For MLS teams, the early rounds of the U.S. Open Cup might not carry much significance. They won’t come in until the Fourth Round, and even then play a rotated squad against a lower league opponent. For the lower division teams, however, the Open Cup means a chance to put themselves on the biggest stage possible. It’s a tournament unique to the American pro sports scene, bringing together all adult levels of the sport into a single competition. For American soccer fans across the country, it is magic. It is the oldest soccer competition in the U.S., dating back to 1914, and has seen its fair share of “cupsets” throughout the years.
You might remember the 2014 Atlanta Silverbacks, whose journey to the quarterfinals included a stoppage time winner from Kwadwo Poku to defeat Real Salt Lake and a chaotic victory over the Colorado Rapids. Or in 2017, when Atlanta United was bounced out by Miami FC with a stoppage time winner from ...Kwadwo Poku. Deep runs that year from others like Christos FC, an amateur team based out of a liquor store that found itself playing DC United, captured the eyes of the entire American soccer community. FC Cincinnati, playing in the USL, pushed their way into the semifinals and helped propel their MLS bid into reality just a couple years later. In 2019, South Georgia Tormenta FC will try to create an underdog story of their own in just their second attempt.
And they’ll have twice the chances to do it, too. “Two teams in one tournament?” you might be wondering. “How is that allowed?” I hear you, let me explain. In 2018, Tormenta FC’s USL League Two squad went undefeated in their division, qualifying themselves for the next year’s Open Cup. Tormenta then began their USL League One franchise and kicked off in March, bringing in a lot of that squad, but kept the League Two side alive. That team rebranded into Tormenta FC 2, keeping the original Open Cup spot, while League One Tormenta FC got in as a professional team along with the other League One sides. Since there is no movement between the two squads, they are both allowed in, unlike the reserve teams like Atlanta United 2. Got it?
Tormenta FC’s first Open Cup venture was just last year, after a winning 2017 record gave them a spot in the tournament. Drawn away in the First Round, Tormenta traveled to Myrtle Beach and found themselves down 1-0 to the Mutiny in the second half. However, a goal from Jad Arslan sparked a comeback that was finished off by current New Mexico United midfielder Toni Soler to set up a Second Round match against the Charleston Battery. Tormenta held on well against the pro side, showing what was to come in 2019, but ultimately were knocked out 1-0 on Atlanta United homegrown Patrick Okonkwo’s first professional goal.
Now with their feet wet, South Georgia Tormenta is eager to go even further in 2019. Things got started for the club when Tormenta FC 2 hosted - and beat - League One side Chattanooga Red Wolves SC on Tuesday night in the first round of the U.S. Open Cup. As with the other matchups between an amateur and a pro League One team, Tormenta 2 has just joined up while the Red Wolves are well into their regular season, making a result even harder to get. But what Twomenta (yes, that is the official nickname) does have in its corner is surprise and preparation. The surprise comes from the new group of players coming in after many moved up to the pro level. Jordan Walshaw and Cadu Cusatis have returned to bring some consistency from the Deep South Division winning squad, and some intriguing additions like Christian Lue Young and Daniel Strachan from NCAA College Cup finalists Akron will try to help the team repeat as division winners. Another new addition is head coach Ian Cameron, who takes control of his first League Two team this year.
As for the League One side, Tormenta will get a match up in Greenville with the Triumph the following day, who will certainly hold a grudge from the inaugural game loss in March. Tormenta is coming off of a bye week and should be well rested for the match, and is back into form after a 2-0 performance out in Tucson to get them their third win of the season. Tormenta will be hoping the break does not lose them any momentum, after Lucas Coutinho’s Player of the Week performance along with Conner Antley’s Player of the Month candidacy has kept the squad near the top of the table. Greenville, meanwhile, will not come in with the same rest and momentum, falling 1-0 to new league leaders North Texas SC on Saturday. Since the inaugural game, Greenville has shifted from a five in the back system to four, pushing its front three further up the field. Tormenta will have to replicate the strong defensive showing from that first game to get a result on Wednesday night. This is the only matchup this round with two League One sides playing each other, and will likely be close throughout, especially if the Tormenta defense returns to full health. I think it will be decided late or in extra time.
Prediction: Greenville Triumph 1-2 Tormenta FC
With its win against the Chattanooga Red Wolves, Tormenta 2 advances to play USL Championship side Nashville SC in on May 14. For League One Tormenta, a win will also give them a road trip to a Championship team, a rematch from last year in Charleston with the Charleston Battery. A win by either team there will move them into the third round against another Round 2 winner to play for a spot against an MLS side, which would certainly be Atlanta United. It’s a long path, but surely a rewarding one if one or both Tormenta squads can harness the Magic of the Cup and have themselves a run to remember.
Greenville Triumph SC vs. South Georgia Tormenta FC
U.S. Open Cup Round One
May 8th, 2019, 7:00 PM EST
Legacy Early College, Greenville, South Carolina
Watch on ESPN+