AFC Ann Arbor capitalized on a first-half downpour to take three points in Friday’s NPSL Great Lakes Conference matchup with Grand Rapids FC and remain atop the table with 13 points.
With the weather being such a dominant factor in the first half both teams looked to send the long ball onto the forwards to create opportunities. There were flashes early on from each team down the sidelines with crosses into the box, but it wasn’t until the 23rd minute when AFC was able to capitalize.
An interception from Serge Gamwanya deep in Grand Rapids territory lead to a cross to Stephen Turnbull on the opposite sideline. Turnbull was then able to set up a perfectly placed centering ball to midfielder Michael Shaikley, who finished the play with a beautiful header to give The Mighty Oak the 1-0 lead.
Two minutes later Skaikley found himself in another goal scoring opportunity. This time with the assist, setting up Jordan Montoya for a rocked near post upper-ninety goal, to give AFC the 2-0 lead.
The remainder of the first half consisted of The Mighty Oak controlling much of the play. There were a few more opportunities for AFC that missed the net, but given the weather and natural grass field, The Mighty Oak were able to capitalize on the opportunities they had to go into halftime with a 2-0 lead.
Grand Rapids FC showed significant more pressure in the second half. Goalkeeper Mike Novotny was called upon multiple times to make key stops and each time he was up to the challenge.
The Mighty Oak defense, which has played solid all season, also came in clutch in the second half, warding off attempt after attempt at goal. In the 60th minute Grand Rapids had possibly its best chance of the game with a hard shot blocked by an AFC defender and then a rebounded shot go off the post.
In the 74th Montoya looked to double his luck with a driven shot that missed just wide of the net. In the end the two first half goals were all that AFC needed, as The Mighty Oak were able to weather the second-half pressure from GRFC to take the win and remain undefeated in NPSL play.
“Overall the men played well tonight,” AFC Ann Arbor Head Coach & Sporting Director Eric Rudland commented . “We played high up the pitch in the first half and managed the match well after going up 2-0. Also, there were some really good individual performances, which was great to see.”
Now five games into the NPSL season The Mighty Oak have yet to concede a goal.
The victory marked the third straight win over Grand Rapids FC, and improved The Mighty Oak’s record to 4-1-0. Next, The Mighty Oak will look to travel to Grandview Heights High School to take on FC Columbus.
Contributor: AFC Ann Arbor
Photo Credit: Els Wenner