Soccer exposure

Steamboat's youth teams work for wins in talented tournament

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— With the Emerald Park fields buzzing in a flurry of constant soccer activity, Chris Troeger watched day two of the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament with a little nostalgia.

"This is my last game in a Steamboat Springs uniform," Troeger said after a tough, 3-0, loss to the Westminster Samba as part of the Steamboat Futbol Club U-18 Boys tournament team.

Heading to the University of Colorado at Boulder next fall, Troeger remembers the days when he and teammates played together on the Steamboat Blizzard.

"We started on a U-8 team and played together until high school...we won a couple of times," Troeger joked. "We always played in this tournament and had a blast."

Across town at the Steamboat Springs Middle School fields, the tight-knit Steamboat U-11 team was doing exactly that -- having a blast in their game against a Thornton team. Despite being eliminated from championship contention after losing their

first two games, the Steamboat players were having fun, calling their game a "respect game," and drawing a direct parallel to Germany and Portugal's third-place World Cup match. The U-11 game ended in a 1-1 tie with Tucker Olson scoring for Steamboat.

"So far our coach says we can do good, we just let down in the last few minutes," said Jesse Draper, 11. "We're just off our game."

Steamboat U-16 Girls coach Jim Dudley said he used the opportunity of the only summer tournament his team plays in to help his girls adjust to the faster speed of high school play. Speed was the difference for many of the skilled Front Range club teams that traveled to the tournament, including the fast Wheat Ridge Avalanche team that beat Dudley's U-16 squad 4-0.

Steamboat FC U-13 Boys coach Joey Rind pointed out that the Steamboat teams are at slight disadvantage due to weather constraints.

"The Front Range teams can start playing in February," Rind said. "Our first tournament is the third weekend in May."

Rind also praised the format of the tournament, designed to follow the Steamboat Soccer Academy camp directed by Rob Bohlmann, Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association director of coaching and player development.

"I love it. (Bohlmann) brings in some really talented coaches," Rind said, referring to specialty Academy coaches like Trinidad and Tobago native Diom LaFoucade. "It's so great for my kids."

Bohlmann, splitting time between coaching the Steamboat FC U-11 Girls and the Steamboat FC U-18 Boys, said he believes the tournament effectively exposes Steamboat players to a lot of quality competition.

"It's a lot of soccer, but that's what it's all about -- getting a lot of touches," Bohlmann said.

As tournament play wraps up today with each division's (with the exception of the U-10 boys, already won by the Arvada Edge Heeba Jeeba Rapids) finals match, two Steamboat teams qualified for championship play. The Steamboat FC U-12 Boys play at noon at Christian Heritage School field #2 and Steamboat U-18 Girls play at noon at Emerald Park, Dudley Field.

-- To reach Dave Shively, call 846-1129

or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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