Boys soccer: Ottumwa edges East in OT

May 6—OTTUMWA — Talk about using your head.

Not once, but twice on Friday night, Oscar Rodriguez put the soccer ball in the back of the net with a perfect redirection off his forehead. The first helped ignite a rally that allowed the Ottumwa High School boys soccer team to extend their Iowa Alliance south division match with Des Moines East beyond regulation after trailing by two goals with 27 minutes remaining.

The second came at the end of the first overtime period on Friday night. Coming off a corner kick from Jonathan Villatoro on what would have been the last scoring chance of the first 10-minute extra session, Rodriguez cleanly struck the ball past Des Moines East goal keeper Kevin Perez with 4.9 seconds to go completing the comeback and clinching a thrilling 3-2 win for Ottumwa at Schafer Stadium ending a five-match losing streak to the Scarlets in the series between the former CIML Metro rivals.

"We started out flat-footed for the first five to 10 minutes (of the second half)," Rodriguez said. "When they scored their second goal, we knew needed to pick up the intensity. Once we scored that first goal, we had the momentum. We kept going and we kept going."

Ottumwa's first goal came just under 10 minutes after a strong start to the second half by Des Moines East led to a goal on a strike from 20 yards out by Carlos Guerra Caballero off a pass out of traffic by Christian Villanueva Morales. The goal not only gave the Scarlets a 2-0 lead less than three minutes into the second half, but extended a dominant stretch for East that saw the Scarlets build an 18-3 edge in total shots.

"I'm happy we were able to turn up the intensity, but I'm a little disappointed we didn't start the match with that intensity," Ottumwa head boys soccer coach Andy Maw said. "We have to have that mindset right from the opening kickoff. We've got to play with that intensity right from the beginning. The teams that we are facing this year are going to play with that intensity. We have to be able to match it and beat it right from the start."

While East was racking up scoring chances, they were also racking up fouls. The Scarlets finished the match drawing 15 whistles over the course of nearly 90 minutes.

Those fouls would give Ottumwa the chances they needed to get back in the match. The first opportunity came in the 53rd minute when the Scarlets were called for a foul just as the Bulldogs crossed midfield.

Down 2-0, Justin Seaba lined up to take the free kick with everyone dropping back towards the Scarlet net. The long boot led to a scramble in front of the net with Rodriguez getting his head on the ball before it could knocked away by Perez, putting Ottumwa on the board for the first time cutting East's lead to 2-1.

"One thing we've done in the past is to do that kick quick and short to create a better ball in, but that time I told Justin to set it up and put a ball in the box," Maw said. "It makes a coach look like a genius when it works out that well."

One foul by East helped Ottumwa get momentum on their side by setting up a goal. One more would change the entire tone of the match as Morales was given a red card for pulling a Bulldog player down to the turf with 21:27 left in the match.

Suddenly, down one goal, Ottumwa was one man up as the Scarlets were relegated to playing with just 10 players.

"When we got that red card, we kind of became unstoppable," Rodriguez said. "It just gave us more momentum. We knew we could tie it up. We just had to be patient and use our heads to find passes. We didn't need to do anything crazy. We just needed to find each other.

"I think we were already starting to get some momentum, but when we got gifted with that red card, the boys really felt like we could do this," Maw added.

Yefferson Rodriguez Mendoza had two chances to tie the match wiped away, having a goal with 14 minutes left called off due to a late offsides whistle before being pulled down in the box three minutes later with no call being made. The pressure continued to mount as Ottumwa continued to search for the tying goal late in the second half.

Finally, with just under two minutes left, the Bulldogs knotted up the match. Rodriguez kept the ball alive on an Ottumwa attack and found Mendoza through the East defense for a goal with 1:58 to go in regulation, tying up the match at 2-2.

"None of them stepped on me, but the one guy that was defending me raised his legs up," Rodriguez said. "I saw Yefferson making his run. I knew if I could get the ball between his legs, Yefferson was going to be there to tap it in."

Tied at 2-2 with a one-man disadvantage, Des Moines East (7-7, 0-4 Iowa Alliance) had just three more shots against the Bulldogs with a penalty kick shootout looming as the best chance for the Scarlets to get out of Ottumwa with a win. Needing one more goal to avoid the shootout and clinch the comeback, the Bulldogs took advantage of an East injury that stopped the clock with 10 seconds left in the first overtime to set up one last attack off a corner kick.

Villatoro sent the ball to the net with time winding down. Rodriguez scored against the short-handed East defense, clinching Ottumwa's first win over Des Moines East since the 2017 season.

"What's crazy to me is that, the goals that Oscar scored, those are plays we don't execute very well," Maw said. "We've always struggled to score on set pieces like that. It's interesting that we got those type of goals, but it only has to work when it matters to make the difference."

Ottumwa (7-3, 2-2 Iowa Alliance) heads to Marshalltown on Tuesday for the first of three matches in four days on the road. The Bulldogs return home on Saturday afternoon to wrap up the regular season hosting Des Moines Lincoln at 3:30 p.m.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.