By Rob Shore
BREMERTON, Wash. – Tyler LaCourse headed in a free kick by Chuy Sanchez in the final moments of injury time, and Kitsap SC rescued a point at home with a 2-2 draw against winless, 10-man Pierce County FC.
LaCourse’s goal capped a wild final 11 minutes that saw three goals, any one of which could have been the game-decider.
“As soon as it found my head, it was right in the sweet spot, so I could go bottom corner,” said LaCourse, a rising sophomore at Oral Roberts University. “Everything kind of blurred after that. It was crazy and exhilarating.”
Kitsap SC coach Roy Lassiter said that earning the late point again showed the team’s ability to battle.
“Again, it shows the resilience of our team – they never stop working,” Lassiter said. “That was a different type of team (In Pierce County) we played today. We didn’t take them lightly at all.”
Brian Charles scored on a penalty in the 84th minute, while Nick McDonald and Ettore Ballestracci scored for Pierce County.
The draw pushed Kitsap SC to eight points, good enough to temporarily take second place in the NPSL Northwest Division behind FCM Portland.
The draw also marked Pierce County’s first point of the season.
Pierce County’s Ettore Ballestracci scored what looked to have been the match-winner four minutes into injury time. Teammate Diego Zannoni beat Kitsap defender Javo Reyes on the left side and got in a cross.
Keeper Joe Wheelwright got a hand on the cross, but couldn’t control it and the ball spilled right to Ballestracci in front of an open goal. The goal set off celebrations on the Pierce County bench, which thought it was en route to its first win of the season.
LaCourse had other ideas.
“We’ve been down goals almost every game and we’ve found our way back in every single game,” LaCourse said. “Our identity as a team is we’ve shown we have a lot of character. We’re never going to stop fighting. Any time a team begins to count us out, we find our way right back in it.”
Charles earned the penalty, being brought down in the box, going ball from LaCourse.
In Charles’ first match since suffering an ankle injury in the NPSL opener against Spokane, Charles took the spot kick, waiting for Pierce County keeper Darius Ochoa to commit left, then coolly rolling it down the middle for the equalizer.
“It sometimes doesn’t always take power; you’ve just got to put it in the right spot,” Charles said. “You kind of see where the goalkeeper is going, then you put it away.
“Anyway, it crossed the line.”
Pierce County was able to break out of its own unwelcome pattern – the NPSL expansion side hadn’t scored in the first 79 minutes of any game this season.
But McDonald chased after a long ball into the right corner and Wheelwright came out from his line to diffuse the danger. But after McDonald settled the ball in the right corner, he curled in the go-ahead goal with Wheelwright out of the net for a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute.
That goal came after Kitsap threatened to make a breakthrough, with Ochoa making saves almost back-to-back on Ryan Hill and Sean Bowman in the 21st minute.
But Ochoa dealt with the threat, then McDonald’s goal shortly thereafter sent Kitsap chasing the lead into halftime.