During its postseason run last fall, the Marshalltown Community College men's soccer team saw the elite level it can reach when everyone completely buys into the system.
On Wednesday, the Tigers realized how quickly things could spiral when they move away from it.
Distancing itself from its possession-oriented attack, NJCAA Division I No. 15-ranked MCC fell into Cloud County CC's (Kan.) trap of trying to match the Thunderbirds' long ball pursuit in a 1-0 setback at home.
Marshalltown Community College sophomore Alex Galvan slides in to steal the ball from Cloud County CC’s Lucas Trebe in first half action Wednesday. The Thunderbirds scored the game’s lone goal in the 52nd minute to edge the Tigers 1-0.
Cloud County's Christopher Lavery rebounded a deflection off an attempted clearance by the Tigers before blasting a shot from the left side to the far post for the deciding goal in the 52nd minute.
"We were not trusting each other as we've done in the past," MCC coach Rafael Martinez said.
"We knew what the system was for us to create chances and we kind of lacked in the confidence of our system and our teammates. We became a different team and moved away from our system into something more individualistic. That's something we can learn from."
CC 1, Marshalltown CC 0
CCCC Christopher Lavery (unassisted), 52:38
Shots MCC 18, CCCC 19
Shots on goal MCC 4, CCCC 4
Corner kicks MCC 4, CCCC 4
Fouls MCC 12, CCCC 16
Yellow Cards MCC 2 (Bill Baye, 58:15; Alex Galvan, 86:23); CCCC 2 (Gefte Blanc, 70:09; Leonardo Catarina, 83:41)
The Thunderbirds (2-0-0) applied some early pressure on the Tigers' defense before inviting MCC to play their style.
"Cloud County came with a plan and they executed it very well. They controlled the way we played," Martinez said.
"They sat back and waited for us to send the long balls that we're not used to. Once they had the ball, they made quick transitions into their attack and started sending long balls. They have players that are very good with that system - and that's the key. Every team has to use their strengths and they did, we didn't.
The Tigers (2-1-0) created several quality looks in the opening half though just one of their nine shots were on goal.
Hernan Lopez had two shots sail wide on opposite sides of the net in the 23rd and 24th minutes, while the Thunderbirds' Juan Mendoza snared Alex Galvan's blast in the 40th.
Martinez saw his team start to move away from its system late in the first half as MCC looked a bit hurried at times.
After halftime, Cloud County continued to push the ball deep in the Tigers' territory with long passes before breaking through on a poor clearance to grab the lead.
"They were just playing over our defense a lot," said sophomore striker Andrew Valett.
"We couldn't get it back on our offensive third very much I felt like we came out a little slower in the second half."
MCC ratcheted up its intensity as the half continued and created several more scoring opportunities, though ultimately Martinez said his squad got a little too vertical and moved away from it's possession-based offense.
Mendoza deflected Juan Carillo's free kick from just outside the box in the 53rd, before Carillo was denied again 11 minutes later as Mendoza made four saves for the shutout. The Thunderbirds' keeper stopped Galvan's shot on target in the 80th as Cloud County held a 19-18 advantage in shots, with each team shooting four on goal.
MCC will have to reclaim its roots quickly as the Tigers face a couple tough opponents at the Minnesota Kickoff Classic in Rosemount, Minn., this weekend. MCC battles College of Lake County (Ill.) Friday at 3 p.m. and takes on Anoka-Ramsey CC (Minn.) Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Martinez said the Lake County Lancers (0-1) play a similar possession based game, while the Anoka-Ramsey Golden Rams (0-0) boast a physical and fast group of players that will make 50-50 balls a major point of emphasis.
Though most of all, the Tigers know they must get back to their strengths.
"We're going to have to play as a team a lot better and pass a lot more," said Valett. "Quicker passes, faster thinking and just working as a team."
The Lancers dropped a 3-2 decision in overtime to Moraine Valley CC (Ill.) in their lone match of the season. MCC's Bill Baye and Lopez each played for Anoka-Ramsey before transferring to Marshalltown Freshman midfielder Celes Vilar played nine minutes in his first regular season appearance after recovering from a preseason injury. "He's still sore, but we wanted to give him some minutes so he can be ready for the weekend, said Martinez. "He felt good. He got back into the rhythm and that's going to be the key for him now." ... The teams were offered two water breaks at the mid-point of each half with the temperature rising to the mid-90s.