The Riverland men’s soccer team wouldn’t let a couple of injuries get in the way of staying undefeated.
The Blue Devils played the entire second half without their starting goal keeper and two of their forwards as they rallied past Finlandia University 4-2 at the Wescott Athletic Complex Monday.
“I always say everybody on the team is equal and nobody is greater than the team,” RCC head coach Soner Dogan said. “The other guys on the bench stepped up and they played well.”
Finlandia, which is a four-year school in Michigan, took a 2-1 lead in the 49th minute when Randy Grimsley launched a free kick over the top for a score.
Less than a minute later, RCC’s Diego Luz drew a penalty with five seconds left and he hammered home the penalty kick to give his team momentum and tie the score at two.
- Riverland's Pedro Herrera pursues a loose ball against Finlandia University at Wescott Athletic Complex Monday. -- Rocky Hulnefirstname.lastname@example.org
“That gave us the motivation to keep going and try harder so we could win the game in the second half,” said Riverland midfielder Pedro Herrera.
Luz got free on a breakaway two minutes into the second half and booted home his seventh goal of the season to put RCC up for good.
The freshman from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, never doubted his teams chances even after Finlandia scored two goals in an 18-minute span in the first half.
“When they scored their second goal I was thinking it was impossible for us to lose this game. I think our team is better,” Luz said. “We’re training every day and we were playing in our house.”
RCC missed a couple of clean looks in the second half, but Dante Ortiz finally put the game away when he trickled one through in the 74th minute.
RCC’s Rafael Bellon tweaked his hamstring while scoring his eighth goal of the season in the 28th minute to put the Blue Devils up 1-0. He returned briefly but couldn’t stay on the field.
- Riverland's Sam Scheffler tries to fend of Finlandia's Josue Yanez at Wescott Athletic Complex Monday. -- Rocky Hulneemail@example.com
Right before start of the second half, Dogan found out that his starting keeper Esteban Sebastian, who made three first half saves wouldn’t be able to go. Forward Sam Scheffler, a freshman from Faribault, gave up his spot on offense and took Sebastian’s place in the net in the second half.
Scheffler made two saves — including one jumping grab on a high shot.
Luz also left the game with an ankle injury late in the contest and did not return.
“We played our game and we stuck together,” Dogan said. “Hopefully we’ll be healthy for our next game on Friday.”
It was a very physical game and both teams were handed multiple yellow cards for everything from language to hard fouls.
“They love the game of soccer, sometimes too much, as you could see today,” Dogan said. “It was a good physical tough game, like four year colleges play.”
While the program is only in its third year, the Blue Devils have set a school record for wins in a season and they’ve won more this year than they did in their first two seasons combined.
- Riverland's Emvwinromwanekhoe Iyengumwena launches a header as his teammate Nate Trimble collides with Finlandia's Marco Guzman at Wescott Athletic Complex Monday. -- Rocky Hulnefirstname.lastname@example.org
RCC is hoping to continue its winning ways when it takes on the University of Wisconsin-Richland Friday on the road at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s my life and I love soccer. Everybody on our team is a family this season,” Luz said.
- Riverland's Diego Luz celebrates after knocking in a penalty kick at the end of the first half against Finlandia University of Michigan at Wescott Athletic Complex Monday. Luz scored two goals in the 4-2 Blue Devil win, which makes the team 5-0 overall. -- Rocky Hulneemail@example.com