Publix is coming. A stadium is on its way. And Friday night we will be part of sporting history as Statesboro’s first-ever professional franchise plays its first-ever professional game.
In Erk Russell Park, named for the man who put Statesboro on the map as one of the best college sports towns in America, and across the parking lot from Paulson Stadium, where championship flags fly, South Georgia Tormenta FC will play Greenville Triumph FC at 7 p.m. Friday night.
And it’s not only local history. Tormenta and Statesboro were selected to be the host for the first-ever game played in the just-founded USL League One. The league’s decision to award such a prestigious honor to Tormenta wasn’t simply a stroke of luck. It is an acknowledgement and reward for the dedication, commitment and success of Tormenta’s ownership, management and players since the franchise was founded four years ago.
Tormenta owners Darin and Netra Van Tassell set a standard of excellence from that first day in 2015 and have remained unwavering in their focus on that standard. Further, everyone connected to the franchise understands and pursues the vision the Van Tassells have made part of Tormenta’s DNA.
We see that DNA in all the community projects in which Tormenta players are enthusiastic participants; in the youth soccer programs sponsored by Tormenta springing up not only in Bulloch County, but in the surrounding areas, as well; in building an atmosphere that creates a feeling of family for all players and franchise employees; and in, of course, the team that takes the field.
Make no mistake, this franchise, these coaches and these players want to win. Need to win. They are competitors to the bone. The 11 Tormenta players who returned from last year’s team that saw an undefeated regular season end in a controversial first-round playoff loss haven’t forgotten. And the 15 new players on the 2019 League One Tormenta now share the same, singular goal – win a championship.
If you haven’t been to a Tormenta game in the past three seasons (or even if you have), give it a shot Friday night. Here’s what you’ll see – phenomenal athletes competing with the kind of skill you’ll have a hard time believing isn’t at the highest professional level. These guys are good. While I’m not going to promise you there will be a lot of goals scored, I can promise you’ll see constant attacking and aggressive play to get the ball in the net. (I hope Tormenta wins 10-0, but 1-0 or 2-1 would be fine, too.)
It truly is remarkable to think that Statesboro is home to a professional franchise. Statesboro is the smallest market of any team in United States professional soccer and probably of any professional sports league in our entire country.
Dallas, Orlando, Toronto, Tucson, Statesboro. All are USL League One teams and the smallest metro population outside of Statesboro, which is about 50,000, is Tucson with about 1 million population. Statesboro doesn’t belong with that group. But when it comes to soccer, the Boro does.
The Van Tassells, Tormenta’s ownership group, its staff and players have created a franchise that can and does compete with teams in cities literally 50 times larger. And since its inception, Tormenta fans in Statesboro have pushed the team along. They have reveled in their successes and agonized with their setbacks. No doubt they’ll be out in force at Erk Russell Park Friday night.
Join them and be part of history.