Coming into Tuesday night's game, Moffat County seemed to have the momentum, fresh off a Saturday win against Rifle and heading to Steamboat Springs to face a Sailors squad reeling from a three-game losing skid.
But from the opening minute of play, it was clear to everyone at Gardner Field as well as Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann that Steamboat had "snapped" the problems that were ailing them.
In the first scoring opportunity of the game, Steamboat's Nick Labor crossed the ball to the middle, where Daniel Wright scrambled for a shot before Moffat County could clear the ball. Bulldogs goalkeeper Mike Lefler stopped the initial, point-blank shot, but Steamboat's Sam Houston capitalized on the rebound, putting Steamboat up 1-0.
"(Our defense) was just not going after the ball," Lefler said. "We were just watching instead of pressuring the ball."
The Steamboat defense, on the other hand, was able to effectively shut down Moffat's attack in the first half and generate offensive counter-attacks.
"We were working on trying to possess a lot more out of the back and look for our target players," said Steamboat fullback Robert Sorenson.
Working with one-touch passes and give-and-go combinations, Steamboat generated many early looks, some just wide, two shots hitting the post and four first-half shots saved by Lefler.
With 25 minutes left in the half, Steamboat's David Comeau nailed one of those "target players," striker Daniel Wright, who scored to put Steamboat up 2-0.
Seven minutes later, Comeau added a third Steamboat goal by hitting in a rebound off Lefler from a direct kick blasted at the far post from Steamboat's Max Hamil.
Moffat County had one fleeting offensive opportunity before the close of the half on an Alvara Rodriquez shot.
Moffat County came out in the second half with more tenacity and physical play on the defensive end, turning down Steamboat opportunities with strong play from Tucker Bilodeau, Armando Lopez and Ian Forgay.
Ten minutes into the second half, clearing the ball from a Steamboat corner kick, Forgay got tripped up in a collision that sent him to the turf, where he lay momentarily motionless before regaining consciousness and leaving the rest of the game.
The remainder of the second half showcased some sloppy play on both sides that led to a pair of yellow cards for the Bulldogs and a string of Steamboat penalties that repeatedly set up Moffat County for direct kicks in Steamboat territory. With their closest chance coming on a Jose Valdez shot lofted just over the goal, the Bulldogs were unable to crack the stingy Sailors' defense.
Comeau added a fourth goal in the final two minutes of play to end the game 4-0.
Moffat coach Jeff Hammond noted the positive that his team was able to hold the Sailors (5-3-1 in league) to a single goal in the second half.
Moffat County (2-8 in league) plays in Grand Junction at 3 p.m. Thursday.