Expansion 2020

Preview: AFC Ann Arbor Hosts FC Indiana in the National Game of the Week

The Great Lakes Conference matchup between AFC Ann Arbor and FC Indiana is a great way to wrap up the 2018 NPSL regular season.  The conference offers some of the league’s best rivalries and competition, year in and year out.

“The Great Lakes conference has historically been one of the most competitive conferences in the NPSL,” AFC Ann Arbor Sporting Director & Head Coach Eric Rudland commented. “The landscape of our conference changed this year with the loss of two Michigan teams and the addition of FC Columbus, who have proven to be a top team. In our conference you are punished if you have a bad outing, so we always expect a tough match and have a lot of respect for every club on our schedule.”

FC Indiana Head Coach Christian Castro agreed that the Great Lakes Conferences provides a challenging and competitive environment.

“The conference that FC Indiana plays in is a competitive conference each and every year.  FC Indiana enjoys the competition in order to develop our academy players.”

This weekend’s matchup offers something for everyone.  Both sides feature talented players that will take the field.  

AFC Ann Arbor boasts skill at every position.  It all starts with goalkeeper Nick Barry and right back Stephen Turnbull; the pairing provides The Mighty Oak with a solid backline and defense.  Center midfielder Marc Ybarra hails from the University of Michigan and will lead the way in the attack along with Yuri Farkas from Madonna University.  

FC Indiana counter with the talented quartet of goalkeeper Kyle Bugay, defender Felix Dawson, midfielder Jerry Escobedo, and forward Rashid Segane.

Both teams have become known for their attractive style of play and approach to the game.  

“We work hard to press and win the ball high up the pitch,” Rudland said. “We also want to establish a solid rhythm of possession with penetration. We need to prove that we can take our chances well by being clinical in front of goal.”

FC Indiana’s playing style is connected back to the academy and the organization as a whole.

“FC Indiana’s style of play is focused mainly on positional awareness, patient but creative while in possession and collective pressure when loss of possession,” Castro said. “Our approach to the game can be described as a learning experience for any 17-19 year old academy graduate all while applying the mythology set by the club. Competing against teams with players having NCAA and NPSL experience will only make us better.”

Obviously expectations for this match are very high.

“We expect a good match,” Rudland added. “We respect every team in our conference and we know that Indiana have proven that they are capable of putting out a team that can compete.”

Castro is looking forward to the challenge of facing the conference champions.

“Tonight’s match will be a challenge for our team but no matter what the outcome is, our players, from the high school age through to older players, will experience game situations leading to further development of their soccer skills.  We hope to accomplish a match in which we challenge the experienced Ann Arbor FC squad but more importantly, we want to continue the further development of our FC Indiana academy players for high level competition.”

And both teams can be proud of their accomplishments this season.

“Obviously winning the conference championship for the second year in a row is a great accomplishment, but most notable are our number of clean sheets (9) and consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (488 consecutive minutes),” Rudland continued.

Castro reflected on the big picture and how NPSL play fits into his organization.

“Although this season has challenged FC Indiana regarding match scores, each match has accomplished our philosophy of developing soccer players that have advanced through our soccer academy to senior level play within the NPSL.  Our younger players are maturing with each match of the season preparing them for college soccer and greater skills for next year’s NPSL season.”
There is a lot on the line tonight for both sides.  AFC Ann Arbor needs the three points to secure a first round bye and advance to the Midwest Region Semifinals, while FC Indiana would like to finish the season on a strong note.  That’s plenty of motivation for both teams. Simply put, we saved the best for last and this match will surely be a National Game of the Week to remember.

The match will be streamed at https://www.youtube.com/afcannarbor

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Wenner

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