Locked at 1-1 after one half of action at Eagle Field Thursday night, South Georgia Tormenta FC and the Tri-Cities Otters seemed to be headed to a similar result that saw the teams play to a draw in their season opener.
Instead, Tormenta spent the second half unleashing its best offensive showing of its short history.
Reed Norton scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half while Rashid Alarape, Sam Lofts and Eli Dent also found the back of the net as South Georgia ran away with a 6-1 victory.
“The guys put together two solid halves of play,” Tormenta coach Ben Freakley said. “The big difference was our transition to attacking in the second half. We stressed playing above the halfway line and playing behind their back line. When we committed to that, good things started to happen.”
Tormenta opened the game’s scoring in the 30th minute with a penalty kick after an Otters player was whistled for a handball inside the box. At just 16 years old, James Brighton is Tormenta’s youngest player, but he looked like a seasoned veteran as he blasted a low shot into the right side of the net past Tri-Cities goalkeeper Andrew Kenneson for a 1-0 advantage.
Tri-Cities was able to level the score just before halftime when a defensive miscue by South Georgia caught keeper Alex Guerra off his line. Guerra made a fingertip save on a floating shot, but Jordan Broadwater got to the rebound and finished to make it 1-1.
Tormenta was determined not to let the final 45 minutes play out nearly as close.
The team took Freakley’s advice about playing more aggressive to heart and took the fight right to Tri-Cities early in the second half.
In the 46th minute, South Georgia penetrated deep into Otter territory before passing out of the box to an open Norton just as the defense started to swarm. Norton quickly gathered and fired, finding the top left corner to regain the lead for Tormenta.
Just four minutes later, Norton found the net again, this time on a header off of a beautiful cross from Jad Arslan.
“That’s where the credit should go,” Norton said of Arslan’s assist. “With a ball like that, anybody could have finished it off.”
Not content to sit on a two-goal advantage, Tormenta continued to press the issue and repeatedly won 50-50 balls in the midfield that led to great scoring chances as they seamlessly transitioned to offense.
Two point-blank saves by Kenneson and another Otter defender still weren’t enough to stop the bleeding in the 53rd minute as Alarape collected a rebound and scraped the bottom of the crossbar to record his first goal of the season.
Lofts continued the assault as he volleyed in a long cross from Kieran Roberts in the 71st minute and Dent finally put a cap on the scoring with a 74th minute strike.
“At 2-1, 3-1 and 4-1, it’s still agame,” Freakley said. “This is soccer and anything can happen. It was great to see our guys continue to push hard for goals. After some of the tough breaks we got with trying to score earlier in the season, it was great to have all the momentum favor us.”
Tri-Cities managed several good looks at the Tormenta net over the first 10 minutes of the second half, but became noticeably less aggressive on the offensive end as South Georgia continued to extend its lead.
Now sitting at 6-4-1 on the season, Tormenta climbed to fourth place in the South Atlantic Division standings and are just three points shy of second place and a guaranteed spot in the upcoming playoffs.
The next step toward qualifying for the postseason will be a tough one as Tormenta hosts the division-leading Charlotte Eagles Saturday in their final home contest of the regular season. Charlotte is ranked third out of all 67 Premier Development League teams in the latest power poll, but South Georgia will be looking to repeat its impressive win over the Eagles on the road last month.
“Our next goal is to play solid in the first 45 minutes Saturday night,” Freakley said. “We’re going to strive to do that, and we’ll see where we go from there.”