Monday, May 30, 2016

AFC Ann Arbor enjoying life at the top with win over Grand Rapids FC

AFC Ann Arbor continued its unprecedented run of form at the top of the NPSL Midwest Great Lakes West, with a dominating 3-1 win over former Great Lakes Premier League side, Grand Rapids FC in the second annual Memorial Day Classic.

The Mighty Oak remains the only undefeated club in the conference, while also becoming the first side to hit the ten point mark in competitive play. Forwards Yuri Farkas and Dario Suarez maintained their goalscoring forms on Monday, both netting a goal, as well as Suarez adding an assist. 

"In a twelve game season, we break it down into four increments and after the first three games we were happy with where we were in the table," AFCAA head coach Eric Rudland said. "Now it's about the 'second season' and today was a good start to those sequences of matches."
The team from Washtenaw County was fortunate to have ten days off between competitive matches, and once the game started to settle, it was obvious that AFCAA was taking advantage of the time off, and capitalized on having fresh legs. 

"We had ten days between DCFC and Grand Rapids, and now we have four days before we play the [Michigan] Stars Friday, we'll regenerate tomorrow but we'll still be fresh going forward," said Rudland.

The rest definitely made a difference on the pitch, despite the temperature which reached 95-degrees on turf level, and after outlasting the immediate pressure that Grand Rapids FC exerted in the opening ten minutes, the game was controlled by The Mighty Oak

A free kick in the tenth minute, conceded by GRFC, allowed Ann Arbor to serve the ball into the box. The initial free header from Hector Morales was deflected by a Grand Rapids defender, but the ball landed perfectly for Farkas, burying his fourth of the season. 

Seven minutes later, Morales was tripped up within the 18-yard box that resulted in a penalty kick for AFCAA. Suarez stepped up to take the shot with his normal confidence, but sent the ball inches wide of goal. 

Although, Suarez made up for the missed attempt in the 45th minute, when a cross sent towards Suarez was placed beautifully into the top corner of the netting with the Cuban facing opposite of goal, somehow positioning his leg to perfectly deflect the ball for AFCAA's second of the afternoon.  

"Dario has taken the team on his back here in the last couple matches, and he's definitely a guy that can perform under pressure, he's done it at the highest levels," Rudland told FTLOF. "But I think we have some other guys in the team that haven't quite cracked in, who are still high level guys that can help us. 

"We feel like we have some good interchanging pieces up top and there will be games where Dario, Hector, Yuri or Will [Bayemi] can't break free and hopefully someone else will be able to step up."

The scoring continued well after the break for Ann Arbor. 

It's third goal, scored in the 80th minute, was scored by a less familiar face in Jermaine Windster, being in the right place with the appropriate skill to put AFCAA's third goal past GRFC goalkeeper Noah Fazekas. 

AFCAA's 'keeper, Fabi Veit, made a handful of saves throughout the afternoon to keep his squad in front, although a majority of Grand Rapids' attempts fell safely in the path of Veit. 

GRFC was able to score a consolation goal, courtesy of Greg Timmers, but all-in-all, The Mighty Oak defenders were successfully equipped to handle the main Grand Rapids goalscoring threat Joe Broekhuizen, who stands at 6-foot-6-inches and plays as a central forward. 

Click for full match gallery
"Going into today, we knew we would have to deal with '77' [Broekhuizen's jersey number], and all of our central defenders did well to eliminate that threat," said Rudland.

AFC Ann Arbor continue to prove the nay-sayers wrong, now almost halfway into the NPSL season, by sitting at the top of the standings and remaining undefeated as well taking advantage of its momentum going forward. 

But Rudland isn't worried about that. 

"We're not looking back at what we've done, we're not concerned with the table because it's just business as usual going forward."

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