SPANISH FORK American Leadership put itself in the driver's seat of Region 14 soccer with a 3-2 overtime win over Rowland Hall on Wednesday.
The Eagles chased the game for more than an hour and were a goal down heading into the last 20 minutes of regular time, but they never lost their composure as they fought for an equalizer and then a game-winner in extra time.
The win leaves ALA as the only undefeated team in the region and continued a seasonlong theme of second-half comebacks.
"All the games that we have played so far we went down in the first half," said Eagles coach Joel Martinez. "We came out big in the second half again and scored."
Rowland Hall controlled most of the play in the first half and produced one goal 20 minutes in. Jared Accettura slipped through a gap in the back line and beat the 'keeper from 15 yards out.
That goal held up for the next 40 minutes, but the Winged Lion had some other chances to extend the lead and didn't take advantage.
That left the door open for American Leadership. The Eagles started to get their footing on offense as the second half wore on, and the tying goal came via Benjamin Scott.
In the 62nd minute, the forward scored for the second time this year after a long buildup that ended with short cross and a one-touch shot from 12 yards out.
"I talk to them at halftime, and it seems like they respond," said Martinez. "Sometimes we come out slow and study the team we're playing against. At halftime we'll talk about their weaknesses and attack."
Just one minute later, the Eagles were out in front. Speedy forward Raul Delgado made a solo run from just inside midfield, one-touching the ball through the back line and beating all the defenders into the box for a one-on-one shot.
Rowland Hall almost equalized in the 65th minute when Robbie Hull forced a diving save, but the score stayed 2-1 until stoppage time when Brendan Hovsepian-Kelly took a perfectly placed through ball and had no trouble slotting the tying goal home.
At the start of extra time, the Eagles made some substitutions with the hope of getting a quick score, and the strategy paid off when Efrain Vital made a run down the right side and set up Delgado for the golden goal just seconds after the restart.
"We got fresh legs," said Martinez. "We just tried to come out strong. We were lucky to come out with a win because that's the best team so far that we've faced."