Steamboat Springs As Steamboat United's name suggests, it is a soccer team proud to work together toward a common goal.
Though its team members are 10 or 11, United's core unit has played together for several years at recess and practice, enjoying high levels of success in tournaments at home and on the Front Range.
This weekend has proven to be no different, as Steamboat's U-11 Boys went undefeated through pool play, outscoring the opposition 15-3, to advance to today's championship round in the 19th annual Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament.
Steamboat United will open championship play at 8 a.m. today at Heritage Park.
Last year, this group of boys won the U-10 title.
It's tough to gauge how young players will respond to an 8 a.m. start, and United started off slow Saturday, surrendering the game's first goal.
But the offense and defense eventually took form, as United went on to defeat Westminster/FC Albion 4-2.
Danny Tebbenkamp, a high school varsity assistant, has taken over coaching Steamboat United.
While the Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association strongly encourages parental participation through coaching and support, the SSYSA wants its number of competitive teams to have the best resources available.
"There are a lot of great athletes on this team," Tebbenkamp said. "Individually, they are sound. I'm teaching them more of the tactics of the game."
Saturday, Albion started the scoring early in the first half, but a successful penalty try from United's Colton Harding evened the score 12 minutes into the half.
Westminster/FC pulled back into the lead six minutes later, but it was short-lived, as Harding held the ball long enough to draw three Albion defenders before dumping it off to an open Tony Rende for a score near the end of the first.
United added two second-half goals from Kaelen Gunderson and Brian Bertrand to extend its lead.
Westminster/FC had a couple of good opportunities to pull within one late in the second half, but Steamboat goalie Connor Birch and the defense in front of him did a solid job protecting the net.
The United offense notched an assist late as well, continuing to apply pressure on its end with repeated shots on goal.
While it is wise to remember that United's players only recently completed elementary school, their potential is obvious.
It doesn't take long to figure out why.
"We really know each other and know each other's communications," Grant Murray said.
For nearly three years, Gunderson said, the team has been together, and they are best of friends, making it that much more fun to get on the field and play soccer.
--To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org