Long before South Georgia Tormenta FC ever played its first match, the newly-formed Premier Development League franchise was out and about in Statesboro, promoting itself and doing everything possible to recruit a fan base.
Many PDL teams operate on thin budgets and try to keep things simple, but that has never been Tormenta's line of thought. From the first events – before any players or coaches had been signed on – team owner and president Darin Van Tassell repeatedly said that his franchise would “act like an undefeated team because, so far, we are.”
Despite the optimistic outlook, Tormenta couldn't avoid the growing pains that come all too often with a brand new club. A draw in their first match gave way to three home losses and last week saw Tormenta facing a two-city, three-day road trip to face the top two teams in the division.
Somewhere on the road to North Carolina, Tormenta found a spark. South Georgia upset the division leading Charlotte Eagles in their first match before paying back the Carolina Dynamo for an earlier loss last Saturday.
Now back at home, Tormenta heads into a two-game home stretch – facing Southern West Virginia King's tonight before taking on the West Virginia Chaos Saturday evening at Eagle Field - with plenty of momentum.
“These guys are confident,” Tormenta coach Ben Freakley said. “We fed off of each other. We trained well going into that trip and felt like we would win. Everyone played with great cohesion and we didn't stop once we got a lead.”
The key to Tormenta's sudden turnaround could be as simple as finally scoring some goals. The offense looked increasingly better with each passing game, but untimely whistles and some bad luck saw South Georgia fail to find the net in each of its first four matches.
In the Charlotte game, midfielder Sam Lofts lifted a cross into the middle that was deflected past the keeper for an own goal. Later in the game, Lofts found the net without any assistance from the defense. With the offense finally firing, Tormenta surprised the Dynamo with a much better showing than in their first meeting.
“We've been up to play, but just weren't getting a break” Lofts said. “Once the first goal went in, there was a little less pressure on us.”
The goals are nice – and necessary – but the Tormenta defense deserves just as much credit. Two shutouts in a row is good for any squad, especially when playing away from home. South Georgia has also kept its opponents off the scoreboard in the first half in each of its last four contests, giving its offense every opportunity to strike first and put the pressure on the other side.
“It's impressive to play 180 minutes and give up zero goals,” Freakley said. “In half of our games, we haven't allowed a goal. That's not something to get arrogant about, but it's something to take pride in and continue to strive for.”
“We've defended well all season,” midfielder Jordan Lue said. “Even in the losses, we weren't giving up goals were we were really getting beaten. The play has been there and it's finally starting to show up on the scoreboard.”
The next step, of course, is to keep the good times rolling.
Tormenta's two wins have vaulted them from the division cellar to a comfortable spot in the middle of the standings. The players have experienced the joy of winning, but now want to showcase their success in front of a home crowd that has been supportive all season.
“I always see our fans out tailgating before games,” Lue said. “You hear them before, during and after the game. It's something I haven't experienced before and we definitely want to win for them.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.