The Mighty Oak Team Up With Making Strides Ann Arbor

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In August, AFC Ann Arbor announced its commitment in raising $5,000 for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. In addition to raising these funds for the American Cancer Society event, AFC Ann Arbor will also host The Mighty Oak Kids Zone at the October 14th walk set to take place at Washtenaw Community College.

The Mighty Oak Kids Zone will offer the younger participants a chance to meet some of their favorite players, test their soccer skills and interact with Nutmeg the Squirrel.

Senior Community Development Manager Abigail Samuels is thrilled the club has partnered with Making Strides to help raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research and programs and services to support cancer survivors and their families.

She added, “Making Strides is about bringing our community together around a cause we are passionate about--breast cancer. As a leader in Ann Arbor, AFC Ann Arbor joining Making Strides not only helps our event to more accurately reflect who we are as a community, but adds an important voice to the the vital work the American Cancer Society is doing everyday. The event is also just really fun! What better organization to help provide something new and different for kids to do!? ”

The October 14th walk begins at 10am, with registration and opening ceremonies kicking off at 9am. To join the AFC Ann Arbor team and help raise funds, click here.

In addition to sponsoring the kids zone, AFC Ann Arbor will also be sponsoring The Mighty Oak Memory Tree. Participants will have the opportunity to write a personal message on a pink ribbon to friend or family member they’ve lost to the disease, or in honor of someone fighting, before attaching it to the tree.

AFC Ann Arbor General Manager, Bilal Saeed is captaining The Mighty Oak’s Making Strides team and was eager to get more involved with the event from the beginning.

“It’s an important cause to our club and the community so we wanted to do more than just raise money for Making Strides. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help support survivors, their friends and families and other participants at Making Strides Ann Arbor,” added Saeed.

 

About AFC Ann Arbor

Associate Football Club (AFC) Ann Arbor sprung roots in the summer of 2015 competing in the Great Lakes Premier League. In 2016, The Mighty Oak (as they’re also known) bumped up to the National Premier Soccer League to compete at an even higher level joining the likes of Lansing United and Detroit City FC. In their inaugural season in the NPSL, Ann Arbor was one of sixteen teams (out of 96) to qualify for the playoffs. In 2017, the team won the Great Lakes Conference Championship, won its first NPSL playoff match (advancing to final eight in country/Midwest Region Finals) and set 12 club records.

 

About Making Strides

The American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks raise awareness and funds to save lives from breast cancer. Each event is a noncompetitive 3 to 5 mile walk that brings people together to make a difference for everyone who has been touched by breast cancer. The events raise money to fund innovative research, provide free information and support, and to help people reduce their breast cancer risk or find it early when it's most treatable.

From the opening ceremony to the post-walk entertainment, a Making Strides event is a celebration of survivors and opportunity to remember loved-ones lost. It's a day that shouldn't be missed and won't be forgotten.


 

Support Local Soccer Day Set for September 17th

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AFC Ann Arbor will join Michigan soccer for the 3rd straight year at Michigan Soccer Stadium for “Support Local Soccer Day,” on Sunday, September 17th at Noon vs Michigan State.

As part of the Support Local Soccer Day, The Mighty Oak will be giving away 3 framed, game worn jerseys that day. Fans can enter to win one of the frame jerseys for free in addition to taking pictures with some of the clubs trophies and meeting Head Coach & Sporting Director, Eric Rudland.


Tickets for the match can be purchased online here.

2017 College Soccer Preview: The Mighty Oak Return To Campus

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It’s always an exciting time of year as the fall college season kicks off. Some of our men will be competing against one another as the season progresses, and we have a few players who will be teammates again this fall in their respective college program. For us the college season is all about cheering on our AFC men. Thanks for spending your summer with us all and all the best this fall!
— Eric Rudland

After an incredible second season in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), many of The Mighty Oak players have returned to their respective campus for the college season. From Michigan to Madonna, we’ve got more info on all of our players taking the pitch this fall.

