July 18, 2016
If you had bet anyone affiliated with South Georgia Tormenta FC that in the franchise’s first season, it would play its regular season finale with a chance to make the playoffs, I believe every single person would have gladly taken it.
And that’s exactly what took place last week. After winning six of seven games over a three-week stretch, Tormenta dropped its home finale to the conference-leading Charlotte Eagles on July 9, but hit the road to close the season still alive for a playoff berth.
Tormenta entered the final week of the regular season in fifth place in the South Atlantic Division of the PDL’s Eastern Conference, but two wins in its last two games could have moved Tormenta as high as second place.
Both games gave Tormenta a chance to avenge 1-0 home losses earlier in the season. The first game in the season’s final week was at Peachtree City — a team well out of playoff contention. After trailing 1-0 at halftime, Tormenta scored in the 65th minute to tie the game. The two teams exchanged goals throughout the second half as Peachtree City regained the lead three minutes later, and Tormenta tied it again in the 76th minute.
Peachtree City put what they thought would be the game-winner in the back of the net in the 79th minute, but Tormenta’s Sidney McClain tied it up with an 89th-minute goal and the game ended 3-3.
With one game remaining, Tormenta was still in the playoff hunt as they closed the regular season on the road at SC United. The Bantams were three points ahead of Tormenta in the standings, so a win would pull Tormenta into a tie for third place with them.
Tormenta carried a 1-0 lead into halftime, but SC United scored twice to put South Georgia in a 2-1 hole late in the second half. However, James Brighton tied the game in stoppage time to end the season with another tie.
Tormenta finishes the season with a record of 6-5-3, but its 21 points were two points shy of third place and a playoff spot. South Georgia began its inaugural season with a tie and then lost four in a row, but after that slow start, the team showed some signs of brilliance. Tormenta closed the year with just two losses in its final 10 games (6-2-2); it had just dug itself too deep of a hole to climb out of.
The Charlotte Eagles won the division crown with 34 points (11-2-1) while the Carolina Dynamo came on strong late, winning its last five games to finish second with 31 points (10-3-1).
While the inaugural season comes to an end without a postseason appearance, there is plenty to be excited about for South Georgia Tormenta FC. I think almost anyone would call this first season a success. The community rallied behind this new franchise and showed up to support the team. The home opener saw over 3,100 people pack the soccer stadium at Erk Russell Park and good crowds continued throughout the season.
A brand-new franchise started from scratch and missed a playoff spot by just two points in its first season. That is definitely something to be proud of, and hopefully Tormenta can build on that good start next season.
And the good news doesn’t stop there. Midfielder Rashid Alarape has been invited to join the Nigerian U-23 team as it trains for the 2016 Olympics.
That’s what the PDL is all about. The league slogan is “Pros Start Here.” Of course fans want to see our team win, and that’s definitely one of the goals of Tormenta and every franchise in the PDL. But seeing its players grow and succeed so they can advance to the highest level of competition is the primary focus.
The idea is that the next MLS or international soccer superstars can get their start at this level. And if we’re lucky in the coming years, we will get to see a few wear Tormenta colors and call Statesboro home for a while.