MCC befuddled by Blue Knights
Rafael Martinez didn’t doubt his team’s intensity level for their postseason opener and final home match of the season.
If anything, it may have been running a bit too high.
Experiencing a wide range of emotions over the final 25 minutes, the Tigers were ultimately left with disappointment after Sikiru Kareem’s second goal in the 85th minute secured a 2-1 win for Dakota County Technical College over MCC in an NJCAA Division I Region XI quarterfinal match Tuesday.
“We were a little too emotional at the beginning and tried to do things too quickly or with too much intensity,” said Martinez. “Sometimes you need to kind of sit back and relax and just take it as another regular game. We were a little bit too anxious.”
The No. 2 seed Tigers (14-4-1), ranked No. 15 in the NSCAA Division I Poll, found themselves in desperation mode late in the second half with the clock becoming their biggest enemy facing a 1-0 deficit.
Roberto Velazquez appeared to knot the score in the 66th minute and raced toward the corner to celebrate before the goal was waved off for the sophomore being offside.
MCC finally got on the board when Alex Galvan’s sliding right-footed poke past Julian Delany-Garcia off a corner kick scrum knotted the score with less than 12 minutes to play. The equalizer charged up the Tigers and several members of the bench, who mobbed Galvan before the head official issued a warning.
Juan Carillo assisted on the goal and nearly added to the score moments later with a shot blocked by Delany-Garcia before Hernan Lopez fired another ball that sailed wide left.
Kareem, who put the Blue Knights on top barely 90 seconds in the second half, tallied his second unassisted goal with a blast from the right side to quell the Tigers’ excitement and send DCTC on to the semifinals. The Blue Knights (15-2-1) will face Iowa Central (13-6-0) in a semifinal Saturday at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines at noon.
Dakota County entered Tuesday’s match one spot ahead of MCC in both the NSCAA (No. 14) and NJCAA (No. 16) Division I polls, but were assigned the No. 7 seed as the lone Region XIII team in the Region XI Tournament. Befitting their nearly identical records, neither team could create any separation until Kareem, the Blue Knight’s leading scorer, juked past a Tiger defender and buried a shot into the lower right netting.
“Their forwards are pretty good under pressure – every one of them,” said sophomore defender Bill Baye, whose team tried to counter the Blue Knights’ rover center backs with some lobs to their forwards. “They brought their defense onto our side and weren’t going to play our game so we started punching the ball high, but we lost a lot of balls.”
Kareem’s second score came 19 seconds after an MCC corner kick as the Blue Knights quickly reversed field. Julian Pena (12-4-1), who was named the ICCAC Defensive Player of the Week prior to the match, made three saves in goal, while Delany-Garcia had four.
“They’re a team that plays very well in transition. They’re very quick going into counterattacks and utilizing that speed and space,” said Martinez. “We knew that they were going to do it, but we were still going to play our way.”
MCC had a 10-7 advantage in shots while both teams finished with five shots on goal and five corner kicks.
“It was two teams playing their best and playing to their strengths,” said Martinez. “I’m proud of the guys, I really am. If you lose a game fighting like this, you’re never going to be happy but at least you are at peace. I’m at peace because my players worked really hard. The sophomores stepped up to the game and carried the team.”
MCC must replace 10 sophomores from its squad, which tallied its second straight 14-win season.
“We had a fantastic season and we tried our best,” said Baye. “It was a great experience playing for a great coach.”
MCC will have to replace 10 sophomores including Baye, Marcus Boehler, Hernan Lopez, Andrew Valett, Kevin Guerrero, Roberto Velazquez, Philip Zeon, Ralph Duopu, Jose Gomez and Galvan.