Steamboat Springs U18 soccer player Alan Flores kicks the ball Saturday at Emerald Field. Flores, who plays for Moffat County, was playing with Steamboat in the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament.

Photo by Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs U18 soccer player Alan Flores kicks the ball Saturday at Emerald Field. Flores, who plays for Moffat County, was playing with Steamboat in the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament.

Graduated soccer athletes play final games with Steamboat

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Steamboat Springs U18 soccer player Graham Noel sends a ball on goal Saturday at Emerald Field.

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Steamboat Springs U18 soccer player Enrique Lopez wins a ball Saturday at Emerald Field. Lopez, a 2012 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, was playing with Steamboat one final time.

— Enrique Lopez hasn’t had enough time to sit down and think about it.

But the 2012 Steamboat Springs High School graduate knew the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament might be one of his last chances to play with his Steamboat soccer teammates again.

Lopez, a dynamo and stalwart in Steamboat soccer the past four years, slowly walked off the field Saturday before thinking about what this tournament with his teammates meant.

“In a way, it’s sad to leave,” said Lopez, who will spend a year in Steamboat helping coach high school and U12 soccer before heading to Denver next year to hopefully hook up with a college team. “This has been my life for the past six years with this team. But sometimes, you have to say goodbye.”

Before anyone could say goodbye, the Steamboat U18 team got in one final Mountain Soccer Tournament.

The team that features a couple of departed seniors as well as a good group of sophomores and juniors has had a banner year.

In the fall, the high school team won its first playoff game in eight years. The summer team also won the 2012 Men’s U17/18 Gold Division of the Real Colorado Cup in May.

On Saturday, it was apparent why.

Although the team suffered a 2-1 loss to a team from Golden, it controlled play throughout.

“I think we’re getting a little unlucky on the scoring goals part,” said Graham Noel, a senior-to-be who hit the crossbar and post in the loss.

The team switched its formation up, moving three players forward.

The move was a nod to the athleticism and offensive mindset, but it also was because the group has been together for a while.

The aggressive formation allowed for just about any player from the midfield up to attack.

“It is a little bit of a byproduct of playing high school,” coach Hobey Early said. “We have that group of juniors that will be seniors that have played together for a long time. It’s also a byproduct of soccer in this country. More of the idea of taking the game to the other team. We want to be more proactive. We want to challenge the other team.”

Although the team is running out of time to play together, it’ll have a few more chances this summer.

Judging by the excitement the team produced Saturday, the byproduct this fall could be another successful run.

“It’s a great time to be able to play with them,” Lopez said. “I enjoy playing with them because we’re such an offensive team. We just attack.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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