|1||South Georgia Tormenta FC||14||11-0-3||20||36|
|3||SC United Bantams||14||7-4-3||13||24|
|5||Tri-Cities Otters FC||14||5-7-2||2||17|
|6||Peachtree City MOBA||14||4-6-4||-8||16|
|7||Memphis City FC||14||1-10-3||-22||6|
A 3-0 victory over the Birmingham Hammers in Alabama last week set off a huge celebration in the Tormenta FC locker room — and at the squad’s watch party at The Clubhouse in Statesboro. With the win, Tormenta had clinched the Deep South Division and had notched a spot in the Premier Development League playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s three-year history.
And it didn’t take long to find something new to celebrate. While still on last weekend’s trip through Alabama and Mississippi, team president Darin Van Tassell notified them that they will be hosting the four-team Southern Conference playoffs.
“You should have seen how excited they were,” Van Tassell said. “We have - easily - the best fans in the PDL and our guys really wanted to play in front of them again. With the atmosphere we have, I think it’s worth an extra goal for us each time we’re at home.”
The playoffs will be hosted at Erk Russell Park July 20-21. Competing for the conference championship will be the winners of the conference’s three divisions, as well as the team with the next highest point total for the season.
Brazos Valley joins Tormenta, having already clinched its division as well. Three teams still have a shot at the Southeast Division crown and Mississippi Brilla — which Tormenta beat out in its division — is still mathematically in the hunt for the wild card, but will need a lot of help.
But there is still one more order of business left for Tormenta before concentrating on the playoffs.
The team still has a pair of games remaining in its regular season, visiting Tri-Cities Otters on Saturday before driving through the night for a Sunday matchup at Myrtle Beach Mutiny. Tormenta has expanded its roster to the maximum of 25 and hopes to run out plenty of fresh faces, but the club still needs to manage at least one point from the two games to ensure that it will be the top seed at the conference tournament.
“I don’t think anyone is taking things too easy,” Van Tassell said. “Everyone is locked in — players, coaches, even the front office. We may not have our winning streak (following a draw at Mississippi last weekend that snapped a 10-game run), but we still have the unbeaten streak, which we take a lot of pride in.
“And we will still get up for the next game. After all, we’ve never won at Tri-Cities and we dropped our game up there last year.”
Nothing has stopped the squad so far as it is one of just three undefeated clubs remaining in the 74-team league.
On top of that, there's an argument to be made that Tormenta has played the toughest schedule of any squad in the country. In division play, Tormenta dealt with Mississippi Brilla, which made it to the national semifinals last year. Also in the division were a combined three matches against Birmingham and Memphis, which will both be moving up to USL2 next season.
And of the non-division matchups, two have been against 2017 divison winner and current division leader Myrtle Beach and a thrilling 4-2 home victory over the defending national champion Charlotte Eagles a few weeks ago.
Seeding for the playoffs is based on total points earned during the regular season, meaning that the wild card team can potentially be seeded above a division winner. It will pit No. 1 against No. 4 and No. 2 against No. 3, but the seedings will be shuffled if necessary to ensure that the two teams coming out of the same division do not play in the semifinal round.
The semifinal matches on July 20 will be played at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Regardless of seeding, Tormenta FC will be playing in the 8 p.m. timeslot. Saturday’s championship match will kick off at 8 p.m.
The winner of the tournament will advance to the PDL’s national playoffs for a final four-team bracket where it will join the champions of the Eastern, Central and Western Conferences.
Ticket information for the Southern Conference playoffs can be found at tormentafc.com.
Faced with a long road trip and a nearly endless string of possibilities of what could lie ahead, Tormenta FC responded like a champion.
Which is to say that Tormenta continued to win matches and can now claim itself as the champions of the Deep South Division of the Premier Development League.
With four road matches marking the final portion of its schedule, Tormenta needed three points to win its division and clinch its first ever PDL playoff appearance. The first half of Thursday’s match at the Birmingham Hammers was a tightly-fought scoreless draw, but Tormenta edged ahead midway through the second half and then piled on two more goals en route to a 3-0 win and an exclamation point put on a Deep South Division race that has become a laugher.
“We did what we had to do,” Tormenta coach John Miglarese said. “Birmingham is a great team and fought us hard early on. But we got the first goal and, to the credit of our guys, we kept fighting and put the game away.”
