The end of the inaugural USL League One season is drawing near, and it’s crunch time for South Georgia Tormenta FC. Two games remain for the club: away this afternoon in Toronto, and a closer at home against Greenville Triumph next weekend. Both of these are must win games, and not in the rhetorical sense. A draw or loss in either of the next two will see Tormenta, who currently hold 1.6% odds at reaching the top four, out of the league’s first ever playoffs. Even if wins come in both of these games, it wouldn’t quite be enough to leapfrog Chattanooga and Madison in the table. Tormenta needs Madison to lose both of their matches, and Chattanooga to lose both or one and draw the other, provided the tiebreakers come out in their favor.
Looking at the crazy scenario that must fall into place, it’s no wonder the odds given are so small. Tormenta, riding a massive downturn in form, has plummeted from being a top 2 lock to being next up on the elimination chopping block in a few short months. Winless in their last ten, South Georgia is still coming out of a very rough patch of results in August, but have put together some good showings in their past few matches.
Last week brought an away trip to Lansing, Michigan, to play arguably the hottest team in the league in Lansing Ignite FC. Once again, the odds were not quite in favor of Tormenta, who were missing starting center back Josh Phelps against Lansing’s high powered offense. High powered they were, outshooting Tormenta 22-10 on the night. However, Tormenta’s defense looked back to their typical stubborn ways, not allowing Lansing to get on the scoreboard until a Nick Moon strike inside first half stoppage put the home side up. Knowing the importance of the match, South Georgia came back out with fight, and showed their attacking side as well, forcing 21 total clearances from the Ignite defense. This attacking focus finally paid off with second half sub Mikie Rowe finishing off fantastic buildup play led by Conner Antley to even the game in the 67th minute. The defense would hold steady through Lansing’s high pressure for the remainder of the match and walk out of Cooley Law School Stadium with a hard fought point. While still not a win, getting any points in Lansing would have to be considered a good overall performance in my book.
Now, Tormenta has their best opportunity of their final stretch of games to grab that elusive win. The club pays their second visit to Canada for an afternoon meeting with Toronto FC II, who were eliminated from playoff contention just last week with a loss to Greenville. Toronto II is going through similar form struggles, having not beaten a team not named Orlando City B since mid-July. That team? South Georgia Tormenta. In their last meeting, the Canadians ripped apart the South Georgia defense, and Tormenta left Canada with a 3-0 loss. This time, Tormenta will be missing key creative piece Charlie Dennis, who is sidelined due to yellow card accumulation. However, this match could see the return of Nil Vinyals, a starting player at central midfield before a long term injury that has kept him out for nearly two months.
Despite being eliminated from playoff contention, Toronto II still poses some threats for Tormenta to watch for. Striker Jordan Perruzza sits second in the Golden Boot race with 12 goals, and the team is third in the league in goals scored. At the same time, Toronto II has conceded the second most of any team, limiting any advantage gained from their offensive output. Another strong defensive showing by Tormenta may leave the result up to an offense that isn’t known for being high scoring.
It’s do or die time for South Georgia Tormenta. Nothing but a win will work today, and more scoreboard watching this weekend will determine the fate of the club. Decision time is upon us for the USL League One playoffs, and it’s about to get crazy.
Toronto FC II
Prediction: Toronto FC II 0-2 Tormenta FC
Toronto FC II vs. South Georgia Tormenta FC
USL League One Regular Season, Week 27
BMO Training Ground, Toronto, Canada
Friday, September 27th, 4:00 P.M. EST
Watch on ESPN+ in U.S.; YouTube internationally