New Tormenta FC Head Coach John Milgarese (middle) stands with sponsor Citizen's Bank of Bulloch County President Kevin Harrison, and Citizen's Bank Marketing Director Mandy Fortune, following the announcement.
STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) -
John Miglarese was presented as the new head coach for Tormenta FC on Tuesday.
He's coached on the college level and a team in the PDL last year. He's also a former Georgia Southern soccer player.
"When this conversation started, I frankly didn't have to do a whole lot of research, I knew what I was getting into because I knew the people I was going to be working with, I knew the community where I was going to be working,” said Miglarese.
Ben Freakley, who served as the team's general manager and head coach last season, will retain his role of GM.
Season two gets underway in Statesboro this spring.
It’s so rare in the realm of sports that a brand new franchise can just pop up in year one and find success on whatever respective field they play in.
History remember teams like the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1989 Minnesota Timberwolves and the 1991 Colorado Rockies as new teams who flamed out in their debut seasons. However, on a much smaller scale right here in Bulloch County, one team experienced different fortunes in their opening year.
Tormenta FC — the local PDL soccer team — finished 6-5-3 in 2016 with a goal differential of +4 to place fifth in the South Atlantic Division. The early success of the franchise can be credited to their enthusiastic front office, run by team president and owner Darin Van Tassell along with general manager Ben Freakley.
Freakley also served as the team’s head coach after serving as a college coach in a number of stops, however this season Freakly will be handling dual roles as not only Tormenta’s GM but also as the Toronto Blue Jays head of sports psychology.
Naturally, there’s not a lot of time in between those two gigs to coach a group of college players. So Tormenta FC went out to find who’d be their new boss on the pitch, and both Van Tassell and Freakley new who is was from the start.
“When it came time to decide who we wanted to be head coach, me and Darin looked at each other and immediately said ‘John Miglarese’,” Freakley said at the team's press conference Tuesday.
Miglarese is a Charleston bred, Georgia Southern grad who’s cut his teeth in the word of college and developmental soccer for the last 16 years in numerous stops around the country. Most recently he was at UNC-Pembroke where his squad went 5-11 in 2016 and has compiled a collegiate coaching record of 100-102-16 in 12 seasons as a head coach.
In addition to being a college coach, he also most recently served at another PDL squad, Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors. Miglarese’s success with the Warriors was much more prevalent, as he finished 18-10-14 in three seasons and never finished lower than fourth in his division.
As to how he got the job, Miglarese isn’t afraid to admit he and Freakley are long-time friends who’ve come up together in the soccer ranks. However much more went into the process as to how he wound up in Statesboro again
“I met Darin at the league meetings last year and that fostered a relationship immediately,” Miglarese said. “The Tormenta leadership has created a momentum that quite frankly is contagious.”
At the presser Miglarese talked about how impressed he was with the atmosphere Tormenta had created at home games when he came down to coach against them. He called it “a different standard”.
“Even my team played better because we were excited to be in that kind of environment,” Miglarese said. “That speaks volumes as someone who was an outsider, that I felt blessed to be playing here.”
Looking to build on Tormenta’s early success, Miglarese said he wants to build an attractive brand of soccer to establish an identity for the 2017 team. However he made it clear on top of being a good team on the pitch, Miglarese stressed the importance of being an example to the community off the pitch as well.
“I don’t want to bring in a bunch of mercenaries and send them packing,” Miglarese said. “We want them to engage the community and push them very hard. If you want to get better, to serve and to win come with us.”
Even though Van Tassell and Freakley will tell you hiring Miglarese is a home run, others were at least hesitant at first. Freakley was very popular amongst returning players, which includes team captain Ayao Sossou.
“I’ve known Ben for a very long time and he’s an awesome guy,” Sossou said. “He’s the reason I came here in the first place. It’s sad to see him go.”
Upon hearing they were getting a new coach Sossou had to be sold on the idea of not playing for a man he came to respect so much. When he was told it would be Miglarese, the first thing he thought of was playing his Warriors team twice last season with Tormenta.
“They were a fantastic side, I loved their style of play,” Sossou said. “They did have to sell me into it at first, but I’m excited to the new challenge.”
Even though Miglarese hasn’t been at one job for more than four seasons, he says he’s committed to being in Statesboro for the long haul.
“This isn’t a two year stint, we’re trying to build something for the long term,” Miglarese said. “A lot of this is coming home for me and my wife since we’re both from Charleston and I’m a Georgia Southern alum. I’m happy to just focus on one team now.”
Bulloch County soccer fans can see Miglarese’s Tormenta side for the first time this summer. Tormenta’s schedule will be released at a later, unnamed date.
A Tuesday afternoon press conference at The Clubhouse brought about the word that Ben Freakley would no longer be the head coach of Tormenta FC.
Hired away by the Toronto Blue Jays, Freakley will not be able to maintain his role on the sidelines, calling the shots for Statesboro's Premier Development League franchise.
But Freakley will remain the general manager of the club, and the spirit of Tuesday's announcements wasn't so much about a departing coach as it was about a franchise continuing to grow in its second season of operation.
“I remember sitting in the PDL league meeting 13 months ago,” Freakley said. “We heard the award announced for best new franchise announced. (Team owner and president) Darin Van Tassell) poked me and said 'That's going to be us next year.'”
After announcing the development of a new PDL franchise in the summer of 2015, the Tormenta front office got to work long before any players had even signed on to compete for the club. The franchise's foresight and preemptive effort led to an inaugural season that saw Tormenta average over 2,000 fans per home game as the team nearly made the PDL playoffs in its first season of competition.
Following such an impressive first look at what Statesboro could do with a minor league franchise, Van Tassell's prognostication came to fruition at the end of 2016 as Tormenta brought home the award he had dreamed of a year before.
Newly named head coach John Miglarese has yet to coach a game for Tormenta, but — through coaching a division rival last season — has a glowing review of the organization from an outsider's perspective.
“We came to the stadium the night before our game (against Tormenta) for our normal walk-through,” Miglarese said. “Walking into the stadium, a day before the game, I took notice of all of the things that were already in place for the game. It told me that this club really cared and was doing its best to create a great atmosphere.
“The quality of the conditions and operations even affected our team. When you can boost the level of awareness and play for a visiting team, you know that you're really doing something special. That's what I'm excited to be a part of this season.”
Last summer's inaugural season was successful and Freakley had been looking forward to taking the next step this season. His new obligations will prevent him from drawing up the game plan for Tormenta, but Miglarese was his first choice to succeed him as coach and has a glowing endorsement heading into 2017.
“This isn't a replacement,” Freakley said. “John Miglarese is his own person and his own brand of soccer. He has all of the qualities that we believe will continue to move Tormenta forward.”
Tuesday's press conference also brought word that Tormenta will continue to expand its front office. Whereas many PDL franchises consist of an owner, coach and a few helping hands, Tormenta has quickly proved itself to be something separate from the norm.
“Our front office couldn't function without Heidi (Jeffers) and David (Ball),” Freakley said. “We also have players that work withing our youth academy and that do a great job of reaching out to our fan base.”
During Tuesday's press conference, Van Tassell also alluded to Tormenta making a link to the next level of professional soccer in the United States.
The Charleston Battery and Jacksonville Armada field teams in the higher USL division, and are working closely with Tormenta.
“We have plans to play games with them in Savannah,” Van Tassell said. “We also have plans with those clubs in terms of tryouts. Our motto is that 'pros start here/ and it would be great if we could pave a way for some of our players to maybe play for these clubs in the future.”
Tryouts for Tormenta FC have already begun and are scheduled throughout the next month. Tormenta FC begins its second season of play in May.