By the time Week 11 of the USL League One season wraps up, we’ll have answers to some of the more pressing questions about Tormenta FC. How does the injury situation look? Jerry Saint-Vil seems to be ready to return to full action, but captain Lars Eckenrode has remained on the sideline since the concussion he picked up against Orlando six games ago. Eckenrode making the 18-man roster or not will give us a clue to how close we are to seeing him back with the defense. Can the defense, now on a two game shutout streak, keep their performance up? If Eckenrode does return, will the chemistry be thrown off? What about the offense, who in the last three games have scored only once? Sure, having a defender leading your team in goals makes for a fun talking point, but doesn’t show much in terms of a lethal striking force up top. Tonight’s match against the Chattanooga Red Wolves will shed some more light on these areas and hopefully produce some positive responses.
Last weekend, South Georgia was able to put its lone away match of the month in the rear-view with a trip to Greenville. I had the privilege of getting to attend the game, and walked away impressed with the fan support and setup by the Triumph. (If you’re in Greenville and haven’t been yet… you’re missing out.) Also impressive was the quality defensive performances from both sides in what ended up being a 0-0 slugfest of a match. Pablo Jara and Greenville keeper Dallas Jaye both had some incredible saves, making two of the three Save of the Week nominees come from the same game (which Pablo ended up winning). The entire Tormenta defense continued to be stellar, and recorded a perfect 100% success rate on their 12 tackles. After a second yellow was shown to midfielder Ricardo Gomez, the team became even more defensive, essentially ending the game there. The offense was not quite as efficient, failing to convert on their 9 corners and 15 shots. This second consecutive 0-0 draw didn’t do Tormenta any favors in the standings, allowing North Texas SC to extend their lead with a win in Richmond. Now, with a four game homestand in the confines of Erk Russell Park, South Georgia can regroup and make another charge at North Texas’ throne.
A missed opportunity was felt by the League Two side as well the next day against fellow Georgia opponent Dalton Red Wolves. Luca Mayr was sorely missed in the midfield for Twomenta, as they fought back to grab a 1-1 draw, a change from the 3 and 4 goal wins that had become routine. This draw opened the door for a familiar opponent, SC United, to take the top spot in the Deep South Division with their 5th win in 5 games. Everything was set up for a first-vs-second showdown Friday night in Columbia, until thunderstorms throughout the region decided to ruin the fun and keep fans waiting until Tuesday, when SC United visits Statesboro instead.
But between all the craziness that comes with two teams in the mid-seasons, Tormenta has still found time for the local community. Whether it’s reading with kids at the library once a week, or recently hosting a soccer clinic for the Georgia Migrant Education Program, the club has recognized the importance of the community to the team. The prioritization of the community-club relationship is truly praiseworthy, and can only benefit all sides.
It’s time for the community to return the favor tonight as Tormenta kicks off the home stand with its second meeting against Chattanooga. The Red Wolves’ last time in Statesboro resulted in a 3-0 loss to Tormenta 2 in the Open Cup, but they were victorious in the last time against the League One squad up in Tennessee. A quick three goals from the Red Wolves sunk Tormenta early, and the comeback effort fell just short in a 3-2 loss. Things will look a little different from that game, as Tormenta have since lost goalscorer Chris Hellmann to injury and returned center back Josh Phelps, while Chattanooga have recently brought in defender Daniel Navarro on a short-term loan from USL Championship’s El Paso Locomotive to replace the injured Andrew Kendall-Moullin. The Red Wolves’ recent form has been up and down, with three draws in their last five matches. Their away form, however, hasn’t been great, as seen in a 4-0 defeat out in Tucson. This partially explains why the Red Wolves currently sit tied for second in goals conceded, something positive for a Tormenta offense in need of a spark. Tormenta will be without key midfielder Ricardo Gomez thanks to that red card from last week, so it will need to rely on a newer face this game, most likely Peter Pearson, who started in the Open Cup match. For Chattanooga, its key players include the attacking threats in forward Steven Beattie, who leads the team in shots, and wingback Vangjel Zguro, who assisted both Chattanooga goals in their last game against Toronto FC II. They’ll provide the test for Tormenta’s shutout streak if, for once, the summer Georgia thunderstorms stay away come kickoff.
Chattanooga Red Wolves:
Prediction: Tormenta FC 1-0 Chattanooga Red Wolves
South Georgia Tormenta FC vs. Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
USL League One Regular Season
Erk Russell Park, Statesboro, Georgia
Saturday, June 8th, 8:00 P.M. EST
Watch on ESPN+ in the U.S.; YouTube internationally