain is at Glenwood Springs, while the Sailors host Summit. Huskies-Sailors, Round 2, is the final regular-season game for both teams on Thursday, Oct. 19, up at Gardner Field.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.