The Belen High School boys soccer team lost its 2003 season opener, 2-0, at home to St. Michael’s on Saturday, but they looked good doing it.

“This game was probably as good as our best game last year,” said team captain Brandon Boggs. “Now we know what details we need to work on to be even better.”

Those details include conditioning and positioning. The Eagles seemed to wear down as the game went on and being caught out of position on defense cost them two goals.

“But it’s OK,” said second-year head coach Jay O’Neill. “It’s nothing we can’t fix. We can fix everything that went wrong today.”

And the Eagles did a lot of things right against a skilled St. Michael’s team. “We were passing the ball; we were moving the ball,” O’Neill said. “The first 30 minutes, we were controlling the game.”

The Eagles early efforts surprised St. Mike’s coach Mark Miller. “I’ve got a good team, and they gave us fits in the first half,” he said. “I think it the second half they got a little tired. It’s hotter than heck out there and they didn’t put on as much pressure, which allowed us a little more time for us to do what we did well.”

What the Horsemen do well is pass and attack. But Belen held them at bay until one little letdown cost them a goal with five minutes left in the first half.

St. Mike’s midfielder Andrew Velie chipped the ball ahead to Robert Slingsby on a breakaway, and Slingsby beat Belen goalkeeper A.J. Garley for the game’s first goal.

Playing with just three substitutes, the Eagles began to tire in the second half. In the 62nd minute, St. Mike’s took advantage, scoring the same way it did the first time.

Velie booted a long ball to Erik Wolfswinkel, who out-raced three Belen defenders and fired a shot passed Garley from point-blank range.

“They were just sending balls over the top, and they were faster than we were,” O’Neill said.

Garley had no chance on either goal scored against him and was another bright spot for the Eagles. Garley made some excellent stops to keep the game close. He finished with 10 saves.

Belen had just four shots. One of Belen’s best scoring opportunities of the game with about 15 minutes left. Abe Anderson fired a free kick from left of the goal and about 35 yards out. The shot to the far corner was out of reach of the keeper but sailed two feet wide.

Anderson, another returning player from Belen’s 2-15 team a year ago, said, even though a loss, Saturday’s season opener was a good way to begin the season. “It was a good start,” he said. “We did way better than last year. We’re more of a team this year.”

Belen played at West Mesa on Tuesday (No score was available at News-Bulletin press time). The Eagles next host Gallup at 4 p.m. Thursday.

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