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Storm Watch, Week 9: Tormenta FC vs. Lansing Ignite

A tale of two streaks

Tormenta midfielder Nil Vinyals and Don Smart of Forward Madison battle for possession in Tormenta’s 1-0 win last Saturday
Forward Madison FC

Simply put, winning is fun. Luckily for the players fans and staff, Tormenta FC seems to be doing a lot of it. After a victorious trip to Madison, South Georgia rides on top of a three game win streak in USL League One, and got a taste of the top spot in the standings before it was snatched back by still undefeated North Texas SC. Despite multiple injuries, long travels, and interesting playing conditions, Tormenta’s inaugural pro season has so far been quite the success, with them being the only team to keep pace with the league leaders as the table begins to separate.

The winning is not only centered on League One, though. Tormenta FC 2 continued their League Two regular season with two more games, Discoveries SC on Monday and visiting Peachtree City MOBA on Friday. Thanks to standout performances by Luca Mayr and James Meehan, Twomenta recorded 4-0 wins in both games, making that familiar scoreline the same for each of its division matches this year. That’s a +12 goal differential and three shutouts in only three games, which is downright insane. The odds of retaining the division champion title may have seemed slim after many players turned pro from last season, but this Tormenta 2 squad is leaving very little doubt so far. The work done by Tormenta to set up an amateur team this successful is nothing short of praiseworthy after seeing the results in League Two and the stand against pro sides in the Open Cup, and I have no doubt that these players’ names will show up in the League One team and beyond in the future.

Don’t get me wrong, though: the League One team is in no way begging for help. A well earned 1-0 win in what is most likely the toughest road environment the team will play in all season set the tone that Tormenta’s hot start was no bit of luck. Forward Madison came in on a streak of their own, and having just crushed El Paso Locomotive of the USL Championship, they were always going to be tough opposition. For me, credit for this win goes to the Tormenta defense, which has been the strong point of the team all year. Jad Arslan made his starting debut at right back, a position we’re not used to seeing him in, and Eckenrode still sidelined from his injury in the Orlando City B match last month made this back line less than 100%. Forward held on to almost all of the key offensive stats- possession, shots, passing accuracy- and still were unable to find the back of the net. Pablo Jara stood on his head at many points in the game, and even received Save of the Week honors for his stop on J.C. Banks. April Player of the Month Conner Antley was the one to find the back of the net on a corner in the 50th minute, and Madison responded by substituting in two first choice attackers who had been rotated from the Open Cup. Bringing in these players, Paulo Jr. and Don Smart, pushed the Forward attack even higher and tested the Tormenta back line's fatigue for the remaining third of the match. The defense held steady, and Tormenta escaped Wisconsin with all three points secured.

Next up in the cross-hairs comes Lansing Ignite, who visit Georgia in the first ever meeting of these two teams. Last week, Lansing came the closest to handing North Texas SC their first loss of the season, going up 2-0 on the leaders all the way until the 83rd minute of the game, where they went on to concede two goals in the span of five minutes. This result puts them at a 5 game winless streak heading into Saturday night’s contest in Statesboro. The Ignite will also be without the help of two starting players: Alex Bruce, who scored the second Lansing goal last week, was shown red after the final whistle for abusive language, and Grant Stoneman, a defender who has started all 8 of Lansing’s matches, due to yellow card accumulation. While these losses will in no way help Lansing’s odds, threats still remain in forwards Xavier Gomez and Rickey Lopez-Espin. Gomez leads the Ignite in assists and chances created, and will be doing the work to try to set up Lopez-Espin, who will likely start in the place of Bruce. Lopez-Espin, despite starting in just half the team’s games, leads in goals scored, showcasing his ability up top. Three recent loans from the Chicago Fire as part of the two teams’ partnership also adds to the Ignite’s lineup, with midfielder Diego Campos, defender Grant Lillard, and goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland bringing MLS experience to the roster. Lansing sit high on both the goals scored and goals conceded rankings, so expect a lot of attacking play and opportunities for Tormenta to strike on counter attacks.

Projected Lineups:

Tormenta FC

Lansing Ignite

Prediction: Tormenta FC 3-1 Lansing Ignite

Match Info:

South Georgia Tormenta FC vs. Lansing Ignite

USL League One Regular Season

Erk Russell Park, Statesboro, Georgia

Saturday, May 25th, 8:00 P.M. EST

Watch on ESPN+ in U.S.; YouTube internationally