In a highly anticipated match-up with cross-state foe Detroit City FC, Grand Rapids FC received a pair of two-goal performances from forwards Scott Doney and Joe Broekhuizen to claim the first-ever meeting between the two clubs by a score of 5-2.
For the second league match in a row, a first-half brace propelled the Boys in Blue to victory. Last week, it was Lito Esquivel with a pair against Kalamazoo FC. On Friday, it was forward Scott Doney.
Doney’s goals did not come until Le Rouge had taken an early lead, however, as DCFC’s Jeff Adkins found the back of the net in the 13th minute.
The Boys in Blue responded just seven minutes later as midfielder Greg Timmer chipped a ball past the defense to Doney who played it over the charging keeper and into the back of the net to knot the score at 1-1.
“They got off to an early start and put one in, a decent shot,” said GRFC goalkeeper Noah Fazekas. “We came out a little slow and (DCFC’s goal) kind of got us in gear, so in a way it was good for us. Everyone was yelling at each other, very positive on the field, then we were able to get one back and then just didn’t look back from there, just kept at them and kept at them. Shows a lot of character in our team coming back.”
Three minutes later, Doney notched his second as right back Peter Brown played a low, driven cross into the box where Doney knocked it in at the back post.
“That second goal just took off the boys, you could see the life come to them,” said Doney, who was named Co-Man of the Match. “We started slow but once we got those goals, nothing jump starts the boys like that, and the crowd just amped it up even more.”
Grand Rapids added a third goal in the opening half in the 43rd minute. On a long throw-in from defender Trent Vegter, winger Tyler Fischer rose up amongst a crowd of defenders to nod the ball top shelf and send the home side into the half time break with a 3-1 advantage.
Out of the half, DCFC began to dictate the tempo, creating a number of chances. Le Rouge then got a goal back in the 59th minute on a well-placed shot from the top of the box, cutting the GRFC advantage to one.
Immediately after the goal, Grand Rapids made a pair of substitutions, bringing Noble Sullivan and Joe Broekhuizen into the match.
“One of the things we were recognizing (early in the second half) is they were building out of the back,” said head coach George Moni. “We wanted to add a second forward and change our formation from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2, pressing their center backs and not allow them to possess out of the back.”
The change in formation, as well as the choice of substitutions, paid off for the Boys in Blue. In the 67th minute, Sullivan made a run down the middle of the field then played it forward for Broekhuizen who hit the ball first time past the Detroit City keeper to renew GRFC’s two-goal advantage.
On an almost identical play in the 75th minute, Sullivan again found Broekhuizen who powered the ball past the keeper and into the bottom right corner of the net for GRFC’s fifth and final goal.
“(Those two substitutions) changed the dynamics of the game,” said Moni. “They gave us a lot more control in the middle third of the field and we just started scoring goals.”
The 5-2 victory moves Grand Rapids into second place in the NPSL Great Lakes West Conference behind AFC Ann Arbor with six games played and six more remaining for the Boys in Blue. GRFC has played just two home games in its opening six league matches.
“Right now we’re reaching our peak from a soccer point of view,” said Moni. “Everybody is getting better, everybody is more comfortable, the chemistry and the bonding of players is far better than in the beginning, and our work has paid off. The most important thing is be consistent, be focused, be concentrated, and get the job done on a daily basis. We cannot plan six games from now, we have to plan one game at a time.”
Grand Rapids FC will next focus on their opponents from Kalamazoo, who travel to Grand Rapids on Friday for a 7:45 pm kick-off. GRFC defeated Kalamazoo FC 2-0 in the first meeting between the two teams earlier this season.