Let’s begin by taking a look at AFC Ann Arbor players who are playing collegiate soccer in-state.

(Click on school for complete schedule)

 

In-State Collegiate Players

Adrian College- Luke Warrick

Warrick didn’t get to see the pitch for The Mighty Oak in 2017, but was a solid contributor to the training sessions and was even asked to back up TJ Tommaso this summer. The Bulldogs compete in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) and open up their season September 3rd against Augustana College of Illinois, as part of a four game home stand to begin the 2017 campaign. Finishing 3rd in the conference last year was the highest for the school since 2010 and top under the Charlie Edwards era as well (entering 4th season as head coach). Warrick will be one of three keepers looking to earn time for Adrian but his experience this summer with Ann Arbor should pave the way for his opportunity to make an impact this season.

 

Concordia University- Spencer Ward

Another Ann Arbor keeper will be playing his college ball in the area after transferring from Coastal Carolina. Ward who was the primary backup for Tomasso in 2017, saw action in 3 matches. The third of those matches, Ward was called to start and earned his first clean sheet as a National Premier Soccer League starting goalkeeper. As a transfer, the experience Ward picked up this summer will allow him to compete for serious action right away. The Cardinals season kicks off Saturday, August 26th at home vs Indiana University-East.

 

Madonna University- Yuri Farkas, Hector Morales

Morales who spent last fall at Schoolcraft has joined AFC Ann Arbor teammate and friend, Yuri Farkas for the Crusaders 2017 campaign. Both players have been major contributors to The Mighty Oak in both 2016 and 2017. The two, along with Dario Suarez, began calling themsleves el Tridente because of the natural chemistry and dominat play between the three in the final third of the pitch. Taking this chemistry into NAIA play, the two will look to help Madonna improve upon their 4th place finish in WHAC play last season.

In addition, defender Godfrey Kegode, who has featured in matches for Ann Arbor in all three seasons so far, will be returning as an anchor to a solid Crusader backline.

Madonna kicks off their regular season at home, Friday, August 25th at 6PM vs Goshen College.

*Head Coach Eric Rudland and Assistant Coach Boyzzz Khumalo both enter their 5th season as assistant coaches at Madonna University.

 

Michigan State University- Jimmy Fiscus

Fiscus made club history this season as the first Spartan to wear the oak on his chest. He made his presence felt immediately for AFC as he was a regular in one of the strongest backline’s in the entire NPSL. The spectacular play this season earned him Third-Team All-NPSL and expectations for his contribution at MSU aren’t far off. Ranked 22nd in the nation and picked to finish 4th in the B1G (preseason poll) conference, with Fiscus earning preseason conference honors as well.

The 2016 Spartans only allowed 17 goals in 20 games in one of the toughest divisions in college soccer. As the only Michigan State player to play every minutes in the 2016 season, to say his impact was massive might still be an understatement.

The regular season begins on the road for MSU as they take on SIUE at 8PM this Friday.

 

Northwood University- James Vaughan

With such a balanced mix in the attack this summer, 10 games into the season there was no clear cut MVP for The Mighty Oak. Vaughan joined a number of players who played exceptional from the beginning of the season, but it was truly a team effort. But as the season progressed, and matches became more meaningful, Vaughan calmly stepped up and became the go-to playmaker Ann Arbor was looking to solidify. Finishing the season with 5 goals and 4 assists, Vaughan not only had a more than memorable summer, but gained a great deal of confidence for an already superb player.

Heading into the fall, he’ll make a massive impact for the Timberwolves as they look to dethrone the dominant SVSU program lead by Andy Wagstaff.

Northwood opens up their season, September 1st on the road vs Maryville.

 

Saginaw Valley State University - Jake Rosen

Rosen enters his first season with SVSU after trasnferring from Schoolcraft where he was team captain and earned MCCAA Honorable Mention. Having spent two season with Ann Arbor as one of the youngest rostered players, fans have had the opportunity to watch Rosen mature and grow as a player the past two summers. Rosen enters this season more prepared than ever and will make impact for a very competitive Andy Wagstaff team.

