The Sioux Falls Thunder finished the season 1-8-3 under Robbie Carroll's leadership with a tense home draw against LC Aris FC (2-9-1) on Saturday evening. The evening's dramatics saw a goal for each side and a total of three red cards shown in a tough, fight-to-the-finish show.
It seemed like Sioux Falls might score in the first half, with several chances from forwards Eric Beltran and Marcus Horwood. LC Aris was forced to play a simple game of kicking the ball up to their forwards and hoping to outrun the Thunder defense, but each attack was defended successfully. Notably, Horwood and LC Aris defender Herman Fernandez Ortega, among others, both received yellow cards for aggressive play, which would come into play in the scrappy second half.
And as it seemed inevitable, the Thunder did break through just seconds before the half time whistle. A corner kick served in from Horwood was defended but played back out to Horwood, who whipped it around the Aris defense. Thunder attacker Lubos Polacko raced in to bury the tricky ball with his first touch and secure his first goal of the season in what was surely a satisfying moment for the forward.
But the Thunder could not hold on to that lead through a chaotic second half. Aris forward Benjamin Pena collected the ball after it bounced around defender and forward heads alike, and took it himself to score a lucky finish from a narrow angle.
The Sioux Falls Thunder began to push for a goal with ten minutes remaining. This left them open to counters, and Thunder keeper Jack Howard was forced to make an aggressive play to stop a goal-scoring attempt, which snapped him a red card from the referee. Horwood and Ortega would receive their second yellows in the 11 minutes of stoppage time, knocking the field down to just 19 players total. But even with tons of Thunder chances, the offside calls killed all hope of a go-ahead goal, and the game finished in a draw.
The Sioux Falls Thunder team are grateful for the immense support the team received this season from fans, sponsors, and volunteers. We're proud to be representatives of South Dakota and look forward to next year!