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.”