The Cardinals kick off the 2017 campaign Friday, September 1st at Quincy.  

 

Spring Arbor University- Baba Valdmanis

The Ann Arbor native transferred to Spring Arbor University (from WMU) and will immediately impact a Nate Miller (Lansing United Head Coach) lead team this fall. Valdmanis trained with some top talent in Ann Arbor this summer preparing him for a bright future with the Cougars.

 

University of Michigan- Jack Hallahan

Hallahan spent only the early part of the 2017 campaign with Ann Arbor but made a name for himself quickly as the winger’s cheeky, quality first touches opened up play creating a number of goal scoring opportunities for The Mighty Oak.

As noted by Michigan Soccer Now, “...All-Freshman returner, Jack Hallahan should bring the needed flare back to this year’s team.” Expect to see him create a lot of chances in the attacking phase of the match and doing so with style.

 

Western Michigan University- Jake Rufe, Ben Thornton

Two of Chad Wiseman’s Broncos spent their summer in Ann Arbor, one as a returner and one new to the organization. Jake Rufe, recipient of the 2017 Iron Man Award, was a key returner for The Mighty Oak who was looking to improve upon last year’s early playoff exit. Rufe’s leadership, aggressive play and dedication to the club helped forge the club forward earning their first NPSL playoff win along with breaking 13 club records in 2017. Rufe returns to a very talented Western Michigan team that will look to dethrone the almighty Akron come MAC playoff time.

Ben Thornton was new to AFC Ann Arbor in 2017 but wasted no time in proving his stellar defensive talents and earning him a spot in the Starting XI. Thornton was a reliable, center back that brought depth and consistency to a backline that allowed only 9 goals in 14 regular season matches. If he continues to play the way he did for The Mighty Oak this summer, Thornton will have his best year yet at WMU.

The Broncos season begins September 4th when they host the University of Cincinnati in Kalamazoo.
 

 

Out-of-State Collegiate Players

American International College- Jake Durham

Durham came to Ann Arbor after completing a very successful freshman campaign with AIC. Scoring 7 goals in addition to 4 assists was quite the accomplishment for the young midfielder from England, but Durham has big expectations for the upcoming season. Having trained with some veteran players this summer in Ann Arbor, Durham not only contributed to an AFC side that secured the Great Lakes Conference Championship, but he gained valuable experience that should help his point total and team results improve this fall.

 

Colgate- Chase Pagani

Chase Pagani stepped up in big ways every time his name was called as a sub in ‘17 a role he became familiar with in one of Colgate’s most successful season’s to in 2016. Pagani was a significant contributor playing in 16 matches (5 of which he started) last fall but will most likely find himself in a regular starting role for the Raiders this season.

Along with former Pioneer classmate and AFC Ann Arbor teammate Peter Tappenden, Pagani and team will look to repeat as Patriot League Champions in 2017.
 

Iowa Western CC- Kwesi Allen

A spark of energy and flare late in The Mighty Oak’s season came compliments of Kwesi “Jep” Allen. After battling an early season injury, Allen fought hard to earn time but found himself becoming a key substitute for Rudland’s side down the stretch. He’s flat out dangerous because of his ability to move upfield quickly in the attacking phase with his long strides and having a strong left only helps his ability to confuse defenders and create quality goal scoring opportunities.

Allen will complete one final season with Iowa CC before deciding where to transfer to as he will have two years of eligibility left after 2017. With a number of division 1 schools lining up, expect a showcase season for Allen looking to make a name for himself at the next level.

 

Loyola Chicago- Alec Lasinski  

The recipient of the club’s Hometown Hero award, Lasinski stepped up in the biggest of situations for Ann Arbor this past season. Two of his most memorable moments came with a game-winning goal in Detroit on July 11th as well as the second goal in the Midwest Region Finals that tied things up at 2-2 with DCFC while playing with only 10 men. You would think from the way he responded in pressure situations that Lasinski was a more seasoned player, but the young striker has only scratched the surface of his budding career.

