The returning hometown star nearly returned the Jacksonville Armada to winning ways.
Then, an old nemesis spoiled the night.
Jacksonville’s Tony Taylor scored the opening goal and forced a penalty kick, but North Carolina FC’s Lance Laing led the hosts’ comeback in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
Laing scored the tying goal in the 68th minute after the Armada let a 2-0 lead slip away.
The start of the night belonged to Taylor, the former Bishop Kenny High School and Jacksonville University star.
He struck just two minutes into his second start, taking a pass from Zach Steinberger, cutting in from the left and drilling a low shot into the net.
That was the Armada’s first goal from a local player since former Englewood High School and JU forward Tommy Krizanovic scored against the New York Cosmos on July 18, 2015.
Taylor repeatedly threatened a brittle North Carolina defense on the counter, and that paid off in the 17th minute after a tangle of legs with defender Brad Ruhaak right at the edge of the penalty area.
Referee Ramy Touchan signaled a penalty kick, and Jack Blake buried the ensuing shot for a 2-0 lead.
But North Carolina (1-1-1) fought back hard, turning up the full-field defensive pressure and forcing turnovers in an all-too-familiar pattern for the Armada.
Jamaican winger Laing, who scored twice when the Armada (0-1-2) lost its previous North Carolina visit 3-1 on May 13, led the comeback.
Midfielder Dre Fortune scored North Carolina’s first, a 20-yard blast just before halftime.
Then, midway through the second half, Laing put away a rebound after keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell had saved a shot off the post.
The Armada withstood heavy bombardment late, including close-range misses by North Carolina’s Kareem Moses and Nazmi Albadawi, hanging on for the draw despite being outshot 13-4.
The result keeps both teams at 26 points in the North American Soccer League combined standings.
The Armada’s schedule now turns hectic with two home games in a week, Wednesday against Puerto Rico FC and Sunday against Miami FC at the University of North Florida.