With just two weeks remaining in the Premier Development League's regular season, South Georgia Tormenta FC isn't ready to say goodbye to its inaugural season.
A brand new face in the 67-team league, nobody would have been surprised to see the brand new Statesboro squad run into a steep learning curve. Those struggles may have happened in the form of an 0-3-1 start, but Tormenta has been largely invincible since that first month and rolls into its final homestand of the season at 5-4-1 and with a chance to extend its first season with a trip to the playoffs.
South Georgia takes on the Tri-Cities Otters tonight at Eagle Field in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff and will look to do just a bit better than its 0-0 draw with the Otters on opening night in mid-May.
Tormenta comes into tonight's game off of a loss at Southern West Virginia last weekend, but is confident in its ability to bounce back. South Georgia found plenty of offense during a four-game winning streak and will now look to balance things out after allowing four goals in its last two games.
“The best teams are solid going both ways,” Tormenta coach Ben Freakley said. “It's not enough to just focus on one aspect of the game. If we want to succeed as a team, we have to be on the same page whether we're attacking or defending.”
Defensively, South Georgia will be just fine with the same sort of effort it showed in its first game against Tri-Cities. After surrendering a few early chances in the season opener, Tormenta clamped down to notch the first of its five shutouts this season.
New to the Otters' defense should be a Tormenta attack that has found its spark and is averaging two goals per game in its victories.
A win over Tri-Cities will be the immediate goal, but is also just the first objective in what Tormenta hopes is a path to the PDL postseason. The top two finishers in the South Atlantic Division are guaranteed slots in the seven-team Eastern Conference playoffs. If the Charlotte Eagles — which currently lead Tormenta's division —finish with the most points of any Eastern Conference team, the South Atlantic Division will also send its third place team into the playoffs.
Currently sitting in fifth place, but just four points out of third position, it's as good a time as any for Tormenta to find a strong finishing kick.
“We don't shy away from our goals,” Freakley said. “We want to win games, and that leads to (making the postseason). Our immediate focus is on playing well against Tri-Cities, but I certainly hope our guys know what winning will do for our chances to keep playing.”
A quick turnaround from tonight's game will lead into one of the most challenging — and perhaps most pivotal — games of the season for South Georgia. Tormenta upset the Charlotte Eagles (ranked third in the latest PDL poll) 2-0 on the road last month and will get a chance to sweep the season series Saturday night at Eagle Field.
Tormenta wraps up its regular season slate next week at SC United Bantams and at Peachtree City MOBA.