Saturday, June 18, 2016

AFC Ann Arbor stuns Lansing United with three goals in ten minutes

The last ten minutes of Friday's meeting between league leaders AFC Ann Arbor and a struggling Lansing United left Lansing coach Nate Miller absolutely stunned and at a loss for words by the time the final whistle blew and the score was 3-2 in favor of AFCAA.

And the confusion was accounted for, because his team held a 2-0 lead on the club at the top of the table with ten minutes left while being on the road. But a goal from William Bayemi and two tallies in two minutes from Hector Morales allowed Ann Arbor to walk away from the match with three points. 

Which left Miller with his hands on the top of his head and his face with a surprised look, trying to figure out what just happened and what exactly to say to the players that just squandered a two goal lead.

"We play a mysterious game here. First of all, I think Ann Arbor is a very talented team with very talented players, and its a players game. So, when players step up like that, things can happen," said Miller. "As you can imagine, I'm a little lost for words and I'm disappointed with the resilience of our group and our ability to stay tough after we conceded the first goal."

Although, the final ten minutes of the match was not representative of the game as a whole, and Lansing United was the better team for close to 80 minutes on Friday evening.

Ann Arbor had its chances, but those chances either fizzled out or were thwarted by the Lansing defense and goalkeeper Jimmy Hague.

Yuri Farkas had AFCAA's best chance of the first half in the 22nd minute, breaking free on the right wing, proceeding to have a goal on net, but Hague was able to get a palm to it, sending the ball over the bar and out of play.

But all-in-all, the first half between the two clubs was lackluster and uneventful, resulting in a scoreless end to the first half with no clear team heading into the break with an advantage on the field.

That changed very quickly in the second half, when a goal came from seemingly out of nowhere from Lansing's Lukas Muszong. The strike was Muszong's first goal in a Lansing jersey, as well as the first goal of the match.

After the goal, the game started to open dramatically with both teams pushing forward and Lansing looking for the second goal to potentially put the league leaders out of the game. On the other side of the field, Ann Arbor continued to press for an equalizer.

Finally, in the 68th, James DeCosemo gave his club that elusive second goal, just seconds after being put on the field, replacing Danny Brandt in the midfield. DeCosemo's goal seemed like it could be the insurance that Lansing needed to walk away with three points for the first time since May 13th.

But it wasn't meant to be.

Ann Arbor coach Eric Rudland made the decision to make some changes on the field, substituting Bayemi, Tristan Jacob and Zach Pagani onto the pitch to create a more offensive atmosphere for The Mighty Oak to try and put the ball in the net.

And Rudland's changes had an immediate impact. Following two shots from Jacob that were blocked, the ball fell to Bayemi, who the ball past Hague to pull a goal closer to equalizing.

"We gave away two soft goals and all of a sudden our guys have to respond or not, and I thought the changes that we made were right time and right guys," said Rudland. "The spirit that Bayemi came into the game with was fantastic, and it was the best we've seen him play all year.

"I think his energy and what he brought to the game energized the guys and said 'hey, we can get this thing done'."

Making the comeback possible was an equalizing goal from Morales, who had great awareness in the six-yard box to put the ball in the back of the net, knotting the game with three minutes left.

"We get the first goal and now all of a sudden we're into it," said Rudland. "Second goal, some people would get that equalizing goal and drop back in to play, but no, we were going for three points and the guys had that in their mind.

"They wanted to win."

Two minutes later, Morales netted his second of the night to complete the unlikely come-from-behind victory, ensuring that the Mighty Oak keep a reasonable lead at the top of the standings.

"There was stopping the comeback when it was 2-nil. We grabbed a 2-nil lead, and we wanted to keep playing, I was adamant that we keep playing," said Miller. "They essentially started playing with four strikers, we had guys cramping up at bad moments.

"There's a list of technical things, but it's just a matter of, when you're tired, you still have to do the job and do the small things to finish out the game."

Although, Miller is not worried the heartbreak of Friday night will negatively affect his squad in the future.

"First of all it won't [break our season]. But when you build a club, and you're a part of a team, you can't let outside factors determine how you act," he said. "You have to separate how you act from how you feel.

"So no, this won't break us, there's no way. I won't let it break us."

On the other side of the field, Rudland was very happy that Miller had chosen to continue to press after going two goals up.

"They [Lansing United] were very organized, they had a good game plan and they nicked two goals," he said. "But the way they played opened up some pockets for us to explore and expose.

"We were thankful that they tried to keep playing, which allowed us to get numbers forward and break their press. Lansing is a very well coached team, and obviously they had a good game plan tonight.

"But our guys responded well."

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