ALBANY, Ga. - The Tigers are still kicking.
Though now, they'll need some help to advance.
A strong second half effort couldn't overcome a sluggish start as the No. 12 ranked Marshalltown Community College men's soccer team (13-6-1) dropped a 2-0 decision to No. 4 Tyler (Texas) Junior College in pool D play at the NJCAA Division I National Championships hosted at Darton State College Monday.
Marshalltown Community College’s Joao de Olivera (11) battles Tyler Junior College’s Oneil Fisher (10) during their matchup in the NJCAA National Tournament on Monday. Tyler won the match, 2-0. Tyler JC goalkeeper Chris McGaughey, left, earned the shutout for the Apaches.
The Apaches (18-2-1), seeded fourth in the tourney, got on the board 14 minutes in when Joseph Pratt put one through the net on a pass from Oneil Fisher. Fisher was on the receiving end of Tyler's next score assisted by Hamza El Otmani in the 28th minute.
"Tyler brought a lot of intensity and we didn't seem ready for that. We knew they were going to be a really good team, but we didn't seem to challenge them as much as we should have," said Tigers coach Rafael Martinez, whose squad was playing its first match in 15 days.
The ninth-seeded Tigers return to action tomorrow against No. 9 Jefferson College (Mo.) at 6:30 p.m. Tyler, which picked up three points with the regulation victory, will face the fifth-seeded Vikings (14-5-1) Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The Apaches won the previous meeting over Jefferson 2-0 at home Sept. 2. The team with the most points from the trio will move on to Friday's semifinal round.
To stay afloat, the Tigers will need a regulation win with at least a two-goal differential over Jefferson and a Viking victory in similar fashion over Tyler.
A win by penalty kicks worth two points - ends MCC's season as the losing side of a shootout earns a point.
A two-team tie in points comes down to head-to-head play with the winning team advancing.
MCC seeks a three-team draw, which is decided by goals against in regulation or goal differential in regulation time with a maximum difference of three per game. Tiebreaker games come into play if all three squads remain tied under those guidelines.
All of that is irrelevant if the Tigers can't expand upon the strong effort they put forth in the final 45 minutes against Tyler.
"I'm happy with our second half performance and the fact that we didn't just give up. I'm very proud of the guys for that and happy that they continued fighting," said Martinez, who felt his team was a bit hesitant at times, particularly in the early going.
"On the defensive side, we need to bring up the intensity and make sure that we give a full 90 minutes. We have our moments of fighting for the ball and winning the 50-50 balls, but there were a lot of times that we lost them," Martinez said.
"To compete with these big teams, we have to be on our game for 90 minutes."
That same onus falls on the offense that lacked enough fluidity to keep the pressure on the Apaches consistently. Tyler outshot the Tigers 15-10, held a 7-5 advantage in shots on goal and earned eight corner kicks to MCC's six.
"Offensively we need to move better without the ball and make the right moves so that we're always supporting the player with the ball. We gave the ball away a little too fast today," said Martinez, whose squad was shut out for just the fourth time this year and the first time in over seven weeks.
"When you have the ball you want to have several options because that allows you to continually develop the play until you find the right spot. We didn't provide as many options to the ball carrier as we should have," said Martinez.
"We can make more runs and have better movement when we don't have the ball. That's something we can fix and do better tomorrow."
Facing an attack that had scored four goals or more eight times this season, Alfredo Piedra made five saves for the Tigers, while his counterpart Chris McGaughey also had five stops.
"Alfredo had a very good game. He had a lot of work to do like we knew he would," said Martinez.
While things are out of their hands after Tuesday, the Tigers must focus on what they can control - taking care of business against Jefferson.
"We earned the right to play a minimum of two games and there's still a chance for us to advance," said Martinez.
"We want to make sure that we do our part, so that we still have that chance to be alive after tomorrow."
MCC's Alex Galvan was given a yellow card in the 30th minute. The Apaches were whistled for 19 fouls and two yellows, while the Tigers had five fouls. ... Fans can follow tomorrow's match on a live webstream provided by NJCAA. A link to the site is listed on the home page of the MCC Athletics website. ... In the case of a three-team draw that can't be decided by goals against or goal differential in regulation, tie-breaking games will be played on day 4 of the tournament. Complete details on tiebreakers are available on the NJCAA Tournament site under rules and procedures.