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United undefeated heading into finals

Melinda Mawdsley

For nearly half their lives, a majority of the Steamboat United soccer team’s players have been together.

They started soccer when they were 5 or 6. Now, they are 11 and 12, and except for a couple of valuable players who recently moved to Steamboat Springs, the same boys who learned how to kick as a group are winning as a group, and they couldn’t be having more fun.

“We’re like one big family,” Kaelen Gunderson said, smiling and knowing he delivered the perfect cliche.

Promptly, the rest of his teammates groaned. One even gave him a shove. Nothing like a little brotherly love.

Danny Tebbenkamp is in his second year coaching the Steamboat United U12 team. He inherited them last season and promptly began teaching the young players the two things that the Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association emphasizes regardless of age.

“Danny is always talking about teamwork and possession,” Mark Hoovler said.

One year later, the boys are getting it. While it helps that they have played together for so long, it doesn’t hurt that they also have talent. Instead of dumping the ball in and trying to get lucky on a couple of good runs, United has developed an offensive attack dependent on great passing, correct spacing and precise finishing.

If they didn’t have Gatorade-stained teeth or weigh less than 100 pounds, it would be easy to think they were entering high school instead of seventh grade.

After winning two games Friday, Steamboat United defeated Thornton-based Colorado Xtreme Power, 4-1, in Saturday’s semifinal at the Christian Heritage fields.

Steamboat plays the Broomfield Blast in the finals at 10 a.m. today at Steamboat Springs High School.

The Steamboat U10 C team also made the finals. It plays at 10:30 a.m. today at the smaller fields at the high school.

United built a 2-1 halftime lead behind two early goals from Gunderson and Brian Bertrand. Three minutes in, Gunderson took a perfectly delivered header from Tony Rende at midfield and cut toward the goal for the score.

Less than two minutes later, Bertrand added Steamboat’s second goal off a penalty kick.

Colorado Xtreme scored its lone goal off an amazing and lucky shot from Carlos Ruiz, 18 minutes into the first half. From more than 50 yards out, Ruiz belted a direct kick over Steamboat’s defense and his attackers. The ball fell about 10 feet in front of United keeper Connor Birch and took a perfect high hop over him and into the net.

Tebbenkamp let his players know he didn’t think they played particularly well in the first half, and Steamboat responded in the final 30 minutes, scoring two goals and giving Thornton little hope of climbing back in the game.

Colton Harding ended a 15-minute scoreless drought with his first goal, which came off a pass from Grant Murray near the net. Murray took a crossing pass and fired it back at Harding in the box, who knocked it passed Colorado Xtreme keeper Nick Schiltz.

With less than 10 minutes left in the game, Thornton had a chance to cut its deficit when Jeremy Davey was awarded a penalty shot. Instead of diving either way, Birch stood still and swallowed up Davey’s line-drive shot at his chest.

United built on that moment and scored one more goal when Sam Glaisher found Andrew White for the game’s final point.

“Danny said the second half was the best soccer we’ve played,” Johnathon Ricker said.

Last year, as a U11 team, Steamboat finished third. United can do no worse than second this year. The members of Steamboat’s U12 boys team are: Gunderson, Rende, Bertrand, Birch, Murray, Harding, White, Glaisher, Hoovler, Ricker, Lucas Stover, Tate Tellier, Taylor Miller and Jordy Bernard.

–To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com


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