A little more than a year ago, South Georgia Tormenta FC announced that it would be moving its team to a newly-created professional league. There have been months of hype and buildup, along with the signing of 25 professional contracts and even the groundbreaking on a new stadium.
Now it’s time for professional soccer to be played in Statesboro.
Tormenta hosts Greenville Triumph SC tonight at 7 p.m. at Erk Russell Park. The match won’t just be the first professional appearance for Tormenta, it will also be the very first game to be played in USL League One.
Tormenta has been the ‘first’ for many items on League One’s checklist. The Statesboro squad was the first team admitted into the league and was also the first to sign a coach and a player to a League One contract. Plenty of celebration and fanfare have surrounded those milestones and a large crowd is expected to turn out for Friday’s opener which will also be televised on ESPN+.
“It’s been a great journey over the last year or so,” Tormenta coach John Miglarese said. “It’s fun and I know our guys have enjoyed it, but now we’ve gotten through the hoopla. It’s time to focus on playing and winning games.”
Tormenta returns 11 players from a squad that ripped off 10 consecutive wins and an undefeated regular season en route to a division title in the Premier Development League (Now USL League Two) last season. Most are now playing on their first professional contracts, which is mitigated by the fact that this season’s newcomers bring a wealth of pro experience in various levels and leagues.
“A lot of our guys are pros for the first time and they’ve earned it,” Miglarese said. “We expect them to continue to grow. We’ve also brought in guys who have a lot of experience and who are setting a good example of how to go about things.”
Familiar faces and new ones alike have spent the last month getting to know each other off the field, but now comes the test of how they will do on the field. Tormenta went undefeated in winning nine preseason matches, but Miglarese was quick to point out that none of those wins will get his team any closer to their goal of winning League One.
The team’s tactics and strategies are being kept close to the vest ahead of tonight’s opener, but Miglarese isn’t shy about sharing expectations for his squad.
“We pride ourselves on playing hard,” Miglarese said. “I think you’re going to see a team that works on offense and defense. We’re going to fight to control the ball and the pace of the game, and when we have the ball, I think we can be a very dynamic team with plenty of ways to attack.”
On the other sideline will be Greenville, which figures to be a newfound rival as the League One franchise closest to Statesboro. The Triumph squad is coached by former U.S. men’s national team member John Harkes, and while all League One teams feature plenty of new players, Miglarese and his staff have done their homework.
“We’ve scouted them and watched the film,” Miglarese said. “They’re going to be a great test for us. Greenville has a good team and a very good setup and organization. I think this is going to be a great match to get things started.”