The Otters — down 2-0 at halftime to Virginia Beach United — rallied to go ahead 3-2 going into stoppage time, but Virginia Beach scored in extra time for a 3-3 draw.
Donnett Sackie got by two Otters defenders to head the ball past goalkeeper Carlos Rubio as he was coming out to the top of the box for the tying score. It was Sackie’s second goal of the evening and it salvaged one point for Virginia Beach after blowing the lead at half. Sackie’s goal was one of only two Virginia Beach shots in the second half.
The Otters (4-1-3) looked to have sealed a win when Marvin Made put them on top with a goal in the 90th minute. The ball slipped out from Virginia Beach goalkeeper Brett Johnson’s hands and dribbled out right in front of Made.
For Tri-Cities, the emotions went from the highest of highs after it looked to have completed an improbable come-from-behind win to a somber mood in the matter of about a minute and a half.
“It was a poor first 45 minutes that put us behind,” Otters head coach David Strickland said. “We challenged each one of them in the locker room to look in the mirror. They have to deal with the problems. We responded being down two and putting three in. It was a tale of two halves and maybe this turns out to be a lesson down the road.”
The game did not start off ideally for the Otters, playing one of the sloppiest first halves of the season. Virginia Beach (4-4-1) got a quick two goal advantage within the first 20 minutes with Sackie’s first goal in the 10th minute and one from Samuel Pollard in the 18th minute.
Things looked bleak for the Otters, but right out of the half, Merveil Bilomba scored in the 47th minute to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Tipton Stadium crowd began to rumble and got loud when Troy Brady scored the tying goal in the 57th minute.
The Otters had plenty of chances in the waning minutes before Made’s go-ahead goal to give Tri-Cities a little bit of insurance.
“That one point is going to be valuable in the end,” Strickland said. “You saw a completely different group the second half. You saw the level that the Otters can play at. Having no points at the half to salvaging a point by the end, we’ll take it and move on.”
The Otters will be on the road for the remaining matches including a July 9 matchup with Tobacco Road FC at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, North Carolina. That match has a 5:30 p.m. kickoff.