The Jefferson City Jays need to be problem solvers.
The key is identifying the problems before they happen.
"The game is filled with problems," Jays coach Scott Blake said Tuesday night after Jefferson City dropped a 2-1 decision to the Sedalia Smith-Cotton Tigers in Central Missouri Activities Conference action at the 179 Soccer Park. "The key is to solve problems before they become bigger problems and that was an issue there."
The contest was tied at 1 about 12 minutes into the second half when the Tigers lined up for a free kick.
"We know where they're going with the ball," Blake said.
That would be Tyler Goss, who was providing a tall presence in front of the Jefferson City net. Lennyn DeLeon hit the free kick and Goss went up to head it into the upper corner of the net for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
"We had three guys around him and nobody went up," Blake said. "Can we solve the problem with three guys there that we don't wind up looking at each other like who was supposed to have him?
"The M.O. of this team right now is we pass problems on instead of solving them. And we need to solve problems right away or otherwise they will compound one on top of the other."
Jefferson City battled to tie the game, making multiple deep runs into Smith-Cotton's defensive end late in the contest. But the tying goal didn't come.
"It was good to see us fight back like that, bit it was too little, too late," Blake said.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead a little more than seven minutes into the contest. The Jays turned it over deep in their own end and Sam Cash scored off an assist by Vicente Saldana.
The Jays tied it a minute later when Lennox Quainoo put back a rebound of his own shot.
"His touch is getting better," Blake said. "And I think that's coming through because he's not as tired. He banged hard tonight."
Drew Heller, a freshman, made his first varsity start in goal for Jefferson City after seeing his first varsity action in relief Saturday. Starting keeper Parker Gourley suffered a knee injury late in Saturday's game against Lutheran: St. Charles.
"Why chance it? He's a senior and we have a lot of season left," Blake said.
Heller was told Monday night there was a possibility he would get the start Tuesday.
"It helped prepare him a little bit, we know there have to be jitters," Blake said.
Heller finished with six saves Tuesday night.
"He played well, we just left him exposed a few times," Blake said. "We don't go up with guy in the box sometimes, we let a guy get in behind us when we shouldn't."
Smith Cotton is now 6-6-1 overall, 1-2 in the CMAC.
Jefferson City is 5-6 overall, 0-3 in the conference.
"Nothing against the CMAC, but we're focused on the playoffs and we want to continue to get better for the playoffs," Blake said.
The Jays are back in action Friday and Saturday at the Camdenton Laker Shootout. The Jays will meet Carl Junction at 4 p.m. Friday and Republic at 11 a.m. Saturday.
"We have a tough weekend ahead of us," Blake said.
In Tuesday's JV game, Smith-Cotton defeated Jefferson City 8-0.