NEOSHO, Mo. — Monday's soccer match between the Pittsburg Purple Dragons and the McDonald County Mustangs at Roughrider Soccer Field on the campus of Crowder College demonstrated the difference between a program with veteran players comfortable within the system of their third-year head coach and a first-year soccer program still developing its own identity and style.
Pittsburg scored three goals in the final 14 minutes, 37 seconds of the first half en route to a 3-0 halftime lead and 6-1 victory.
"I'm really proud of the way the guys are playing," Pittsburg head coach Sean Lauderdale said. "We have things to fix, but on the magnitude of things to fix, they're minor issues and we're moving in the right direction. We've really been helped out. We had a year for these guys to play together last year and we've really gelled. It's good that we had a lot of guys return. We've had guys step up in some positions that (last year's) seniors left. That's been a good development."
McDonald County lost its third straight match after beginning the season 3-0.
"We've got to come out here and just execute tactically better," McDonald County head coach James Carter said. "Our effort's never bad and we do a good job of starting out well. We've got to put the last piece of the puzzle together, which is playing a particular style of play because right now, we don't have a style of play."
Pittsburg forward Frander Marroquin led the Dragon attack with four goals, two in each half. Marroquin scored the first and third goals of the first half, rebounding his own shot and getting it past McDonald County goalkeeper Alex Garcia for a 3-0 halftime lead.
Jaime Maldonado looped a free kick past Garcia for the second goal.
The Dragons scored their first two goals over a 2:58 span — their strongest demonstration of their overall aggressiveness Monday.
"It's been a mantra of ours to win back the ball early," Lauderdale said, "and then find opportunities for our guys after winning it back early. Our guys are good about that as soon as we lose possession, we're turning around and trying to steal the ball from them. We want to get the numbers and get those scoring opportunities."
Just 4:54 into the second half, Pittsburg senior defender Lukas McConnell scored on a header off a corner kick for a 4-0 lead.
Defenders like McConnell and Trevin Jameson both played active roles in the Dragon attack, something that Lauderdale has been emphasizing since he took over the Pittsburg program in 2013.
"We don't ever play a flat back four where your backs are spread across the line," Lauderdale said. "We get our guys actively involved in play and it's paid dividends for us because it pushes our numbers forward and we have more numbers up, more speed up and it works out all-around. We're very much about getting our backs up and creating opportunities for us. They work hard. When you're doing that, you're running the length of the pitch."
With 4:18 left in the match, senior Yonathan Rodriguez scored the home team's only goal on a kick that trickled past goalie Carlos Calderon.
"I wasn't displeased by our effort," Carter said. "I haven't been all year. That's good. The late goal was evidence of that."
Pittsburg improved to 4-1 on the season and the Dragons return to action Thursday at Coffeyville.
"They played well," Carter said. "I thought they attacked well and they've got some talented guys. They've had a good year and I'm sure they'll continue."
McDonald County dropped to 3-3 and the Mustangs start a three-match road streak Thursday at Carthage.
"We've got things that we've got to work on," Carter said. "All just part of building a program, starting the first year and getting everybody on the same page."