The Great Lakes West Conference was there for the taking. Heading into an important weekend, just three points separated first place AFC Ann Arbor from fourth place Kalamazoo FC. On Friday night, AFC Ann Arbor beat Lansing United to stay top and third place GRFC bested Detroit City to move into second. That left Kalamazoo FC and the Stars in a Saturday night clash for the third spot.
The humidity was stifling and it showed early. While Kalamazoo had more of the possession in the first half, there was a shortage of any true shots on target. The best chance came from the Stars in the 24th minute, when some miscues from a corner forced a scramble in front of the net resulting in two point-blank range shots stopped in acrobatic fashion from KZFC keeper and Man of the Match Beau Prey.
“In those situations, you don’t have time to think,” said Prey in an interview after the game. “You just react.”
Kalamazoo forward Brandon Bye broke the deadlock in the 41st minute with a slotted shot from a tight angle that beat the Stars keeper on the far post. It was Bye’s second goal of the season.
The teams went into the half with the score 1-0. That’s the scoreline that would remain all game, but the second half wasn’t without opportunities from both sides. Early in the second half, a cross snuck past the Stars keeper and rolled mere feet in front of the goal, but a charging Jose Garcia was a split second late, missing the tap-in by inches and left to watch the ball head toward the sideline.
With time winding down, the Stars mounted an aggressive attack and had Kalamazoo FC scrambling in the closing minutes. Prey was forced to make more saves and come out for several challenges as the Stars threw all their men forward. This included their keeper, who came up into the Kalamazoo FC goal box for a late game corner kick. The corner was cleared, and Kalamazoo raced to catch the Stars with the keeper out of position, but the away team defenders got back in time to prevent the score from going 2-0.
Kalamazoo FC Coach Lumumba Shabazz was out of the country for this game, so the team was led by assistant coach Tom Cole. “It wasn’t the prettiest win,” said the interim coach. “But there were some great moments and it’s a crucial three points.”
The win saw Kalamazoo FC jump to third in the conference, and push the Stars down to fourth. Next up for Kalamazoo is a tough road stretch, with a game at Grand Rapids FC on Friday, June 17 and Detroit City FC on Sunday, June 19. The Stars host Dayton Dynamo on Friday.