The Otters kicked off their home season in style last night with a come from behind, 3-2 win over Lionsbridge FC on Tuesday night. Two unanswered second-half goals saw the Otters take all three points, moving to 1-1-1 overall and their best ever start to a season.
This game also marked the debut of the Otters move to a 3-5-2 formation from the 4-2-3-1 they had used in the team’s first two games. As the team found their footing, they were able to come into the game and have more success.
Early on, Lionsbridge was able to control the game and created several chances. However, goalkeeper Carlos Rubio (Lenoir-Rhyne) was up to the task, keeping the Otters in the game with huge save after huge save. For the second game in a row, Rubio recorded nine saves, which is only one behind the single-game record. Rubio has recorded this feat now three different times as a part of the Otters.
Lionsbridge were able to get on the board first when their forward put away a cross in the 24th minute.
Ten minutes later, the Otters were able to equalize after Stuart Hendry (Wingate) laid off a ball to Jack Burrows (Palm Beach Atlantic) who volleyed a rocket past the Lionsbridge keeper.
Despite the high scoreline, the game itself felt like a masterclass in goalkeeping as both keepers made several tough saves in key moments.
In first half stoppage time, the Otters got out on the counterattack that led to a Cole McLagan (Furman University) shot that was deflected and appeared to hit the hand of a Lionsbridge defender. The call was not given and a quick counter by Lionsbridge saw them put away another cross for a 2-1 lead going into halftime.
The Otters made three subs to start the second half, as James Scasserra (Palm Beach Atlantic), Troy Brady (Canisius), and Taylor Gray (Reinhardt) all played important roles in the second half. The Otters continued to get more comfortable with the formation, and paired with several big Rubio saves, began to create chances.
The breakthrough came in the 67th minute when Hendry found Alex Horveno (Ohio Valley) out on the wing who raced in and had his cross knocked into the net by a Lionsbridge defender for an own goal to level things once again.
Following the goal, the Otters opted to bring on fresh legs and give captains Blake Barribeau (Palm Beach Atlantic) and Oscar Perez (Wingate) their first rest of the season. They were replaced by two ETSU Buccaneers in Joshua Salinas and Merveil Bilomba.
Several minutes later Brady was brought down in the box, but the penalty by Burrows was denied by the Lionsbridge keeper.
Both teams pushed for the winner and in the 80th minute a Horveno cross found Gray wide open at the back post, who headed it home to give the Otters a 3-2 lead.
The defense of Rubio, Scasserra, Bilomba, and George Stanley (Montreat) made several key interventions down the stretch to preserve the 3-2 victory!
The Otters now have four points through three games and sit in fifth place with anywhere from 1-3 games in hand on those in front of them in the standings.
The home stand continues next Tuesday, June 4th against the first place North Carolina FC U-23s at 7 PM at Kermit-Tipton Stadium. Tickets are available on HappsNow or can be purchased at the gate the day of the game! Follow the Otters on social media so you don’t miss any updates regarding games, events, camp, and more! #FearTheFur