While the outcome Saturday night wasn’t to its liking, the Savannah Clovers FC men’s soccer team was thankful just to be back out on the field for one more home game.
The Clovers closed out their home schedule for 2020 in the NISA Independent Cup at Memorial Stadium, dropping a 2-1 decision to Soda City FC.
The tournament’s four-team Southeast Region includes the Clovers; Soda City FC of Columbia, S.C.; Chattanooga (Tennessee) FC; and Georgia Revolution FC of McDonough. The National Independent Soccer Association tournament for professional and amateur clubs will crown four region champions from the 15 teams in action.
Clovers co-founder and club president Brian Sykes said the team is grateful to be able to play, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many sports teams to cancel their seasons.
“I know they are excited to play and they feel special about being able to play in a tournament like this,” Sykes said.
A member of the United Premier Soccer League’s Southeast Conference, Mid-Atlantic South-Division I along with Soda City, the Clovers include some former college players as well as adult league players.
Hilton Head (S.C.) High School graduate Timo Mesa scored five goals in a 6-2 victory over Charleston United on July 5. For Mesa, the opportunity to play in a premier tournament shows just how far the team has come. He’s also thankful to be able to compete again in the game he loves.
“This game to the club means the beginning of something that no one ever expected from Savannah,” Mesa said, “a soccer team that is going to represent the city at a professional level.
“To me as a player, it’s amazing because I thought my professional days were done, and I get a chance to enjoy playing at a professional level again,” he said. “This is the beginning of something no one expected, and there’s a lot more to come in the future.”
Sykes said his goal is to build the Clovers into a professional team that is here to stay.
“(I want this to be) a sustainable pro team,” he said. “Over in Europe, teams are over 100 years old. They’ve been in the community for decades. A team can start out as an amateur team and build their way up to a pro team and it really doesn’t depend on the media market or size of the city. They can still participate in a pro sport in a pro league.
“That is happening here in the United States,” he added. “You are seeing more and more communities getting involved. There’s no reason why Savannah can’t have a pro team. That’s really the long-term vision: to build the Clovers into a pro team that can represent Savannah.”
The Clovers will return to action Saturday against Chattanooga FC in Tennessee.