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Tigers stuff Southeastern, 4-1

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - Marshalltown Community College sophomore Gustavo Leal (3) prepares to bury a shot past the Southeastern goalkeeper during the first half of Tuesday’s Iowa Community College Athletic Conference clash at MCC. Leal’s go-ahead goal also proved to be the game-winner as the Tigers topped the visiting Blackhawks 4-1.

The destination remained the same, but the Marshalltown Community College men’s soccer team took a different route this time around.

After hitting an unforeseen speed bump, the Tigers traveled a more direct path to put away Southeastern CC 4-1 in Tuesday’s Iowa Community College Athletic Conference clash.

Marshalltown CC (10-3, 5-2) surrendered an own-goal in the 21st minute of the match before scoring four unanswered goals the rest of the way, breaking free for a comfortable victory ahead of Saturday’s showdown with No. 2 Iowa Western (12-0, 6-0) in Council Bluffs.

“We obviously had accidents and challenges and their goal — especially their goal — but we responded very well, and we responded in a way that makes me very proud because we didn’t change the way we do things,” said MCC head coach Rafael Martinez. “We just tried to do it better, and through better performance and better execution, we created more chances, we had more pressure up front.”

Instead of the scenic route his team tried to traverse in the opening 10 minutes, Martinez’s squad started working the ball upfield more directly. Abandoning the horizontal passes for vertical ones started to work in the Tigers’ favor, in spite of Southeastern’s go-ahead goal at the 20-minute, 9-second mark.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - MCC freshman forward Seiya Zen, top, connects on a header over Southeastern’s Mario Ivanov in the first half of Tuesday’s soccer match in Marshalltown.

MCC’s defense maintained possession of the ball and tried passing back to goalkeeper Matteo Crescente to elude pressure from the Blackhawks (4-7-1, 2-3-0), but instead Gustavo Leal’s pass bounced off the top of Crescente’s foot and slowly rolled into the goal behind him.

But instead of veering off course because of the sudden detour, the Tigers kept their feet on the pedal and became more determined in their efforts.

“This is a very bumpy field and anyone that plays soccer knows that this is a field that obviously is not in very good shape,” Martinez said. “We’re going to try to fix that because it’s important to us. Matteo was trying to connect with the ball and it went over, and with the wind it’s a lot harder to recover.

“I don’t blame him at all, it’s just an accident that happens to anybody.”

It took some time, but the Tigers started seeing results as their efforts increased once they fell behind on the scoreboard.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - MCC freshman Augusto Cunha (9) celebrates his goal with teammates Gustavo Leal (3), Rodrigo Velasco (5) and Matheus Pereira (10) during the second half of Tuesday’s soccer match against Southeastern.

Yushi Nagao turned around a Cesar Mont centering pass into the goal area to tie the score at 1-all with 12:41 left to play in the first half, and Leal got one past Southeastern goalkeeper Lucca Munhoz with a leaping left-footed redirection of Kotaro Hirokawa’s corner kick just 97 seconds later to make it 2-1 Tigers.

“I thought we were OK until [the own-goal], but if that accident pushes the team to do a little bit more and work better as a unit, it’s welcome because I feel that’s what is going to make us continue growing until the end,” said Martinez. “I welcome the situation, the accident and how we responded, and I’m very proud of how well we handled that situation.”

Marshalltown took a 2-1 lead into the intermission and put the wind at its back for the final 45 minutes, dominating possession for most of the second half. Southeastern struggled to gain the offensive third as the Tigers turned up the pressure on the other end of the pitch.

Mont earned MCC a penalty kick when he was fouled gaining possession of a long pass into the goal area, but Matheus Pereira was turned away by Munhoz on his shot from the spot. The Tigers gained numerous other scoring opportunities, though, and finally converted two more in a span of 91 seconds to make the outcome all but official.

Guilherme Pereira got enough of the ball to redirect Matheus’ ball into the box past the Southeastern defense for a 3-1 lead, and Augusto Cunha got a piece of Hirokawa’s inswinger from the corner for the 4-1 advantage.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“Halftime was about reminding the players when we were following the plan, we were more successful than when we weren’t,” Martinez said, “and the reaction reinforced that concept. We just needed to continue being solid defensively and very compact in the center, to be more pragmatic.

“There are games in which you cannot play the way you are used to playing, but you have to find a way to win the match and I thought that’s what we were doing. We were trying to be a little bit more direct and knowing that would prevent [Southeastern] from winning the ball in the middle. It’s important for a team — I think that we’re a mature team — to find solutions during the match.”

After a slow start trying to penetrate the ball through the middle of Southeastern’s solid defense and the bad-bounce own-goal that gave the Blackhawks an unexpected lead, Marshalltown made sure to turn up the intensity while playing within its own limits.

The Tigers prefer a safer, side-to-side method of moving the ball up the field, but directing passes along the sidelines and up the field simply eliminated a step and skipped through Southeastern’s best line of defense.

“I think we were just a little bit more effective and that’s why we had more opportunities up front because we did a better job at pressuring the ball,” said Martinez, “and when we had the possession, staying away from those pockets where they were pressing.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“Obviously with our style, we like to play the ball on the ground. We tried to be less horizontal today, especially in the second half, and be more vertical and I think that allowed us to have chances but at the same time preventing them from having chances.”

The Tigers will get their chance to keep Iowa Western within striking distance for the conference title when they travel to face the Reivers at 1 p.m. Saturday in Council Bluffs. MCC trails by two games and has two ICCAC games remaining on its schedule, while Iowa Western has three league games left to play.

Marshalltown CC 4, Southeastern CC 1

At Marshalltown

SCC 1 0 — 1

MCC 2 2 — 4

First Half

SCC — Team, 24:51.

MCC — Yushi Nagao (Cesar Mont), 32:19.

MCC — Gustavo Leal (Kotaro Hirokawa), 33:56.

Second Half

MCC — Guilherme Pereira (Matheus Pereira), 77:09.

MCC — Augusto Cunha (Hirokawa), 78:40.

Shots on Goal — SCC 2, MCC 7.

Saves — SCC: Lucca Munhoz (7 shots on goal-3 saves); MCC: Matteo Crescente (2-1).

Fouls — SCC 11, MCC 9.

Corner Kicks — SCC 4, MCC 6.

Yellow Cards — Kane Howarth, SCC, 75:00.

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