As a sophomore, Lasinski lead the Ramblers in scoring and was second on the team in overall points. Entering his junior campaign, Loyola fans have a lot to be excited about as Lasinski brings a great deal of confidence with him from an offseason where he accomplished so much with AFC Ann Arbor, and as an individual.

 

Rockhurst- Kaleb Jackson, Conor Mullen  

Teammates Kaleb “KJ” Jackson and Conor Mullen have played together for a long time. The two went to high school together, play at Rockhurst together and both even earned NSCAA Scholar All-American awards during their junior season.

Although they’ve played together so long, the two players bring different talents to the pitch, both of immense value to Rockhurst. Jackson, the leading goal scorer and top point earner for the Hawks, only started in 14 games tallying just over 1,200 minutes of play. Mullen on the other hand was kept off the scoresheet but tallied 23 starts and 2,000 plus minutes that were felt in other ways than points.

The two will look to finish their college seasons strong with their senior campaign kicking off on the road, Thursday the 31st of August.

 

Seton Hill- Colin Watson

Watson will be coming off an ACL surgery after he injured it at home vs FC indiana on June 24th. The English native enters junior season with the Griffins and could be fit enough by mid-fall to get back on the pitch. As Watson continues his physical therapy into the fall, the defender would help the Griffins improve on their 12-8 season in 2016.

 

Season Tree Celebration Set for August 11th

AFC Ann Arbor will host an end of the season event at Pretzel Bell on Friday, August 11th from 7 to 9pm. Friday evening will serve as a chance for owners, coaches and players to meet and share stories about the memorable 2017 campaign. 

Fans who attend are subject to win some awesome prizes featuring the grand prize of a framed game-worn Bank of Ann Arbor White Kit from the historic 2017 season.  

The event will also be the Ann Arbor fans’ first chance to get their picture taken with the Great Lakes Conference Championship trophy.

Light appetizers will be provided, but drinks will not be included. Admission is free, and to enter the giveaway you simply need to RSVP on the Facebook event and be present next Friday to claim your prize. The event will take place in the "Captain's Room" which can be accessed through it's own private entrance at 224 S. Main St. 

2017 Season Recap: AFC Family Roots Grow Deeper

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Winning the Conference Championship is definitely something to build on and a great step for our organization.
— Eric Rudland, Head Coach & Sporting Director

When Association Football Club Ann Arbor joined the National Premier Soccer League in 2016, they wasted little time in proving their will and ability to compete at a high level. But in a league that consistently has over 90+ teams competing in it each summer, making it to the final 16 was something no one expected outside of the organization.

For certain members of The Mighty Oak, exiting the playoffs early in 2016 was something that stuck with them for an entire year. Twelve players from that team returned to Ann Arbor for the 2017 campaign in the pursuit of national championship including James Vaughan, Matthieu Braem, Jake Rufe, Hector Morales, Yuri Farkas, Dario Suarez, Colin Watson, Leigh, Rumbold, Jake Rosen, Adrian Motta and Zach & Chase Pagani.

After a very successful first season in the NPSL, Ann Arbor had caught the eye of certain players from the 2015 team as well. Four players returned after spending 2016 with different teams including TJ Tommaso, Kyle Breitmeyer, Alec Lasinski and Amadou Cisse.

These players, along with the group of new recruits brought in by Head Coach & Sporting Director Eric Rudland and staff, were focused on continuing the clubs winning ways and improving on the club’s inaugural NPSL campaign. Rudland has quickly established a winning mentality in a professional environment which set the tone from the first day of training.

The Mighty Oak’s 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, Matthieu “Frenchy” Braem was a key returner as he not only wore the captain’s armband but also played a crucial role in the defensive schematic.  

