Pepi’s goes out in quarterfinals
VAIL ” The Pepi’s men’s soccer team got the result it needed Sunday morning on Day 3 of the Vail Invitational Soccer Tournament: Denver Kickers 2, Three Lions 0.
That put the locals into the quarterfinals, but they were unable to make a run in the knockout round, falling to the Denver Soccer Club, 4-1, at the Vail Mountain School in the Elite Eight.
While Pepi’s fell in the quarters for the second straight year, the Denver Soccer Club finally got over its Elite Eight hump.
“We’re pretty excited. We’ve made it to the quarters the last two years and got knocked out, so now we’re going onto the semis for the first time,” Denver’s Olaf Wouters said. “The last couple of years, we’ve only had 11 or 14 guys, and now we have 20 which helps out a lot.”
The Denver Soccer Club ended up going all the way to finals before falling to the Denver Kickers, 2-1. The teeth grinding you just heard came from Pepi’s who led those same Kickers, 2-1, before settling for a 2-2 tie in the final minute of their Pool A game Saturday.
Though Pepi’s led the Denver Soccer Club early on a goal from Jeff Hayslip, the momentum turned on a collision midway through the first half. Denver Soccer Club’s Vic Adetoye, who had already tied the game, broke into the offensive zone and Pepi’s keeper Kyle Mercer came out to meet him at the top of the box.
Mercer slid toward the ball, and in the process, got his cleats up on Adetoye, sending the latter to the ground.
Inadvertent or not, Mercer was red-carded and Pepi’s was without its defensive bedrock and had to play with 10 men for the rest of the game. Alex Grecu converted on the penalty kick and the Denver Soccer Club was on its way.
After a choppy first half, Pepi’s, to its credit, played well short-handed.
“I don’t think we really dealt with it well at first until we got to halftime,” Hayslip said. “We dominated with 10 men for most of the (second) half. We had to come together and we had a deep bench which really helps. Anyone who came off the bench could come in and play a good five or 10 minutes hard and then have another quality sub come back on.”
The Denver Soccer Club’s strategy did not alter after the red card.
“We don’t do anything different,” Wouters said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 or nine, if we’re down a goal, up a goal. We pretty much play the same way all the time, knock it around and send a couple of guys long.”
Those two guys would be Adetoye and Grecu who each had two goals.
As for Mercer, it was an unfortunate ending to a good tournament for the goalie.
“Kyle is definitely the vocal leader of this team,” Hayslip said. “He makes this team more than just a bunch of guys coming together. He gets us passionate about it and gets the emotion out of everybody. He brings people up and gets more out of them.”
Pepi’s got of to a nice start, courtesy of Hayslip. He rifled a shot into the back of the net for an early 1-0 lead.
“It doesn’t happen to me too often, so when it happens, I’m pretty excited,” Hayslip said. “I hit it clean. I stroked it clean and it went in the net. It was a good start. Unfortunately, things went downhill from there.”
What resulted was an interesting celebration. Hayslip did a half-Phil-Mickelson-Masters leap combined with a pseudo-Ickey Shuffle.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” Hayslip said with a laugh. “It’s just pure emotion.”
Falling behind did not deter the Denver Soccer Club.
“We’ve played together for about four or five years now, so being down 1-0 isn’t that big of a deal,” Wouters said. “These guys keep their cool and we just knock the ball around and we have some speed in front, which always helps.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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