Domestic soccer has been making its awaited return across the country in recent weeks, and for the state of Georgia, today is a big day in welcoming back professional league play at multiple levels. First, Atlanta United kick off their MLS campaign with a visit to Orlando in the afternoon, then this evening within state lines with the opener of South Georgia Tormenta FC in the third division USL League One.
The Statesboro based club will begin a sixth season of play tonight, and their third at the professional level. After an abbreviated 2020 season plagued with injuries and including a managerial change, Tormenta finished a humble 8th in the 12 team table. Now, nearly six months removed from the last league match, the mood around South Georgia Tormenta has become much more optimistic. Here’s some reasons why:
- The Pro Pipeline: Tormenta has assembled a well rounded squad ahead of the season, as is expected. A key factor, though, is the presence of eight players with experience with Tormenta at the semi-pro USL League Two level, either before the club moved up to the pro ranks or with the national semifinalist Tormenta FC 2 in 2019. The strong preexisting connection with the club and with other players was key to previous successes and will be big in a successful 2021. New signings have been welcomed as well, and will bring in unique boosts to the quality of the squad, like FC Dallas homegrown goalkeeper Carlos Avilez, former FC Tucson forward Azaad Liadi, and Colombian defender Luiz Rodriguez, who has experience in the top leagues of his native country.
- An Acclimated Staff: The change in managers last year from John Miglarese to Ian Cameron with only a month left in the season didn’t leave much room for the new coach to implement changes, but the team still finished with decent form. Now, with an entire offseason and preseason to work and prepare, the new squad will be more defined tactically by the new staff which will make for a better on-field product.
- A Strong Preseason: With this being an Atlanta United-centered blog, you probably remember Tormenta as the first friendly opponent of the recent preseason. South Georgia also scheduled friendlies with USL Championship teams from Charlotte and Tampa Bay, as well as a final MLS opponent, CF Montreal. Tormenta FC ended on a high note, beating the Canadian MLS side 2-0 at their training location in Orlando, giving the squad plenty of momentum to take into the regular season.
The first opponent on the docket, Ft. Lauderdale CF, won’t have the same opening day scenarios to work through, having kicked off play last weekend in a 1-0 loss to New England Revolution II. Being a bit more acclimated to the regular season will help Inter Miami’s USL affiliate, but more help may be on the way. Thanks to Inter’s desire to fly too close to Don Garber’s artificial sun, they were recently judged to have four Designated Players on the roster, one more than the limit of three. Having failed to find a suitable trade for one of them, Matias Pellegrini wound up being bought out and loaned down to Ft. Lauderdale. So, there is a chance that the $9 million Argentine DP could find himself playing in Statesboro, Georgia, depending on whether he caught the team bus after the news broke.
If the on-field product isn’t tempting enough after that, maybe the off-field events will get your interest. Tormenta announced last week that they will be hosting a walk up COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the stadium gate, with a vaccine card counting for a $5 ticket discount. The free, public clinic will distribute Moderna shots and schedule second doses for anyone participating. On top of that, the club announced the allowance of pets at matches throughout the season, encouraging fans to bring dogs out to the stadium on matchday.
The biggest news of the season buildup, though, is the partnership of the team with the Savannah based station WJCL and affiliate channel MeTV to broadcast tonight’s match and more in the future, in addition to existing streaming on ESPN+ and internationally on YouTube. More info can be found here.
Plenty is still up in the air regarding this year’s Tormenta FC, but that’s part of the excitement of season openers. Tormenta will begin with a small number of players listed as out, including starting left back Stefan Mueller, and Luis Rodriguez due to a carryover suspension. We’ll find out how the team adapts and much more tonight from Erk Russell Park.
Ft. Lauderdale CF
Prediction: Tormenta FC 2-1 Ft. Lauderdale CF
South Georgia Tormenta FC vs Ft. Lauderdale CF
USL League One Regular Season, Week 2
Erk Russell Park, Statesboro, Georgia
Saturday, April 17th, 2021, 7:00 P.M. ET