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Rivalry in the making?
Tormenta faces fellow Georgia squad
Tormenta FC's Jad Arslan, front, and Carolina Dynamo's Brandt Bronico collide during first half of Tormenta's May 21 home opener. Tormenta will be looking for its first win tonight as it takes on fellow PDL startup club Peachtree City MOBA, the only other PDL franchise that calls Georgia home. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    Just a few months ago, minor league soccer wasn’t a thing that existed in Georgia.
    Tonight, two brand new clubs will take to Eagle Field for some in-state bragging rights as Tormenta FC and Peachtree City MOBA square off.
    “We need to get something going with this,” Tormenta owner and president Darin Van Tassell said during a Wednesday luncheon to promote Tormenta’s efforts to grow Statesboro’s soccer community. “I’ve left some messages with the governor’s office. Maybe we can set up a ‘Governor’s Cup’?”
    Tormenta will take the field still looking for its first ever win. The club looked solid during a 0-0 draw in the first game in franchise history before dropping a 3-0 decision to Premier Development League powerhouse Carolina Dynamo in their May 21 home opener.
    Peachtree City has its first win, but has also stumbled a bit, entering tonight’s game with a 1-4-0 mark.
    Tormenta has mixed things up in its first two games, utilizing plenty of substitutions while also seeing how different players and different strategies work together.
    “We have a lot of guys competing to earn a spot on the field,” Tormenta coach Ben Freakley said. “I think you’ll continue to see lots of players utilized since they’re earning their minutes.
    “At the same time, we have some guys who are embracing our motto of ‘Pros Start Here’ based on the way they approach every training session. They’re making it very hard to justify taking them off the field.”
    Players on the field could be up in the air, but one thing is for sure — anyone wanting a seat around the field will have to show up early.
    Tormenta’s first home game brought out a crowd of 3,105 and earned recognition from the league for its ability to be so quickly embraced. And according to Van Tassell, that first game’s attendance could easily be left in the dust.
    In addition to the allure of an in-state opponent that can easily bring its own fans, tonight’s game also coincides with the arrival of youth teams that will be competing in this weekend’s Georgia State Cup. The game will also serve as an opening ceremony for the youth tournament, with plenty of players and parents expected to add to the local crowd.
    “We’re expecting around 4,000,” Van Tassell said. “Events like this tied into games will help attendance, but I really feel like we have something special working here.”
    “You’re seeing something really come together,” Freakley said. “This weekend, there’s a chance to watch Tormenta soccer, followed by the best youth soccer in the state.”
    With the unique makeup of soccer’s youth, collegiate and professional setups, some Tormenta players could be in for a busy weekend. In addition to suiting up for Tormenta, Jad Arslan and James Brighton also play for club teams that have qualified for this weekend’s tournament.
    Freakley is also in a unique spot as — in addition to serving as Tormenta’s coach — he also heads up Storm Soccer Academy’s U16 boys team, which has qualified for the Georgia State Cup.
    “I’m not going to add up the overtime,” Freakley said. “I don’t see it as work. I’m coaching pro soccer and I’m coaching a team full of great kids. I couldn’t ask for more.”