The Dalton Red Wolves played well enough to win or tie Sunday night's match, but a moment of brilliance from the opponent stole the points away in the dying moments.
Playing at Christian Heritage School, South Georgia Tormenta FC 2 defeated the Red Wolves 3-2. With two minutes left in regular time, Tormenta's Luca Mayr found himself a yard of space at midfield and sent a ball toward the Red Wolves' goal. Red Wolves' goalkeeper Aaron Fraire, who saved numerous goal scoring chances by Tormenta throughout the match, scrambled back to the goal line but wasn't able to reach the ball as is skimmed underneath the cross bar. The goal from midfield sent Tormenta players into the corner of the field in celebration, and minutes later the result was final.
"I mean that's football," Red Wolves captain Joe Stacey said after the match. "That's the beauty of football, you don't always win the games you think you deserve. When you lose one at the end like that it stings a little more, especially on a goal as spectacular as that."
Tormenta (6-1-2), which entered the match in second place atop the United Soccer League Deep South Division standings, came out quickly and took the momentum right away after Adrian Billhardt scored in the fifth minute of the match. The Red Wolves (4-3-1) entered the match in third place in the Deep South Division and after dropping their previous match seemed to turn up the intensity following Billhardt's goal. Stacey led the way, when he forced an own goal by Tormenta in the 19th minute after sending in a cross from the left side after beating his defender. The Red Wolves kept the momentum, when Jonathan Ricketts finished on a break away in the 31st minute following a perfectly weighted through ball from Schimiliguen Castin.
Tormenta tied the match one minute later when J.J. Donnelly scored, and at the 39-minute mark the Red Wolves earned a penalty when Clay Holstad collided with Tormenta goalkeeper Sawyer Gaffney. Red Wolves Abdel Kuku stepped up to take the penalty, but missed wide right, and the eventful first half finished with the score tied 2-2.
"I told them I was really proud of their effort," Red Wolves coach Drew Courtney said. "I thought we were the better side in the game tonight, but unfortunately the scoreboard doesn't show that."
Gaffney earned a red card for his collision with Holstad to end the first half, and the Red Wolves played with a man advantage for the entirety of the second half. Both sides had multiple opportunities from corner kicks and from the run of play but the match looked to be going to extra time before Mayr's late goal. Teammates and coaches could be seen consoling Fraire after the match. Courtney specifically took his goalkeeper aside following the team's post game meeting on the field. For Stacey, the match came down to more than a single play.
"Football is not always fair," Stacey said. "There were some mistakes by all of us, myself included on the first goal by them. We wouldn't have been in that game without his saves to keep us in it."
The Red Wolves will not have time to ponder the result, as they will take on SC United Bantams at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Chattanooga Christian School.