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Tormenta FC holds tryout
Statesboro's first soccer franchise taking shape
Tormenta FC soccer team general manager Ben Freakley, right, gives some pointers to Hunter Loyden during Saturday's open tryouts at The Clubhouse fields. Loyden, currently a captain with the Georgia Southern soccer team, was one of around 50 hopefuls to participate in a chance to be on the roster for this summer's inaugural season. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    For nearly half a year, Tormenta FC has existed solely in the realm of press releases, new conferences, and front office announcements.
    Saturday afternoon, some prospective players were finally thrown into the mix.
    Around 50 players filled out the fields behind The Clubhouse for an open tryout for Statesboro’s newly-formed Premier Development League franchise. Running, passing and shooting their way through a cool and damp afternoon, players were hoping to catch the eye of club management and become a member of Tormenta FC, which will play its first season this summer.
    “We’re very excited to put together a team,” team general manager Ben Freakley said. “The response has been amazing. Plenty of local players have expressed interest, but calls and emails have come in from all over. There’s a guy from Brazil in my guest room right now.”
    Tormenta FC will compete in the 64-team PDL — a league that features college stars and other young talent which frequently graduates up into the higher tiers of U.S. soccer leagues.
    At least one local standout is hoping that he can advance his playing career while continuing to call Statesboro home.
    Hunter Loyden has spent the last three seasons playing for the Georgia Southern men’s soccer team. Last fall, after being named a captain in his redshirt sophomore season, the defender scored a pair of goals while keying five shutout efforts by the Eagles.
    Loyden still has plenty of great soccer to play for Georgia Southern, but a potential stint with a PDL team during the collegiate offseason offers more than the club teams that most college players compete on each spring and summer.
    “This is a unique opportunity,” Loyden said. “This is a chance to prove that I can play at the next level. At the same time, I love wearing the blue and white and playing for Georgia Southern. This could be a way that I can continue to grow and improve heading up to my time with the Eagles next season.”
    For one prospective player on the field Saturday, an invitation to play with Tormenta FC could be a great homecoming experience.
    Drew Funk earned All-Region honors as a lockdown goalkeeper for Statesboro High from 2010-13. Funk has since moved on to play for the Savannah College of Art and Design, but is hopeful that he can help out the Tormenta in between the woodwork.
    “As soon as I heard (about Statesboro getting a PDL franchise) I couldn’t have been more excited,” Funk said. “I’ve been training for a while now. I’d love to prove myself at the next level and it would be even better to be able to do that here in Statesboro.”
    Some solid first impressions may have been made Saturday, but the tryout won’t be the only avenue used by Tormenta FC to build its roster. Freakley said that a number of players have already been recruited and contacted by the team.
    It’s possible that the squad already has players lined up and ready to sign on, but no official invites will be made until players have registered and are cleared to play by PDL.
    Tormenta manager Borja Perez will join the team in February and Freakley aims to have a full roster ready for his coach very soon after.
    “We’re looking for guys who want to compete and win,” Freakley said. “Once the whole team is together, one of the first things we’ll do is have a meeting to set goals. This club is a great opportunity for our players, to move forward in their individual careers, but we’ll also focus on succeeding as a team.”
    Tormenta FC will practice throughout the spring before playing its inaugural season from May until August.
    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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