Jerry McBride/Durango Herald
Like an old rechargeable battery, the Durango High School boys soccer team needs to find a charger.
A lethargic DHS squad lost 4-1 to Fruita Monument on Saturday morning at Riverview Sports Complex, the fourth consecutive game in which the Demons struggled to find a rhythm or make plays.
“Energy,” DHS head coach Kenny Wood said. “That’s it.”
The Demons only had five shots Saturday, two of them on goal.
They scored their lone goal on a beautiful Ian Bowers free kick from just outside the top of the box in the 21st minute of the second half. It soared over a wall of Wildcats, over a scramble of blue and red jerseys and over Fruita Monument keeper Christian Labato.
But by that point, it no longer mattered.
Both teams maintained a high energy level for the first 20 minutes, playing a style of soccer that had the ball flying from one end of the pitch to the other as the teams traded runs.
But instead of playing its standard offside trap defense, Fruita Monument head coach Dan McKee said he decided to have his defense soften up and sit back in the box.
Against the stuffed-in, swarming Wildcats’ D, the Demons kept trying to push straight ahead without much success.
“The defense – I can’t say enough about them,” McKee said.
Wood said his team needed to work around the defenders – something they’re skilled enough to do – instead of going “over the top, over the top; through, through.”
Except for “flares” of “players working for each other” making passes and finding feet, the opportunities were there, but the Demons just didn’t make their passes or put enough hustle into reaching balls to space.
“The work ethic wasn’t there,” Demons’ defender Seumus McAliney said.
It was for the Wildcats, though.
“At the end of the day, if you can’t play a full 80 minutes, teams like this are going to beat you,” Wood said.
Instead of running straight into the Durango defenders, Fruita Monument worked from the corners back to the middle, exploiting the Demons’ gaps.
“And when we did, we got a couple of goals (Saturday),” McKee said.
Those goals came with a smattering of damaging Durango injuries, too, including Demons’ keeper Ben Marvin-Vanderyn.
After making a key save on a volleyed cross in the 10th minute that preserved the scoreless game, Marvin-Vanderyn made a couple of charging, out-of-net stops against the speedy Fruita Monument forwards.
In the 30th, Marvin-Vanderyn charged Wesley Padgett in the corner of the field, and Padgett juked around him and slid the ball to center field in front of an open net. Marvin-Vanderyn was able to get back in position in time to make a diving save on a hard shot from about 10 meters out, and he got a hand on top of the rebounded ball before taking a game-ending kick to the head from a Wildcat attacker trying to finish the goal.
Less than 10 minutes later, Fruita Monument’s Andrew Bryceland launched a cross over the head of backup keeper Will Sommerville, then the goals kept coming: One more before the half, and two more on rebounds after the break.
“He makes a save, and people are watching,” Wood said of his backup goalkeeper, Sommerville. “You can’t expect the keeper to save everything.”
The goals weren’t the only negatives to pile up for the Demons on Saturday either; Durango lost David Schwantes to a knee and ankle injury early in the first half and Vance Bulen to a toe injury late in the second.
“It’s tough,” Wood said. “There’s a lot of things that happen throughout a game, and injuries are one of those things.
“It just means kids have to step up,” he said. And DHS, he said, has a strong junior varsity from which to pull up players.
That will have to happen, Wood said, if DHS (5-2-3, 2-2-1 Southwestern League) is to stop its four-game stumble, which included a 0-0 tie to Grand Junction, a 1-0 loss to Montrose and a too-close-for-comfort 1-0 win over Grand Junction Central before Saturday’s loss – the first time Fruita Monument has beaten the Demons on their home field in McKee’s six years as the Wildcats’ head coach.
“We needed something,” Wood said. “So if this isn’t it, I’m not sure what is.”
Durango will play Montezuma-Cortez at 5 p.m. Tuesday.