With temperatures reaching upwards of 90 degrees, the Otters were asked to play down a man for nearly 70 minutes in their season opening match against Wake FC. The defense held on and the Otters drew 1-1 for just their second-ever season opening result.
Early on, the Otters were able to generate several chances by forcing the Wake FC backline to break down the Otter defense, leading to several turnovers. The likes of Alex Horveno (Ohio Valley), Freddy Tracey (Charleston), and Troy Brady (Canisius) looked to capitalize on those opportunities while combining with captain Blake Barribeau (Palm Beach Atlantic) and his long throw-in ability to create de facto set piece opportunities.
Wake FC were able to get some chances of their own, getting their head on a cross for the first shot on goal of the game, but goalkeeper Carlos Rubio (Lenoir-Rhyne) was able to make the save.
In the 26th minute, George Stanley (Montreat) was sent off for a tackle near midfield while looking to break up a Wake FC attack. The Otters reorganized their defense, dropping midfielder Jack Burrows (Palm Beach Atlantic) in at centerback for the remainder of the half.
Despite being down a man, the Otters continued to attack, with midfielder Stuart Hendry (Wingate University) picking off passes and springing the counterattack. It paid off in the 40th minute when a Horveno corner fell in the box and Barribeau smashed it home to give the Otters a 1-0 lead heading towards halftime.
Horveno, Brady, Tracey, and Hendry still pushed forward and nearly added one more right before the half when Tracey got a cross in and an unmarked Hendry just couldn’t get a head on it in the box.
To begin the second half, the Otters substituted Burrows for centerback Merveil Bilomba (ETSU). Wake FC settled in and controlled much of the second half, but the Otter backline of Barribeau, Bilomba, Christoph Willemsen (Lincoln Memorial), and Guilherme Henry (Lincoln Memorial) plus the help of co-captain Oscar Perez (Wingate University) were able to neutralize attack after attack.
In the 64th minute, Wake FC were able to equalize after a supreme individual effort by Ty Shipalane saw him get past several defenders and put a ball top shelf to beat Rubio.
It was all hands on deck from that point on as Wake FC looked to take all three points at home. Bilomba, Rubio, and Henry made several key interventions down the stretch to keep the game level.
The Otters relied on several subs to keep up the defensive work and also look for a winner of their own. Taylor Gray (Reinhardt) and Joshua Salinas (ETSU) kept the pressure on Wake FC in the attack, creating the Otters best chance of the second half when a Gray shot skipped just wide in the 77th minute.
On the defensive side, James Scasserra (Palm Beach Atlantic) replaced Henry at right back with ten minutes to play and was able to make two key stops on the left side. While Cole McLagan (Furman)played deeper than usual to help in the midfield.
In stoppage time, both teams were able to create one more major chance. For the Otters, McLagan got past several defenders before being taken down in the box to no call. On the opposite end, Wake FC got in on goal, but Rubio was able to make two key saves on the ground to preserve the draw!
The Otters will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina next Saturday to take on the North Carolina Fusion U-23s at 7:00 PM at Macpherson Stadium.
The Otters will then return home for their home opener against Lionsbridge FC at Kermit-Tipton Stadium at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, May 28th. Season and individual game tickets can be purchased on the HappsNow website at https://www.happsnow.com/#/place/117 or on their app!
The Otters also have several events planned for the month of June, including the 5-v-5 Tournament on June 8th and the Otters Youth Camp from June 17-20th at Civitan Park. Registration for both events can be found HERE! Be sure to follow us on social media so that you don’t miss out on any Otters updates! #FearTheFur