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Tormenta, Richmond battle elements and each other to 1-1 draw
Tormenta FC
Tormenta midfielder Chris Heckenberg looks to move the ball into the attacking third of the field during Saturday's game against the Richmond Kickers in Statesboro.

A rainy and unseasonably cold night in Statesboro saw South Georgia Tormenta FC battle the reigning regular season champion Richmond Kickers to a 1-1 daw Saturday on the strength of Nick Akoto’s first half goal. 

In the 45th minute, Akoto was able to get free along the right side and speed past the Richmond defender, leaving him one on one with Kicker's goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald. He then slid the ball past Fitzgerald on his right and into the net for his first professional goal. 

“I’ve been working on that. Running in behind (the defenders) and making sure that when I get in the final third that I’m executing my passes and my shots and, obviously today, it worked out well for me,” he said. 

Following the game, Akoto tweeted that he dedicated his goal to Carter Payne who was his teammate for Tormenta 2 last season. Payne died in a still unsolved hit and run accident approximately a year ago on Fair Road.

“Grateful to score my first pro goal and dedicated to my boy Carter and both my grandparents,” Akoto wrote following the game. 

“He’s got some special, outstanding qualities,” Tormenta Head Coach Ian Cameron said of Akoto. “He’s a good defender and he’s getting better tactically and knowing what to do defensively. But the prowess he has in the attacking areas is special, it’s fun.

“Everybody gets excited as soon as the ball goes near him in open space. You’re thinking something special could happen,” Cameron said. 

12 minutes into the second half, Richmond’s Justin Sukow took a corner kick from the left corner. He was able to curl the ball over everyone and past the outstretched arms of Tormenta goalkeeper Pablo Jara into the far side net to tie the game at one.

Two minutes later, Richmond looked to strike again. The Kickers’ forced a turnover inside the Tormenta penalty box, but Jara was able to make the save to keep the level at one.

South Georgia would go up a man in the 82nd minute when Zacarius Moran picked up his second yellow card with a hard foul. Tormenta was able to create pressure and some chances from then on, including a shot just before the end of the game that sailed just wide of the post, but weren’t able to find the finish they needed as the game ended 1-1.

Tormenta (4-5-1, 12 points) sits in sixth place on the season, just behind Richmond (3-2-5, 13 points), through 10 games. 

“It’s a disappointing draw,” Akoto said. “I think we had the chances to win the game, especially in the second half. We were on top of them and then in the last ten minutes with that red card we tried to give it everything but it just didn’t happen.”

“I think that’s two good teams. Last season’s regular season champions versus the USL champion,” Cameron said. “I think a draw is probably fair by the end of it.”

Cameron credited Richmond with doing what they needed to do to come away with the draw.

“I think we created enough chances to get a better look, but you have to give Richmond credit. The amount of times they got blocks or last ditch tackles in their box to get the result. That’s what good caliber teams do.”

Saturday marked the return of star striker Kazaiah Sterling to Tormenta’s lineup. He’s been out for all but approximately 20 minutes of the season following an injury. It was also the home debut of Arthur Bosua who returned last week and scored a goal on a header following a torn ACL in 2022. 

“It’s good to be back out there with the boys,” Starling said. “Watching all those weeks was hard so it was good to be out there running around with the boys and battling with them again.”

Sterling echoed Akoto in saying he thought Tormenta should have come away with a win.

“I think it was an unlucky result. I think we deserved to win, but games go like that sometimes but we put on a really good performance.”

Cameron smiled when asked about having both Sterling and Bosua back in the lineup for his squad.

“Any organization, but especially Tormenta, we’re built on certain key players. And Arthur is a big piece of that and Kazaiah is a big piece of that,” he said. “To go through a whole third of a season without either of them is tough. It wears on the rest of the squad without that focal point.”

“To have them both back, it’s a real lift for the boys. Great personalities, great character on the field and when you’ve got them both on the field you always feel like you’re a stronger outfit,” Cameron said.

Tormenta returns to action Saturday when they travel to South Carolina to face the Greenville Triumph at 7 p.m.