CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Late strikes from Marco Micaletto and Luca Mayr snapped South Georgia Tormenta FC's winless run in thrilling style, as Tormenta came from behind to win 2-1 against Chattanooga Red Wolves SC on Saturday at CHI Memorial Stadium.
Tormenta started well before momentum swung in favor of the Red Wolves about 20 minutes in when Chattanooga created two great chances on back-to-back attacks. Red Wolves forward Greg Hurst was denied on the first of those chances by a spectacular save from Tormenta goalkeeper Pablo Jara, but he finished off the following opportunity in fine fashion on 26 minutes.
Chattanooga's Mark Hernandez took on the Tormenta defense with purpose, making space for a cross with a series of stepovers. His ball into the danger area was hit first time by Hurst for his fifth goal of the season, the joint-most in League One.
Jara was called into action again before halftime, keeping the South Georgia side in the game with an excellent double save on Hurst's initial shot and Ricardo Zacarias' follow-up.
It looked like Tormenta's three-game winless run would extend for much of the second half, as Micaletto missed a great chance and Pato Botello Faz hit the post moments later. But South Georgia were thrown a lifeline in the 79th minute when the referee awarded them a penalty, which Micaletto expertly dispatched low and to the keeper's left-hand corner.
The moment of the match arrived three minutes after the penalty from Tormenta midfielder Luca Mayr. Receiving a pass about 30 yards from goal, Mayr turned and unleashed a wicked shot that rocketed into the top left corner.
The sensational strike was his first goal as a professional, and it proved to be the winner despite a late Tormenta red card shown to Tristan DeLoach.
The victory is a much-needed tonic for Tormenta and its fans. Even by his high standards, Pablo Jara's performance was outstanding and his saves kept the Statesboro side in the game on multiple occasions where another Red Wolves goal would likely have let a result slip out of reach.
Micaletto and Mayr both put in good shifts (aside from their goals) in the middle of the park as well. Tormenta travel to face Orlando City B next weekend and will hope to use this comeback win as the kick-starter for a winning run.
Though the nature of the loss will make it sting for Chattanooga, there were plenty of bright spots for the Red Wolves. Chief among those was the return of striker Steven Beattie, who led the team in scoring last year with nine goals. Beattie nearly got on the scoresheet, denied only by a flying save from Jara. With Hurst in prolific form, a fit and firing Beattie could make up the other half of one of League One's top strike partnerships. The Red Wolves' first chance at redemption will arrive next week, when they host New England Revolution II.
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC: August 29 v. New England Revolution II (H)
South Georgia Tormenta FC: August 28 v. Orlando City B (A)