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Tormenta begins play at U.S. Open Cup
Tormenta FC captain Josh Phelps controls the ball and looks for an open teammate during a 2017 match against the Myrtle Beach Mutiny. Tormenta begins its 2018 season with a trip to Myrtle Beach for the first round of the U.S. Open Cup. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

A challenge for every Premier Development League team is that most squads will hold their first full practice with little more than a week to go before their first match of the season.

Tormenta FC has an even smaller prep window as hardly four days will have passed from first full practice to game day. But given the circumstances, Tormenta wouldn’t have it any other way.

The third-year club out of Statesboro begins its PDL season on Saturday in Atlanta, but will first take the field tonight in Myrtle Beach as it takes part in the U.S. Open Cup. Tormenta was selected as one of 20 PDL teams to make up the national field of 94 squads ranging from local qualifiers to Major League Soccer franchises.

“It’s a tremendous honor and opportunity for our team,” Tormenta coach John Miglarese said. “This is a tournament that has been around for over 100 years that all of the country’s best teams play in each year. One of our big goals last season was to qualify for the Open Cup, so we’re thrilled to be here.”

Tonight at 7:10 p.m., Tormenta will kick things off against the Myrtle Beach Mutiny — a fellow PDL squad and the winner of the division Tormenta competed in last season — with tonight’s winner advancing to the second round to take on the Charleston Battery.

Myrtle Beach may have finished higher in the standings last season, but the Mutiny couldn’t quite figure out Tormenta as the teams battled to a pair of 1-1 draws. A winner is assured tonight as the U.S. Open Cup is a knockout-style tournament that doesn’t replay draws.

“People talk about the possibility of playing pro teams in this tournament, but there is talent everywhere you look,” Miglarese said. “Watching our two matches against Myrtle Beach last year, I thought it was two of the best games between two really good teams that I’ve seen in this league.”

Looking ahead to the PDL portion of the season, Tormenta is confident that it can contend for a division championship and make noise in the national playoffs.

The team has posted a winning record in each of its first two years, but has been susceptible to slow starts and low scoring totals early in each season. Tormenta will try to turn that around as Mickie Rowe and Jad Arslan return to spots that they have carved out in the midfield. Playing in front of them will be a revamped forward line with newcomers like Manolo Sanchez, Jacques Francois and German Fassani  — all of whom have either professional or national team experience.

Plenty of additional new talent fills out the midfield and back line, with last season’s top goalkeeper Matthew Rosenberg returns along with center back and team captain Josh Phelps.

Miglarese has consistently said that all positions and playing time is up for grabs. Additionally, a tough schedule and the always-demanding hot and muggy nights of league play will demand far more than just 11 players to prove themselves if Tormenta is to have the kind of season it is expecting of itself.

“We want to see a lot of guys pushing each other and competing,” Miglarese said. “That’s what we’ve seen so far in our practices. That’s what we’ll have to show every night if we want to produce results.”