“The 2016 returners were the core of our group in 2017 and really the catalysts for our success. Not only were they great on the pitch but they were so hungry to win, train hard and push the football side of our club forward. I will forever be grateful to them for coming back as returners. Obviously Frenchy, as our captain, was top man. You could see how much this club means to him after the Midwest Region Finals match, and players who care the way he does do not come around every day. I would say that's true for most of our returners though, they have a special draw toward AFC and the feeling is reflected back to them in the way that we try to structure our environment to look after them. There were a number of other returners that played a critical role for as well. Hopefully we will be talking about a lot of these men coming back to us in 2018,” said Rudland.

“For us the 2017 team building process was all about bringing in players who were determined to win and committed to the process of training daily and make progress as a player. We had a lot of special individuals, who collective came together and produced fantastic results game in and game out,” he added.

 

AFC Family

I think the coaches do a great job of picking players that will fit right in to the family environment.
— TJ Tomasso, GK (2017 Defensive MVP)

From day 1, Ann Arbor set out to build something special for the community and with the hiring of Coach Rudland and joining the NPSL, the AFC Family was born. Not only is the match day atmosphere at Hollway built around families, but within the organization, the team, the coaches and support staff build a bond that is unique to The Mighty Oak. A love for the city is born from players who had never visited Ann Arbor before. A connection made with the community with strength that was never expected. And a bond incomparable that turns strangers to brothers in just four months. 

One of the leaders on the team, former MLS goalkeeper and the club's Defensive MVP in 2017, TJ Tommaso, has played for many teams during his storied career but none as close and unified as this team as he describes. 

"For me it starts with the ownership an coaches and filters down from there. A lot must be said about the type of players brought in. Not only talented players but really good people off the field. I think the coaches do a great job of picking players that will fit right in to the family environment. It's super cool to see how involved the owners and coaches are in every aspect of the club. And right next to them are their significant others and kids helping out with everything. It's a total group effort which really shows how much people care about each other and this club. Players can see and feel that which keeps filtering through," said Tomasso. 

Captain, Matthieu Braem added, "I think that it's just a mentality from the organization as a whole. The owners are showing us the path, while Coach Eric recruits players he knows will fit within this tight knit family. While looking at players he focuses not only on soccer but also on the players' mentality, and finds who will put the club above their own personal desires."

 

Highlights

There is no better word to describe The Mighty Oak’s Midwest Region Finals loss to Detroit City FC other than heartbreaking. But when compared to the fact that DCFC is in their 6th season of the NPSL compared to Ann Arbor’s 2nd, there’s no doubt that AFC is on the fast track to success.

2017 was filled with great success including a Great Lakes Conference Championship, 2018 US Open Cup bid and Michigan Milk Cup. The team broke virtually every record set by a very talented 2016 team.

“We said all off-season that we wanted to take the next step competitively as an organization and win our first play-off match after losing in 2016, and we accomplished that, which is great, but it's still devastating that we didn't push on further. Winning the Conference Championship is definitely something to build on and a great step for our organization,” added Rudland.

 

Month by Month review of the season

May

An action packed month to start the season kept things busy for The Mighty Oak in the month of May. Almost half of the regular season matches would be played this month, but Ann Arbor started out with a huge road win against a tough, experienced Milwaukee side.

May Numbers

5-0-2 // 15 pts (Includes Open Cup)

11 Goals For; 4 Goals Against

5 different goal scorers

3 clean sheets

Immediately after the first league match of the year, preparations began for the first US Open Cup match in club history against the veteran Michigan Bucks side. Although Ann Arbor’s first appearance in the tournament was strong, the result didn’t go their way as the Bucks capitalized on a defensive miscommunication to advance 1-0.

After a pair of wins over Kalamazoo FC in the next two matches, Ann Arbor was 3-0-0 with 9 points prior to hosting Detroit City FC at home.  

2016 team MVP Dario Suarez was in top form scoring 4 goals in just 3 matches. Suarez continued his amazing play adding two more goals against Detroit for a 2-0 victory keeping them atop the conference table.

Ann Arbor would drop their only regular season match of 2017 at Lansing United (0-2) on May 26th.  In addition, forward Dario Suarez was suspended for 6 months, after being shown a straight red for referee assault.

