Just over fourth months ago, South Georgia Tormenta FC was closing in on a March 28th home opener to kick off a second season of professional play. Then, the season was delayed. And delayed again. And again just last week. Now, cleared by health officials, the Statesboro team will finally get their season underway tonight against a local rival, Chattanooga Red Wolves SC.
Despite the unplanned lengthy preseason, the four months have not been fruitless for Tormenta. The club remained active in the wide region it calls home, engaging in a variety of community-focused activities. Players learned to sew to create masks for Savannah hospitals, the club’s Ibis Foundation made a large donation towards Tormenta Academy teams in a step to remove financial barriers in youth soccer, and fundraisers were created for the local NAACP chapter and meal donations. Big news was also revealed last month with teams from the Premier League interested in playing friendlies at Tormenta’s under construction 5,300 seat soccer-specific stadium, planned to open in 2021.
On the field, South Georgia has taken steps to improve from last year’s roster that finished 6th in the league after holding the 2nd place spot for the first half of 2019 before a rough stretch of injuries exposed the team’s lack of depth and goal scoring ability. These issues have been addressed with offseason signings that include Abuchi Obinwa, formerly with Hannover 96 and a Columbus Crew homegrown; Luca Mayr, a standout player with University of South Carolina and Tormenta 2 in USL League Two; Daniel Jackson, Devyn Jambga and Pato Botello-Faz, all attacking pieces from other USL League One teams; Rhys Williams, a right back from within the league looking to replicate departed Defender of the Year Conner Antley; Stefan Mueller, a left back with experience in Germany and England; and goalkeeper Parker Siegfried, selected by NYCFC in this year’s Superdraft.
Also joining the squad are three Tormenta Academy products, Tristan DeLoach, Grant Hampton, and Stephan O’Hearn, all 17-year olds from Savannah. The three players are all on “Academy professional” contracts, allowing them to gain professional soccer experience while in high school and remain NCAA eligible in the future. Tormenta’s academy also received recognition for one former player, 19-year old Indy Vassilev, appearing four times for Aston Villa this season and signing a two year contract extension for the current Premier League club.
The roster depth will get an early test tonight with three center backs listed on Tormenta’s injury report, demanding some lineup shuffling from head coach John Miglarese. On the opposite side, the Red Wolves come into their season opener with a brand new head coach and defensive line, creating some unknowns. Tormenta was never able to take all three points from Chattanooga last year, earning two draws and a loss, despite Tormenta 2’s dominant 3-0 U.S. Open Cup win over the same team.
Around 400 distanced fans will be allowed in attendance for what is likely to be a high scoring match in Statesboro, kicking off a reduced length, fast paced, highly competitive season where, despite the asterisk, there is still a championship to be won.
Chattanooga Red Wolves
Prediction: Tormenta FC 2-2 Chattanooga Red Wolves
South Georgia Tormenta FC vs. Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
USL League One Regular Season, Week 2
Erk Russell Park, Statesboro, Georgia
Saturday, July 25th, 2020, 8:00 P.M. EST