The return of soccer last month was always going to be tricky, but South Georgia Tormenta FC has been thrown straight into the metaphorical deep end when it comes to play. After postponing the original season opener two weeks ago for unconfirmed positive COVID tests, the Statesboro team is playing through a run of five matches with 3-4 days of rest in between. Despite the retests coming back negative, an entire group of players sharing an apartment still went through a two week quarantine. Add to that a list of injuries and the squad was reduced to just 14 players to play two matches only 72 hours apart.
Tormenta fought to a 2-2 draw with Chattanooga Red Wolves Saturday, then played Richmond Kickers on Tuesday, again with only two outfield players available as subs with the five sub rule in effect. Things understandably began slow, the players’ tired legs causing them to play more conservatively and tend to pass around in the defensive third. Creativity quickly grew though, and Tormenta ended up outshooting the Kickers 18-8, but strong defensive and stellar goalkeeping performances kept the match scoreless. Ultimately, fatigue wore both teams into the ground by the end of the match, resulting in a 0-0 draw.
Now, the two weeks have passed since the originally scheduled opener date. Tormenta has survived the shallow roster with short rest, not losing either match, but still not grabbing all three points. With players out of quarantine and others coming off the injury list, they’ll be looking to do just that tonight against Orlando City B.
OCB was, to put it nicely, hot garbage last year. The Baby Lions finished last in just about every metric you can think of. If the league had felt pity for them and doubled their point total, they still would have finished tied for last. After just four wins all year (only one of which was away from home), OCB underwent a mass turnover for 2020, even moving into a refurbished stadium. However, with their parent team’s surprising success in the MLS is Back bubble, they’ll get no help from them in regards to players getting loaned down. It’ll be a lot of youth making the trip up to Georgia, mostly from the Orlando City Academy but supplemented with Superdraft picks and a few players on loan from lower division sides in Argentina and Brazil for OCB’s own first match of the season. There are still lots of unknowns, which are usual for MLS 2 teams, but more so with a less public OCB who has quietly undergone an entire rebuilding process.
On the surface, though, one expects OCB to repeat their struggles of last season, even if some improvement was made. With fresh reinforcements like Devyn Jambga, Rhys Williams, and Josh Phelps coming into Tormenta’s already match tested roster, South Georgia will be moving closer to their ceiling while OCB is just getting their engine started. I’d be surprised to see Tormenta’s 2-0-1 record against Orlando become blemished or anything close to it, but that will all come down to the 90 minutes to be played tonight in Statesboro.
Orlando City B
Prediction: Tormenta FC 3-0 Orlando City B
South Georgia Tormenta FC vs. Orlando City B
USL League One Regular Season, Week 3
Erk Russell Park, Statesboro, Georgia
Saturday, August 1st, 2020, 8:00 P.M. EST