The hottest team in USL League One at the moment is back for more. After a decisive win last weekend against Orlando City B, South Georgia Tormenta FC gets to stay at home and welcome the Richmond Kickers to town.
Now at six games unbeaten, Tormenta is the only team in the league with a streak lasting more than three games, putting them back on top of the league’s Power Rankings. However, the Statesboro squad remains locked in at second in the standings that really matter, clear of immediate danger from third place Toronto II yet still needing work to catch up to North Texas SC, who hold on to a point and a game in hand in their advantage. We’ll see if Tormenta can jump into the driver’s seat this weekend, but first, let’s dismantle the win over Orlando:
Immediately following the opening whistle, the Young Lions took quick control of the game, creating two clear chances in the first ten minutes. Tormenta would grow into the match, though, creating a chance in the 27th minute that saw Dalton Pando’s shot hit the crossbar and go down to the goal line, but then bounce the wrong way, leaving both teams scoreless at half.
The second half brought Tormenta out of the gates flying, and the blue and magenta were able to grab their first goal in three games with the resulting momentum. In the 54th minute, a scramble following a corner found Mikie Rowe in the box, whose header was fantastically saved by Orlando ‘keeper Juliano Chade. Rowe was able to turn himself around in time to perform, according to Charlie Dennis, a “two footed angled leap sphere smasher” that found its way into the left side netting for Rowe’s first professional goal. He instantly sprinted over to the sideline to celebrate with his visiting family from Ireland, creating far and away the moment of the night.
The pressure by Tormenta would continue, and minutes later Josh Phelps hit the crossbar on another scramble in the Orlando box, but this one Chade was able to claim. In the 86th minute, a poor touch by OCB defender Randy Mendoza resulted in a break for Tormenta, eventually finding Alex Morrell who magnified Mendoza’s error and dribbled his way for a finish at the near post, putting the game to rest.
While it was good to see the Tormenta offense firing, the game stats show Tormenta playing to their defensive strengths, giving up 60% of possession to Orlando City B. The performance led to a sweep of Goal and Save of the Week awards from Morrell and Pablo Jara, respectively, and Team of the Week honors for midfielder Nil Vinyals and defender Conner Antley.
Tormenta FC 2 had a busy week in USL League Two as well, hitting the road for two games in the Carolinas within days of each other. In Rock Hill, Twomenta was able to convert a penalty from Luca Mayr and hold Discoveries SC to only one shot to gain all three points from the match. Then over to Charlotte, where a wild game against the Charlotte Eagles included this half field stunner and a following last minute equalizer to finish 3-3. Now just over halfway into the League Two season, the Deep South Division race seems to be narrowed down to SC United, Tormenta 2, and Dalton Red Wolves, in that order. Twomenta’s insane start has now been slowed, and the remaining games over the rest of June and July will be critical for Tormenta 2 to defend the division title and grab a spot in the postseason.
While Tormenta has enjoyed a long unbeaten run in League One, the same can not be said for the Richmond Kickers, one of the oldest continuously run soccer teams in the country. Where South Georgia sees 6 games unbeaten, Richmond sees 5 without a win, dropping them from a playoff position to 8th out of 10.
In a league with such parity, every team is still in the running for the top-4 playoff spots, but as we near the midway point, the Kickers might feel some urgency to get results. They’ve been shutout in four of their last five, scoring only two goals while conceding nine. Now coming up against a Tormenta squad that leads the league in shutouts, things don’t look too bright for Richmond’s attacking hopes. Nor does it look good for the defense, after Tormenta’s offense found a spark last week. When the two teams last met in Week 2, a game-logged Tormenta traveled to Virginia and earned itself a 0-0 draw.
Things might be more high scoring this time around unless goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald can add to his save total of 35, good for second in the League One leaderboard. Another player to watch, while he may not start, is Jannik Eckenrode, a Tormenta alum from last season making a return to Statesboro. His brother Lars is likely still out for Tormenta, but the defense continues to be in form without him and will try to earn a fourth consecutive clean sheet tonight.
Prediction: Tormenta FC 2-0 Richmond Kickers
South Georgia Tormenta FC vs. Richmond Kickers
USL League One Regular Season
Erk Russell Park, Statesboro, Georgia
Saturday, June 22, 8:00 P.M. EST
Watch on ESPN+ in U.S.; YouTube internationally