In its first two seasons of play, the only thing separating Tormenta FC from the Premier Development League playoffs has been a pair of slow starts.
While both seasons ended with winning records, losses and draws early in 2016 and 2017 left Tormenta with too much space to make up in the standings. A PDL season-opening draw at Peachtree City MOBA last week left Tormenta with unearned points on the table, but the squad bounced back in its home opener.
Facing the Tri-Cities Otters out of Tennessee, Tormenta was forced to play the second half with 10 men following a double-yellow card sending off. Tormenta faught through the adversity, finding the net in the second half and playing solid defense to help goalkeeper Pablo Jara record a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory.
“During halftime, we knew the situation,” Tormenta coach John Miglarese said. “We wanted to do something they weren’t expecting. We kept two high forwards pinching and everyone kept grinding. I thought we did a great job of keeping up the intensity and playing to win."
Tormenta defender Callum Chapman-Page had already been booked with a yellow card early in the first half. Just before halftime, Chapman-Page — and many of his teammates -—seemed dissatisfied with the referee signaling for halftime and not allowing a Tormenta free kick. Chapman-Page was shown a second yellow and a red, forcing Tormenta to fight on with just 10 players on the field.
Miglarese’s strategy to keep his team aggressive and not fall back while playing for a tie paid off early in the second half. With the midfield pressing up, Tormenta intercepted a pass in open space and immediately transitioned into a counter-attack.
A trio of Tri-Cities players gave chase, but a pair of passes left Yaya Cisse with a clear shot on goal that he cashed in for what would be the only tally necessary to secure a win and three very valuable points in the league standings.
Tri-Cities earned several corner kicks in the first half, but the adjustments made by Tormenta over the final 45 minutes were able to neutralize building attacks in the second half. Jara made several timely saves and the Otters only had a few good looks at the net.
After moving in front on Cisse's goal, Tormenta was able to focus on nailing down the win.
"We have a lot of athleticism on the field," Miglarese said. We had Yaya and Jaques Francois up top and they were shredding the back line for a while. We knew we couldn't keep that up all night. But we got the goal we needed.
"We had to shift guys around and had some playing new positions, but everyone responded and we did what we had to do to get the win."
With the win, Tormenta improves to 1-0-1 on the season. Next up for Tormenta is a week of training before taking on SC United Bantams on Saturday at home.
For a third-year franchise, making the field at the prestigious U.S. Open Cup is a big step forward.
Not content to simply dip its toe in the Open Cup waters, Tormenta FC dove right in, erasing a second half deficit to notch a 2-1 win on the road against the Myrtle Beach Mutiny in the first round of tournament play.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet," Tormenta coach John Miglarese said. "This was a great game and a big win for us. "
Tormenta and the Mutiny played a nip-and-tuck first half and headed into the locker room at 0-0.
Myrtle Beach came out with some aggression in the second half and drew first blood when it took advantage of a small lapse in the Tormenta back line. Rooby Delusma found the net for a 1-0 lead in the 56th minute.
"For whatever reason, we like to spot a goal to these guys," Miglarese said. "They scored first in both matches last year and we came back to tie. We were able to do a little more tonight against another very, very good Myrtle Beach team."
In the 76th minute, Tormenta finally drew even as Jad Arslan — a mainstay in the lineup since the franchise's birth in 2016 — came through after several close calls earlier in the match.
Speaking of close calls and near misses, the game-winner came as a bit of sweet redemption.
On a free kick late in the first half, Toni Soler beat the Mutiny keeper, but caught too much of the crossbar. The ball deflected straight down and somehow stayed out of the goal.
In the 82nd minute, Soler got another chance and delivered as his free kick from 25 yards out deflected off of a defender and into the side of the Myrtle Beach net.
"We found out a lot about ourselves tonight," Miglarese said. "We've got some guys who are willing to fight. When we went down, no one let up. We kept grinding away and we were there to make big plays at the end when we needed them."
Tormenta now prepares for a Saturday evening trip to the Atlanta suburbs for a date with Peachtree City MOBA to open up its PDL season.
Depth will be key as Wednesday's win adds at least one more game to the schedule.
Next Wednesday, Tormenta will head back into the Palmetto State as they take on the Charleston Battery at 7:00 p.m. in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup.