South Georgia Tormenta FC was able to play some of its scheduled USL League One season last summer, but it was a far cry from what had been imagined for the club during its second season as a professional club.
As was the case with many spring and summer sports in 2020, Tormenta suffered the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many players were left sequestered in Statesboro, unsure of when they could play, practice, or even see family and friends again.
“I’m not going to lie,” fourth year midfielder Marco Micaletto said. “Being around family is big for me.”
Micaletto, who hails from Italy, by way of England, faced similar concerns of many other Tormenta players with families abroad. Most had to make a tough choice to return home to be with family and run the risk of not knowing if they would be allowed back into the United States, or to stay with the club and try to stay close to family via Zoom meetings and phone calls.
And then there was the glaring issue of a lack of competitive soccer to be played.
“I have a girlfriend here and I was able to keep up with my family,” Micaletto said. “But playing football is what I do. And if that’s not going right, everything is going to be heavy. I’m really thankful for everything Tormenta has done to keep us ready to play and I know that everyone is ready to get back into it.”
Tormenta FC is set to begin its third professional season as a member of USL League One on Saturday as it hosts Fort Lauderdale CF on Saturday night at Erk Russell Park.
For Tormenta, the upcoming season has been a long time in the making.
Tormenta and League One were able to hold an abbreviated season last summer, but that also coincided with current manager Ian Cameron taking the reins from John Miglarese, who was promoted to technical director and Vice President of Soccer Performance with the organization.
An entire year of uncertainty and shakeups finally gave way to a more traditional offseason and preseason, to which Cameron thinks the club has responded well.
“As a coach, a lot of last year was tough,” Cameron said. “It’s not easy when you’re trying to work when only a few guys can train at the same time. But we talked to a lot of other coaches and borrowed a lot of ideas on how to evaluate and train, even with the restrictions.
“And playing the matches we did get to play last summer was crucial. These guys have committed to playing a team sport and didn’t have a team to be around for most of the season. I know that was a shock to them and it’s great that they are back together again.”
The 2021 roster will feature plenty of familiar League One faces, as well as others who have been promoted through the League Two and Tormenta Academy squads. But there is always room for improvement via new blood and newly-acquired center back Sergi Nus hopes to be a key cog as Tormenta looks for a solid showing in League One.
“I’m very happy to be here,” said Nus. “This is a very impressive and welcoming club.”
Nus came to the United States via Spain and played his collegiate years at Virginia and Duke in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I’ve seen a lot of great competition in college,” Nus said. “I know that this is a chance for me to continue that. This is also a great organization that has really taken me in.”
Tormenta spent much of its postseason intentionally putting itself in tough spots. The club arranged exhibition matches against both MLS and USL Championship sides and were able to hold their own.
“Quite frankly, we wanted to play teams that are better than us,” Cameron said. “When you do that, you can get exposed and see where weaknesses are, but you also see where you can be a threat.”
Most notably, Tormenta took on a pair of MLS squads. Tormenta battled Atlanta United to a scoreless first half before conceding later on and was able to top CF Montreal in its final tune-up before Saturday’s opener.
USL League One projects to be a wide open race once again. Greenville and Omaha figure to be favorites, as they have added proven talent to already successful rosters, but Tormenta won’t be shy to jump into the mix.
As far as tactics go, Tormenta expects to be one of the more entertaining sides in the league.
Armed with similar offensive talent as in years past and what Cameron describes as a very deep roster, Tormenta isn’t about to be shy in pressing the action and creating highlights throughout the season.
“I don’t want to sell our defense short,” Micaletto said. “We work hard on that end, but we also want to go forward.”
Cameron also paints the picture of a team that is looking to barrel its way through League One.
“We love our community,” Cameron said. “We want to be a team that resembles our fans. It’s working class and blue-collar. We’re here to grind every day. We’re going to take a fight to everyone we face.”
Tormenta will kick off the 2021 season on Saturday as it hosts Fort Lauderdale CF at 7 p.m. at Erk Russell Park.