With nothing but pride to play for, South Georgia Tormenta FC went into City Stadium in Richmond, Virginia, and dealt the second place Kickers a blow to their odds of holding on to the other spot in the USL League One Finals. It will now come down to the final week of play to decide who will visit Greenville Triumph SC on October 30th for a chance to lift the second championship trophy in the league’s short history.
Head coach Ian Cameron shook up the starting lineup in a big way on Saturday, starting center back Josh Phelps at striker due to injuries and the return of Lars Eckenrode to the back line. Phelps last played up top around the start of his Tormenta FC career back in May of 2017 in the then Premier Development League. Having 6’4” of height at striker isn’t something the Tormenta roster has had in quite some time, and while Phelps was only able to get one blocked shot away, just his presence at that end of the field was enough to draw Richmond’s defenders’ attention enough to create opportunities for South Georgia.
The Kickers' defense was able to hold strong for the majority of the game, though, and Tormenta’s tactics focused mainly on physical, counterattacking play. This was where Man of the Match Nil Vinyals stood out during the game, leading the transitions with superb ball control. It was one of these situations where Vinyals was able to lead Micaletto through into space just before the halftime whistle and bury his shot to give Tormenta the lead they’d hold on to for the rest of the night.
It wasn’t easy, but the South Georgia defense kept ahold of the clean sheet through the second half, even after a second yellow for Micaletto reduced the squad to 10 for the later part of stoppage time. Eckenrode, returning to play for the first time in a year and a half due to injuries, performed well, earning eight clearances and eight recoveries. His center back counterpart Jordan Skelton also came up big, winning 6 out of his 7 duels. A first clean sheet since an August 1st match against OCB will be great momentum moving into tonight’s midweek match.
A repeat performance will be challenging, however, coming up against one of the most in-form teams in the league in Revs II. As an expansion side, the MLS reserve team was slow to begin the year, but are firing on all cylinders to close out the year despite also falling short of the Final. Revs II are unbeaten in their last five matches, and have left their last three road games with wins. They’ve scored nine goals in their last three games, with goals coming from a wide variety of players. On top of that, the visiting roster includes two former Tormenta 2 players: defender Ryo Shimazaki, from last year’s semifinalist team, and goalkeeper Keegan Meyer, a part of the 2017 squad.
Can Tormenta bring their run to a stop? I’d say maybe a run to a walk, and see it playing out to a draw. As much fun as it is to see a center back at striker, starting Eckenrode twice in four days probably isn’t the move, and I think Phelps returns to the back line. Micaletto’s absence in the attack will be felt hard, but if Luca Mayr is healthy enough to return he could replace some of that creativity. However we can be sure, despite both teams missing out on the Final, that this one will be a hard fought match as players attempt to impress for a role in the year ahead.
Prediction: Tormenta FC 1-1 Revolution II
South Georgia Tormenta FC vs. New England Revolution II
USL League One Regular Season, Week 15
Erk Russell Park, Statesboro, Georgia
Wednesday, October 21st, 2020, 7:00 P.M. EST