Home Sports Forward Madison overcomes slow start to win 3-1 at Tormenta, jump to...

Forward Madison overcomes slow start to win 3-1 at Tormenta, jump to second place

Christian Diaz chases a ball Saturday against Tormenta. Photo supplied.

Forward Madison rebounded from a sluggish first half to record a convincing 3-1 USL League One win over South Georgia Tormenta to remain unbeaten in the 2021 season and vault from sixth place to second in the league standings.

The Flamingos got off to a slow start, managing only 45 percent of the possession and four shots in the first 45 minutes. Luca Mayr-Falten put Tormenta ahead on a blistering free kick from 25 yards out in the 33rd minute.

“That was the worst half of football we’ve played all year,” said head coach Carl Craig. 

“It felt lethargic. Warmups felt lethargic,” said center back and captain Connor Tobin. “A little bit sloppy, lack of concentration.”

It was an entirely different game after the interval, though, as Madison got on the front foot early. Just three minutes into the second half, Audi Jepson put a pass across the face of the Tormenta goal and the defense very nearly scored an own-goal. The attempted clearance went off the crossbar and Derek Gebhard was there to clean it up and tap it in to level the match.

The goal seemed to breathe life into the Madison attack, as the side earned a corner just a few minutes later. Midfielder Aaron Molloy put a perfect ball in and center back Tobin rose high to head it straight down and in to give the Mingos the lead.

The 6’2” Tobin has been a target on corners all year, but hasn’t been able to put one away until tonight.

“I’ll be honest, Aaron Molloy’s service has been outstanding this year,” Tobin said. “I haven’t got my timing right … I’ve got my head around stuff, but haven’t done much with it. So in some ways I feel like I haven’t done his service justice. … Aaron’s come in on set pieces and taken us to a new level. All the credit on the goal goes to him.”

Jake Keegan sealed it in the 83rd on a counter that he started, heading a pass to Justin Sukow then making a run behind the pushed-up Tormenta backline. Despite having his jersey tugged from behind, Sukow was able to make a nicely-weighted through pass ahead of Keegan, who carried forward and unleashed a curling shot from just inside the penalty box past Tormenta keeper Pablo Jara.

“He’s a pro,” Craig said of Keegan, who hadn’t scored since the Mingos’ first match of the year. “His composure in those moments is tremendous.”

Craig said it wasn’t a fiery motivational speech at halftime that turned it around.

“It was the players engaging each other,” he said. “And a few little tweaks and a few reminders of what we can do. It’s such a tight group. It’s not coach magic.” 

“It’s reminding guys that we’re in control of this,” Tobin said. “Let’s not dwell on the first half. Let’s turn the page and communicate.”

The game became a chippy affair in the second half, with five yellow cards issues to Tormenta and two to Madison. Derek Gebhard especially was on the receiving end of several rough challenges, which Craig didn’t appreciate.

“I have no idea how (Tormenta) finished the game with 11 men,” he said. “Really have no idea.”

With the win, Madison vaults from sixth to second on the table, with 10 points from four matches and a game in hand on leaders Greenville. They’re one of three unbeaten sides, joining only Greenville and Chattanooga with that distinction.

The club heads to Fort Lauderdale, Florida tomorrow to take on Inter Miami CF’s League One affiliate on Tuesday night.

“Everyone (asks), ‘What’s most important game?’ It’s always the next one,” Tobin said. “And we’ve got to continue to find ways to improve because Fort Lauderdale’s a good team and they’re gonna ask questions of us and we’ve got to find answers.”