Steamboat Springs With so many soccer teams battling for a Western Slope League title, Saturday's Eagle Valley-Steamboat Springs game was set up to tender a little clarity.
Because the two teams are so closely matched, it wasn't a surprise that the best player in the league decided the outcome. Eagle Valley senior forward Cesar Castillo provided all the offense the Devils needed, netting two picturesque goals in a 2-1 win.
He's "probably the best finisher in the state," Eagle Valley coach Jason Rittmiller said of Castillo. "He's one of the best players out there. He gets the job done. Obviously, he gets things done on his own, but he works well within the team - sets them up and they set him up."
Castillo - who now has 28 goals on the season - put Eagle Valley up in the 40th minute of the first half.
After Steamboat struggled to clear the ball away from its goal, Castillo found a little room at the top of the box. The senior froze Steamboat goalkeeper Connor Birch before pounding one into the back of the net.
"You give a player like Cesar that type of opportunity (and) he's going to punish you," Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. "Really for us it's just tidying things up in what we do to win games like this."
The Sailors certainly had their opportunities.
In the fifth minute, Steamboat junior Grant Murray recovered a ball in the box after a corner kick and hit the crossbar. Minutes later Lars Johnson sent a shot on Eagle Valley keeper Trevor Grayson that deflected just wide. Then, in the 38th minute, Daniel Wright had Grayson all alone and couldn't finish the play.
"We had good opportunities, it's just that little bit to put it in the back of the net," Bohlmann said. "The greatest challenge of this game is putting the ball in the back of the net. That's where we continue to work and especially in competitive games like this where the margin of error is pretty slim."
Castillo put the Devils (8-1, 5-1) up 2-0 in the 43rd minute when he rifled a shot from outside the box to just inside the left post.
Steamboat (8-2 overall, 5-2 in league play) had chances in the 47th and 60th minutes, the first coming when Josh Fix was all alone with Grayson, but couldn't finish. The second came on a free kick just outside the box that deflected off several Eagle Valley defenders.
Finally, in the 76th minute, Johnson took the ball from midfield up the left side before putting one inside the left post to cut the lead to 2-1.
But that was the last legitimate shot Steamboat would get.
While the game provided a little more clarity in the league, Steamboat has a chance to climb back up into the top tier again.
Steamboat has two games with Battle Mountain - the first is Tuesday on the road - and games against Eagle Valley and Glenwood Springs still on the schedule.
"In general, we're very happy with how we're playing," Bohlmann said. "We just have to work on polishing the areas that are going to win games like this for us."
- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org