A Tuesday afternoon press conference at The Clubhouse brought about the word that Ben Freakley would no longer be the head coach of Tormenta FC.
Hired away by the Toronto Blue Jays, Freakley will not be able to maintain his role on the sidelines, calling the shots for Statesboro's Premier Development League franchise.
But Freakley will remain the general manager of the club, and the spirit of Tuesday's announcements wasn't so much about a departing coach as it was about a franchise continuing to grow in its second season of operation.
“I remember sitting in the PDL league meeting 13 months ago,” Freakley said. “We heard the award announced for best new franchise announced. (Team owner and president) Darin Van Tassell) poked me and said 'That's going to be us next year.'”
After announcing the development of a new PDL franchise in the summer of 2015, the Tormenta front office got to work long before any players had even signed on to compete for the club. The franchise's foresight and preemptive effort led to an inaugural season that saw Tormenta average over 2,000 fans per home game as the team nearly made the PDL playoffs in its first season of competition.
Following such an impressive first look at what Statesboro could do with a minor league franchise, Van Tassell's prognostication came to fruition at the end of 2016 as Tormenta brought home the award he had dreamed of a year before.
Newly named head coach John Miglarese has yet to coach a game for Tormenta, but — through coaching a division rival last season — has a glowing review of the organization from an outsider's perspective.
“We came to the stadium the night before our game (against Tormenta) for our normal walk-through,” Miglarese said. “Walking into the stadium, a day before the game, I took notice of all of the things that were already in place for the game. It told me that this club really cared and was doing its best to create a great atmosphere.
“The quality of the conditions and operations even affected our team. When you can boost the level of awareness and play for a visiting team, you know that you're really doing something special. That's what I'm excited to be a part of this season.”
Last summer's inaugural season was successful and Freakley had been looking forward to taking the next step this season. His new obligations will prevent him from drawing up the game plan for Tormenta, but Miglarese was his first choice to succeed him as coach and has a glowing endorsement heading into 2017.
“This isn't a replacement,” Freakley said. “John Miglarese is his own person and his own brand of soccer. He has all of the qualities that we believe will continue to move Tormenta forward.”
Tuesday's press conference also brought word that Tormenta will continue to expand its front office. Whereas many PDL franchises consist of an owner, coach and a few helping hands, Tormenta has quickly proved itself to be something separate from the norm.
“Our front office couldn't function without Heidi (Jeffers) and David (Ball),” Freakley said. “We also have players that work withing our youth academy and that do a great job of reaching out to our fan base.”
During Tuesday's press conference, Van Tassell also alluded to Tormenta making a link to the next level of professional soccer in the United States.
The Charleston Battery and Jacksonville Armada field teams in the higher USL division, and are working closely with Tormenta.
“We have plans to play games with them in Savannah,” Van Tassell said. “We also have plans with those clubs in terms of tryouts. Our motto is that 'pros start here/ and it would be great if we could pave a way for some of our players to maybe play for these clubs in the future.”
Tryouts for Tormenta FC have already begun and are scheduled throughout the next month. Tormenta FC begins its second season of play in May.