The teams battled back-and-forth for over an hour, but Tormenta defender Conner Antley finally got a shot past the Birmingham keeper for a 1-0 advantage. Tormenta knew that holding its advantage would secure a division title and playoff berth, but continued to press ahead.
Toni Soler unleashed a rocket to put Tormenta up 2-0 and Jad Arslan cleaned up what was a strong run from Cadu Cusatis to net a third strike and put the game out of reach.
“I’m really happy with how we responded,” Miglarese said. “We were up against a good team and had to work very hard to get that first goal. And after that, we kept fighting and we kept pressing.”
Tormenta is now assured of its first ever playoff appearance with three matches left to play.
Tormenta will visit Mississippi Brilla on Saturday and will play two matches in as many days at Tri-Cities and Myrtle Beach next week. The squad continues to be one of just three teams in the entire PDL that is still unbeaten, but is also looking forward taking advantage of a chance to breathe after clinching a playoff spot so early.
“We’ll definitely play some guys and rest some guys in order to get ourselves in position for the playoffs,”Miglarese said. “But that’s what is great about our team. We have a really strong group. Some guys will get more playing time in the next week, but it’s our depth and overall strength that has us where we are right now, with a playoff spot locked up.”
Facing the 2017 national champion Charlotte Eagles, South Georgia Tormenta FC faced its first home deficit of the season when it headed into halftime down 1-0 at Erk Russell Park on Saturday night. But Tormenta erupted for four goals over the final 45 minutes of play, topping Charlotte by a count of 4-2 to remain unbeaten in Premier Development League play and clinch a perfect 7-0-0 home mark in the regular season.
“Lately, we’ve been getting the early goal and playing with the lead,” Tormenta coach John Miglarese said. “That’s not how things went tonight. We were playing a very good and tough opponent and they were the ones who got that first goal.
“But we didn’t stop fighting. And when we got it to 1-1, we knew we were in a good spot to win. We weren’t looking to stop there. On our home field, losing or tying is not an option. We’re playing for the win every time.”
Before playing for the win, Tormenta first had to play some catch-up.
Tormenta dominated the possession and had the better of the chances near goal in the first half, but it was Charlotte’s Rafael Vacas that chased down a chipped-in pass and beat Tormenta keeper Pablo Jara with a blistering shot from a tough angle on the right side in the 38th minute.
South Georgia bounced back in the 59th minute, levelling the score when Callum Chapman-Page came all the way up from his spot on the back line and finished when a cross from Marco Micaletto was allowed to bounce directly in front of the net.
Tormenta didn’t let up a bit and continued to hog the ball and press upfield. Several scoring chances were turned away in the 67th minute, but midfielder Nil VInyals collected the ball just outside of the Charlotte box and carved a perfect shot into the topright corner of the net to give Tormenta the lead.
“Nil came on and immediately made a difference,” Miglarese said. “Really, all of our subs came in and did what they had to do. In games like this, everyone has to do their job to get the win.”
With momentum thoroughly on Tormenta’s side, that home team continued to take its shots at the defending national champs. A turnover near midfield in the 77th minute led to a wide open run at the Charlotte goal and — following some quick passing — Micaletto put a hard, left-footed shot into the net for a 3-1 advantage.
But showing the kind of determination that has made them a perennial power, Charlotte kept fighting and turned a careless turnover deep in Tormenta territory into an easy scoring strike to make it 3-2 with just over 10 minutes to play.
More high pressing by the Eagles awarded them with another turnover and another free run on the net in the 85th minutes, but Jara — sensing the impending danger — was quick to get off of his line andturned away the Eagles’ final good scoring opportunity.
“Pablo is one of the best goalkeepers I’ve ever coached,” Miglarese said. “That was an incredible save when we had to have it. That’s what he’s here for.”
With the defense breathing a sigh of relief, the Tormenta offense put things away for good just after stoppage time began. Mikie Rowe netted his third goal of the season and the celebration could finally begin in earnest as Charlotte was put away for good.
Adding to the party was news that Mississippi Brilla FC had dropped its match against SC United Bantams. Following Saturday’s matches throughout the Deep South Division, Tormenta is now seven points clear of Mississippi for first place with four matches to go, including a showdown in Mississippi next Saturday.