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Otters' struggles continue in home finale

Joe Avento • Jul 9, 2016 at 9:36 PM

In a season of on-field disappointments, this one might have hurt the most for the Tri-Cities FC Otters.

The Southern West Virginia King's Warriors scored a late goal and took a 1-0 decision over the Otters on Saturday night at Kermit Tipton Stadium in a game that left the players and coaches on the home team shaking their heads.

"My gosh, we did so much right in that game," Otters coach David Strickland said. "When the game's going your way, you have to score and we had a ton of that game going our way. We have to put it in."

The Otters, going through first-year growing pains in the Premier Development League, fell to 1-9-3.

Sam Blackman's goal in the 77th minute broke the scoreless tie. Blackman banged in a cross as the Otters defense appeared to think he was offside.

The visitors' defense seemed susceptible to counter attacks in the second half, and the Otters tried to take advantage.

Tri-Cities FC seemed to have a golden chance in the 66th minute on a counter attack after a King's Warriors corner kick. It left the Otters streaking down the field with a 3-on-2 advantage, but they couldn't manage a shot on goal.

Moments later they had a 4-on-2 and didn't threaten.

Ten minutes later they were trailing.

"That's the heartbreaking thing that guts you," Strickland said. "When you see that, we put on a good game tonight. To me, the result is so unfair because we were the better team. But in this game, you have to score."

It was almost 2-0 five minutes from the end when King's Warriors midfielder Gui Machado noticed Otters goalie Kari Sveinsson off his line and launched a shot from 60 yards out. The ball sailed over Sveinsson's head, but went barely wide.

The Otters had one last gasp in 89th minute when a handball call just outside the penalty area set up a free kick. Carlos Sendin's low shot got past the wall but rolled just wide of the post.

The King's Warriors improved to 6-4-2. The two teams tied 2-2 on June 18.

It was the Otters' final regular-season home game. They close the regular season next Saturday with a road game against the Charlotte Eagles.

The Otters will play host to the Middlesbrough U-21 team on July 30 at Kermit Tipton Stadium in the area's first international friendly.

"One thing is true, though, our fans have been fantastic," Strickland said. "They've stayed behind us the whole time. I applaud them for everything they've done to be here all season."

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