We really missed this series, folks. The club feature is here again at SmallWorld, and we’re rolling out our first feature of a USL League One side this time!
The team we’re referring to is Statesboro, GA-based South Georgia Tormenta. Tormenta FC has teams in USL League One and USL League Two, and they also run a youth league in Statesboro.
I had the opportunity to travel to Erk Russell Park on Georgia Southern University’s campus, and I was surprised by how many people in a small southern town were in attendance at a third-division American soccer game. The atmosphere and support were great, and I’m so glad to be finally bringing you behind the scenes as to why that is.
What makes Tormenta special, just like any other lower-league club, is its support. One of the team’s strongest supporters, Stephen Minton, provided some insight on what Tormenta means to him personally.
Tormenta brings back all my soccer memories: [visiting for a summer in] Germany, playing college intramural soccer, a World Cup match in Chicago, and the NCAA Soccer Final Four weekend to name a few. When I watch these lads, they bring back the joyful and energetic memories.Stephen Minton, Tormenta FC supporter
He further elaborated on some of his favorite memories from his time as a supporter:
The play that I remember most was when Pablo [Jara, Tormenta goalkeeper] blocked a penalty kick in the box, and the stands erupted.
Darin [Van Tassell, team owner] sent me a picture that was taken when the first goal was scored in USL League One history. It had magenta and blue smoke bombs, flags waving, fans jumping up and down. It was a picture of energy and dedication.
The interaction with the players, tailgates, employees, fans, all come rushing back giving me a warm, happy feeling inside and to realize how lucky I am to be part of the Tormenta experience.Stephen Minton, Tormenta FC supporter
Those are some pretty incredible moments to choose from after only being a professional club for a single season. What really stands out to me, though, is Darin Van Tassell’s close relationship with Stephen to the level that they’re sharing pictures and positive memories.
That’s a fantastic mentality for club ownership to have, and one that’s really producing positive results with at least one supporter in Stephen, and certainly with many others as well.
Meanwhile, first team coach John Miglarese (who we at SmallWorld were very excited to match up with on a Tormenta personality quiz) spoke similarly about Tormenta’s quality on and off the field.
I think we had a really nice team last year, and we were one that could have competed and potentially advanced in the playoffs. But, we got injured and it absolutely affected our quality during the last stretch of the season.
The culture is one that I’m very proud of. I think it’s a club culture of accountability, of relationship orientation, and a high standard of discipline.John Miglarese, Tormenta FC head coach
He also spoke to the importance of Tormenta’s USL League Two club, a team that I watched dominate the Southeast Conference last summer en route to a deep National Playoff run.
We’re building a path to pro system from the youngest players in our academy with the dream of one day making it to the professional level. In the short team, our USL League Two team is our primary recruiting tool to bring in some of the top young college players in the nation. USL League Two is definitely a big part in our signings of the futureJohn Miglarese
for our first team.
I also pressed John on what he thought about the club’s personnel moves, from players to staff members:
I’m excited about all of our new signings. I think we’ve added some depth, we’ve added some real quality and important additions. I’m also really excited about the additions in my technical staff in adding Nick Jaramillo and Ian Cameron. They’ve brought a lot of energy and great ideas. You can already see their imprint on what we’re doing now in our first few weeks of preseason.John Miglarese
Darin was also willing to provide some information from his persective on what Tormenta is about, starting with its roots.
In Tormenta’s beginnings, we hosted the State Cup for youth soccer and the final four in Statesboro twice. The structure of our youth academy was in place before Tormenta FC and now all of that is under one umbrella. One of the biggest reasons Tormenta has been able to take the charge for local soccer is because of the league.Darin Van Tassell, owner of Tormenta FC
Like many successful clubs in Europe have done, Tormenta concentrated their efforts on youth soccer and built up a positive reputation in the area for quality soccer. Speaking of that strong reputation, Darin expounded a bit on what Statesboro means to the club:
Tormenta FC is all about bringing the most popular sport in the world to an area where it’s underserved – which happens to be our hometown, Statesboro, GA. Why Statesboro? I grew up here, and I thought this town was ready to be a professional sports city.Darin Van Tassell
As it turned out, Darin was definitely right. Tormenta has produced at a high level in terms of attendance and support in Statesboro. Nearly 2,000 people per match in a town of about 30,000 is quite impressive, and it’s in no small part due to Darin’s personal connection with the community.
I also asked Darin what his thoughts were on potentially moving up to a new league in the future, and he had some interesting insight.
League One is home for Tormenta FC and that’s where we need to be. By definition, larger teams and squads should be occupying the MLS and the Championship, but if we see Pro Rel show up and we are invited to move up to the next level, bring it on.Darin
Darin is clearly confident with Tormenta’s ability to thrive wherever they find themselves, and I can’t really blame him.
All in all, from community involvement to a high-quality product on the field to ownership and staff that cares about the club, Tormenta is taking lower-league soccer by storm quickly in its professional life.
If you’re a Tormenta supporter already, show your club some love on SmallWorld Social and let me know how I did in capturing what makes Tormenta great.
And if you aren’t yet, make sure you keep up with Tormenta this season by following the club’s Twitter page, @Tormenta_FC. Their League One season starts soon, and it promises to be an exciting one!
Special thanks to Bernadette O’Donnell, Tormenta’s PR director, for helping instrumentally in gathering quotes and materials for making this post possible.
As always, and just as Tormenta is doing:
Support local soccer, unify those around you, and seek out diversity!