One goal turned out to be enough for the Marshalltown Community College soccer team Wednesday afternoon during Region XI Tournament action at MCC.
Javier Lopez snuck a header past the keeper in the 34th minute and that turned out to be the game-winner of a match that featured 34 fouls and five yellow cards.
The 1-0 victory over NIACC advances the Tigers to the Region XI semifinals where they will take on No. 13 Iowa Central at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines. Iowa Central shut down Iowa Lakes, 4-0, Wednesday.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
MCC’s Kevin Guerrero tries to get away from NIACC freshman Stuart Shaw during the Tigers’ 1-0 win over the Trojans on Wednesday during the first round of regional play.
"We did not focus on what the final score was going to be," MCC coach Rafael Martinez said. "We focused on doing what we had to do to win the game, and I thought we did that. We knew we had to work for 90 minutes today and we did that, too."
It was a physical match throughout, so much that the two teams had to be seperated two different times late in the match. The scrum featured pushing, shoving and all three officials on the field trying to settle things down.
"It's a physical game, and the teams in this conference play that way," Martinez said. "We both played hard. We both knew that it could be our last game. Our guys did the job they had to do to win."
The Tigers had several chances playing with the wind in the first half but failed to capitalize until Lopez's header.
MCC had 19 shots total in the match and nine shots on goal. Several shots in the first half were either right at NIACC keeper Aidan Bachar or high of the crossbar.
The play was controlled by the Tigers for much of the match as the Trojans had three shots in all, none on goal.
The Tigers finally broke through on the scoreboard at 34:39 following a free kick by Josh Illum. The free kick was then headed by Joao de Olivera.
Another header by Lopez put the Tigers on the board. Lopez attacked the net and collided with the keeper but had enough strength to push it past Bachar to give MCC the lead.
"I just waited for my opportunity," Lopez said. "You can't be afraid of that play even though colliding with the keeper could lead to an injury. The keeper has the advantage, too, because I can't play the ball once he has it."
Lopez said the physicality of the match was in large part due to it being a playoff game and both teams know the season could be over with a loss.
"They playoffs are tough," Lopez said. "Every team knows this could be it. And they are going home. But NIACC did a good job of playing us physical. But we were able to possess the ball enough to win the match."
NIACC took advantage of the wind in the second half but could not manage to get an equalizer past Alfredo Piedra. The Tigers pushed aside a couple free kicks inside the front third by NIACC. The first free kick hit MCC's wall of defenders and then eventually bounced off the side of the net. The second free kick was shoved aside following a header by Lopez.
"The thing I was most pleased with was that they did not have many chances to score today," Martinez said. "We controlled the middle of the field really well. We responded well to their physicality and focused on our gameplan."
NIACC was called for three of its four yellow cards in the second half. The final 45 minutes were the most intense and the two scrums between the teams occurred in the final 20 minutes.
Iowa Central and MCC played to a 1-1 draw in their most recent meeting a week earlier. Marcus Boehler scored the lone goal for the Tigers, who are now 11-5-2.
"I think it will be another close game," Martinez said. "We'll try to shift the game to our style of play and they will try to do the same. We want to play our style of game."
Lopez knows the Tigers missed out on some opportunities to score goals against NIACC. Against a nationally ranked opponent like Iowa Central, those chances are going to have to be converted into goals.
"They are good," Lopez said. "We have to increase our play. We have to have more concentration, but we can't afford to make mistakes. I trust my team though. I think we'll put the ball in the net."
The Region XI semfinal matchup will take place at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines. The match will start at 1:30 p.m. and is scheduled to be played on Field 10.