Could South Georgia Tormenta FC be starting to peak at just the right moment? With a statement win in Orlando on Wednesday, Tormenta showcased the attacking ability fans have been waiting to see, picking up all three points to take full advantage of their game in hand. On top of that, Friday night saw Greenville Triumph go into Frisco, Texas and emerge on the other side with a 4-0 victory over league leading North Texas SC. This sets up a huge weekend for soccer in Statesboro, Georgia with two massively important games across the U.S. lower division landscape.
Tormenta went straight to work on Wednesday night in Montverde, with Marco Micaletto scoring a brace within 14 minutes of the opening whistle. With MVP candidate Conner Antley leading charge after charge down the right flank, earning both assists on Micaletto’s goals. it was clear where South Georgia had found a weak spot. Another cross and goal from the right was executed between Lucas Coutinho and Alex Morrell in the 23rd minute, and despite an Orlando City B set piece goal, Tormenta took a dominating lead into halftime. Things wouldn’t look much better for the Young Lions in the second 45 minutes, as Antley responded by heading home a set piece of his own in the 61st to make it 4-1. Now seeing the game out, Tormenta showed an opportunity to Savannah native academy player Tristan DeLoach to make his professional soccer debut. The 16 year old high school sophomore showed a high work rate in his 10 minutes of action, looking eager to prove himself on the pro level. Following the heavy defeat, Orlando City announced that the B team head coach Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita would no longer manage the last place team.
Something interesting to point out about Tormenta’s performance was that every goal scored by them came within 10 yards of the net, showing the midfielders and forwards’ abilities to dribble and create chances straight through the defense. Micaletto, playing deeper due to the suspended Nil Vinyals, thrived in his position, making dangerous runs into the box and scoring on two of them.
We’ll see if the buildup play and high output will continue this weekend not only in for Tormenta FC, but for Tormenta FC 2 as well. On Sunday Twomenta battles Reading United for a spot in the USL League Two Championship game, which should be a very hotly contested match. Both teams finished with 10 win seasons in their 14 games, and then went on to win their respective conference championships. Now they meet in Statesboro, and for Tormenta 2, it is a chance to make an already historic season even greater. The previous squads assembled by the Tormenta franchise, which included many of today’s League One roster, couldn’t make it past the conference playoff in their best year despite an undefeated regular season. Tormenta 2 has surpassed that finish, and combined with an Open Cup win against a pro side in Chattanooga Red Wolves, this has been a season to remember. No matter Sunday’s semifinal result, I’m sure we’ll see some of these players sign pro contracts and move up into Tormenta’s League One side, or even higher if the opportunity is shown.
Prior to that vital semifinal match is a game important in its own right. Lansing Ignite comes to town on Saturday sitting just behind Tormenta in 3rd place. However, that position can be a bit deceiving, as Lansing has played three more matches than most other teams in the league at 19. This puts a lot more pressure on the Ignite for results, as failure here leaves the door open for them to get kicked down from their top four playoff spot. The Ignite are the only team outside the bottom two with a negative goal differential, a worrying statistic for the defense who rely on goals being scored. Lansing currently sits second behind Orlando in goal differential, and their last three games have been high scoring affairs of four or more total goals between them and their opponents. Travelling to play the league’s best defense won’t be easy for Lansing, but their last visit to Statesboro saw them shut down any Tormenta advances and end 0-0.
This time, though, they’ll be without head coach Nate Miller, who is in the middle of a three game suspension for his comments about league officiating. It’ll be interesting to see if the team comes out to attack or defend, as they are going through a tough patch of games against top-half of the table squads, and host Chattanooga in just four days time. It wouldn’t surprise me to see an important midfielder or two like Nick Moon, Tumi Moshobane, or Xavier Gomez not in tonight’s starting XI to prepare for that game. Lansing has no primary goal scorer for Tormenta to focus on, so the entire South Georgia defense will have to be careful not to lose track of any threats during the game. A win here for Tormenta FC will have them right on the heels of North Texas SC at the top, being only two points back, and make for an interesting regular season title race. However, creating room between second and third place is even more important, as a top 2 finish means hosting the semifinal come playoff time. The playoff push starts now, and with a lot at stake for both sides, this could be a fun one to watch.
Prediction: Tormenta FC 2-1 Lansing Ignite
South Georgia Tormenta FC vs. Lansing Ignite FC
USL League One Regular Season Week 18
Erk Russell Park, Statesboro, Georgia
Saturday. July 27, 8:00 P.M. EST
Watch on ESPN+ in U.S., YouTube internationally