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The GRIND – FC Denver Premier vs Aguilas

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Written By Brandon Best – Pictures By Destiny Fernandez

Match day: Sunday August 28th, 2011

Starting XI: Campbell, Marks, Miller, Burstein, Yarletts, Woodworth, DelPiccolo, Elbin, Greenley, Marchant, Firebaug

Subs: Best, Harrison, Wilson, Bourland, Burns

Commerce City, CO (Dick’s Sporting Goods Park) -

This past Sunday’s Match against an always motivated Aguilas squad, was a dangerous affair.  As is often the case after a big win and with a high profile match up next, there was a real possibility that FC Denver Premier would let points slip against an Aguilas side that has punished Premier in the past for overlooking them.  With a strong breeze out of the north, FC Denver won the toss and hoped that the wind would help them put away their opponents early enough that they could enjoy the music coming from the Rock the Range concert out at the Dick.

From the kick off, it was apparent that Captain Luke Elbin had chosen wisely when selecting to go with the wind in the first half.  FC Denver Premier was the obvious aggressor early on as they kept Aguilas pinned into their half of the field.  Rarely did a ball find its way past half field line without defenders Tom Marks, Joel Miller, or Mario Burstein collecting it and ramping up the attack again.  The first real opportunity of the match came as Skipper Kyle Firebaugh found himself wide open in front of goal looking to head in a cross from the left side of the field.  Unfortunately for him, his head back across the goal went just wide, fortunately for him though, Mrs. Firebaugh was not there yet to witness it for herself.  The disappointment of a missed opportunity would not last long though, as George Marchant would lash home a goal soon after.  Marchant beat the Aguilas keeper with a worm burn which he unleashed from just outside the 18 yard box.  As sometime happens though, Premier was unable to put their foot down on the throat of their competitor.  The longer the first half went along, Aguilas was able to do a little better finding their forwards and having a couple of shots on goal.  Nothing would ever seriously trouble Ian Campbell, except for a through ball that caught some wind and looked like it might just sit up for an onrushing Aguilas striker.  The Aguilas striker would never get his chance though as Campbell was quick off his line and made the clearance just outside the 18.  After their goal, FC Denver Premier would have trouble finding their midfielders and gave more than a few goal kicks away as the wind helped the ball over the end line.  The first half would come to a close with another great opportunity for Marchant.  Marchant was able to beat his defender and from an angle hit a shot that the Aguilas goalkeeper did well to save and knock out of bounds, as Kyle Burns was waiting in the center of the box for any type of rebound opportunity.

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In the second half the wind was dying down and so was the pace of the game.  Much like in the first half FC Denver’s defense rarely allowed a dangerous opportunity on net.  In fact the biggest threat seemed to be that Campbell might miss a trap in his box and let the ball go out for a goal kick.  FC Denver’s midfield did a good job of matching up with their Aguilas counterparts and won a good majority of the individual battles in the second half.  With that said, there was rarely a dangerous opportunity created by FC Denver either.  Most of the second half was a grind, with neither side able to produce much in front of goal.  Firebaugh did on one occasion though find himself in on the goal, before having his opportunity squashed by the Aguilas keeper.  In a way the second half was a good showing for FC Denver as they were able to keep their focus and not allow Aguilas to slip back into the game as they had done in the past.  Perhaps this was an opportunity for FC Denver to show their character and resolve when playing a lesser opponent.  The insurance goal scored late in the second half would serve as a great characterization of the rest of the match.  Kyle Burns was played through and battled with his defender before hitting a shot that jumped off the defender’s shin and sailed up and over the keeper who was caught in no man’s land after coming off his line.  The ball would bounce into the far side of the goal and deflate any hopes that Aguilas had of coming back for the tie.  The game would end with all 22 players still on the pitch and FC Denver Premier’s unbeaten streak in regular season games extended.

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Labor Day weekend has no games, but the week after FC Denver Premier takes on a Rapids squad that is a new addition to the league.  Thanks to all of the FC Denver United players and their families that stayed to BBQ after the match.  Also, congratulations to the United Squad who put up their first win, beating Saprissa 2-0 on Sunday

Coach Firebaugh’s thoughts on the match:

We were missing some players and that limited our playing style. When every player is available, our attack can be so diverse. I thought we were not as creative as we could be. We have some things to think about before making a line up for next game. Players are pushing one another for playing time at this point and players that are subbing in the game aren’t just filling gaps, they are providing fresh legs and a completely unique change in our style of play. It’s keeping us dangerous around the goal for 90 minutes. That’s exciting to me.

Man of the Match:

Congrats to Kyle Burns on winning this week’s  Man of the Match Award, largely based on securing FC Denver’s second goal to wrap up the hard-fought win.  As coach Firebaugh stated, “No matter what the goal looked like, we F’ing needed it. Kyle’s tenacity on offense and defense was a real pick-me-up for the team.”

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