Eagle Eagle Valley played near-flawless soccer to knock off Steamboat Springs on Thursday night, 4-1, under the lights at Hot Stuff Stadium to move to 4-3-1 in the Western Slope League.
"It's a big monkey off our back," said Eagle Valley coach Chad Sloniker. "Before the game, I told the guys, we haven't won any big games since I've been here - that's three years. That's how we play soccer. I hope we can bottle that one up."
After a scoreless first half in which both teams had a few scoring chances, Eagle Valley scored early in the second half, then continued its solid defensive play and added goals in the 60th and 70th minutes to put the game out of reach.
"Anyone who saw us play knows we'll be a hard team to beat," said Eagle Valley's Kyle Simonett, who led the stalwart Devils backline. "If we can bring this to every game, it's going to be one heck of a season."
While Eagle Valley's four goals seemed to shock Steamboat, it was the Devils defense that upset the Sailors. Steamboat players were issued yellow cards in the second half for foul language.
"We had the frustration of hitting the post and not hitting the back of the net," said Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann. "Eagle Valley struck well and we didn't respond well. Our frustration is a lack of discipline, but that's the game of soccer ... We'll recover."
Simonett and Eagle Valley keeper Trevor Grayson played solid in the first half and put the Devils in a great position for the final 40 minutes.
"The grass was wet, so the first thing we do is shut them down in the air. Kyle won every ball that game - that made the difference," Sloniker said.
Grayson seemed to know where every Steamboat shot was going, and was in great position to make nine saves in the first half and six in the second, losing his shutout in the final minutes on a Max Hamil header off a corner.
Adrian Aguilar was a force on the left defensive flank, while Sage Smith and James McGoodwin controlled the speedy Steamboat attackers well in the middle of the field.
Eagle Valley's Cesar Castillo opened up the scoring for the Devils in the 44th minute with a perfect strike from about 20 yards outside the box that arced over Steamboat's keeper, hit the crossbar and bounced in.
For the next 10 minutes, Steamboat pressured hard, and the Devils had trouble maintaining possession. After a great save by Grayson and a Steamboat offsides, Eagle Valley collected itself and substitute Omar Vasquez came up huge for the Devils.
A Vasquez rush down the left wing gave the Devils a throw in deep in Steamboat's end. Mike Smith launched a throw in front of the Steamboat net, and Vasquez tipped the ball in with the side of his foot to double his team's lead.
Ten minutes later, Smith dropped the ball off to Vasquez on an Eagle Valley, who faked around a Steamboat defender and then fed a wide-open Smith for a chip-in goal.
In the 75th minute, Castillo laced a throw in between two Steamboat defenders that led Smith alone toward the goal. Smith banged the ball past the Steamboat keeper for an easy score.
The loss drops Steamboat to 4-3-1 in the league.
"We have to be resilient and snap back."