Thanks to Durango’s stifling defense – and a little bit of luck – the Trailblazers were able to claim the 2016 Southern Nevada Kick-Off Classic crown with a 3-0 win over Chaparral.
The win is the third shutout in five games for Durango goalkeeper Paolo Sanataro, who recorded six saves in Monday’s win. The Cowboys had other opportunities, but misfired on several shots. Center back Anthony Sotelo also thwarted a few of Chaparral’s scoring opportunities.
“We were playing a 3-flat in the back only because we have one player injured and one ineligible because of transfer,” Durango head coach Richard Cuellar said. “They held out pretty good today, but I’m looking forward to the other two coming back and our defense being even stronger. Anthony Sotelo plays a great defensive position and he’s been holding down the center defense for me. He’s just an amazing player.”
Sanataro was also appreciative of Sotelo’s efforts that helped preserved the shutout in the title game victory.
“I made a couple of mistakes, but my defense was there to cover my back,” the senior keeper said. “This tournament means everything. I think it’s the first time we have won it. Our team worked so hard for this. We show up for practice every day on time and we all work together as a family.
“Anthony really killed it tonight. He was great from the start. He really supported me. A couple of times, when I came out wrong, he was there taking the hit right in the gut. We communicate with the defense and get the play going in the back line.”
The Trailblazers jumped out to an early 1-0 at the 22-minute mark of the first half on a goal by Marcos Delgado off an assist from Alfredo Robles-Rodriguez.
After that goal and well into the second half, the Cowboys controlled the action. But Chaparral could never break through Durango’s defense.
At the 18-minute mark of the second half, the Trailblazers took a 2-0 lead on a goal by Robles-Rodriguez off an assist from Tyson Tesfamariam. The Trailblazers put the game away at the 29-minute mark when Jamie Mungia scored the game’s final goal.
“When I sat them down over there, we talked about how we had gotten out of our game,” Cuellar said. “We were playing the long ball like they were and that is not my game. We play in the middle and touch, touch, into outside corner flags and then we bring it back in.
“In the first half, it was hard to control them from the sideline and of course their nerves were shot when they got here. Of course, they got it back under control in the second half.”
Cuellar is hoping that winning this tournament is just the start of a magical season for the Trailblazers, which advanced to the Sunset Region semifinals in 2015. He hopes to get his injured and ineligible players back on the field in early September, which will make his team even stronger moving forward.
“With this team, I’m hoping to take them a long way,” Cuellar said. “We want to bring a state championship back to Durango. That is one of my goals, and with this team, I think we can do it. This team has such great chemistry together and that is what I love about them.”