With Suarez’s impressive start to the season, many saw this suspension as a blow to Ann Arbor’s season and counted them out of any serious contention as Lansing began to gain momentum.  

In the very next match, Ann Arbor went down 1-0 to Grand Rapids FC at home, and for the first time gave use a glimpse of what was to come as soon as the second half kicked off. A new energy was found and The Mighty Oak fought back to earn a 2-1 result getting things back on track.

 

June

In the four matches in June, AFC went 3-1-0 adding another 10 points to their total. The men had responded to the challenge and showed that this was possibly one of the deepest rosters in the entire NPSL.

June Numbers

 

3-1-0 // 10 points

15 Goals For; 3 Goals Against

8 different goal scorers

This month was special as the team began to click in a way that the chemistry building between the men was evident. 

Twice the club set records this month for most goals in a game (5)  and largest margin of victory (5). Collectively, the group scored 15 goals and conceded only 3 this month, while introducing 6 new goal scorers to the mix.

 

July

The Mighty Oak had a tough home stretch schedule to get through before they could begin thinking about postseason play. With four remaining matches, Ann Arbor went out and earned four tough wins finishing the month without dropping a point and picking up an additional 12 points.

July Numbers

5-0-1 // 12 points (1-1 in playoffs)

10 Goals For; 5 Goals Against

7 different goal scorers

3 clean sheets

The month featured a fantastic win over Lansing United to avenge their only loss of the season as well as tough road victory over Detroit City FC.

The club secured the Great Lakes Conference Championship in addition to lifting the Michigan Milk Cup and entered the NPSL Midwest Region Playoffs with a No. 1 ranking.

After a thrilling 90’+ goal from James Vaughan in the Midwest Region Semifinal, Ann Arbor fell to Detroit City FC in a valiant comeback effort (down a man and 3 goals) that fell just short in the Finals. 

 

Firsts

US Open Cup Match (5.10.17)

NPSL Playoff Win (7.28.17 vs Dayton Dynamo FC 1-0)

NPSL Great Lakes Conference Championship

NPSL Midwest Region Final Appearance (7.29.17)

Michigan Milk Cup

Season Totals

13-1-2 overall  

37 points

36 goals scored

24 goal differential

13 different goal scorers

8 clean sheets

Club Records

(5) Largest Margin of Victory (6.6.17 vs MSFC and 6.24.17 vs FC Indiana)

(5) Most Goals in a match ((6.6.17 vs MSFC and 6.24.17 vs FC Indiana)

(37) Most Points in a season

(12) Most Wins in a season

(10) Undefeated matches in a row

(8) Most Clean Sheets in a season

(35) Most goals in a season

(13) Most goal scorers in a season

(25) Most assists in a season

(8) Consecutive Unbeaten Matches at Hollway Field

(#2) Highest National Ranking (NPSL Power Rankings) 

(2.64) Highest PPG for a season

Late Goal Lifts Detroit Past Ann Arbor in Midwest Region Championship

AFC Ann Arbor lost 3-2 in the NPSL Midwest Regional Championship in Hamtramck on Saturday night in dramatic fashion at Keyworth Stadium.

The match started brightly for both sides, though Detroit had the better opportunities in the early going. After going back and forth for much of the first half, it was Detroit, who took advantage on 35 minutes. Detroit’s Jordan Tyler pounced on a loose ball in the box following a corner and put the hosts up 1-0.

10 minutes later on the stroke of half-time Omar Sinclair curled a free kick in past TJ Tomasso to double Detroit’s advantage heading into the half.

The Mighty Oak weren’t going down without a fight, however. With a 2-0 deficit to over turn, Coach Rudland made a triple substitution, brining on Alec Lasinski, Jesse Muskwe and Kwesi “Jep” Allen in the 54th minute.

Jep’s appearance was short lived, however, after he was shown a straight red card in the 66th minute for a strong tackle.

Down to 10 men, Coach Rudland again looked to the bench, brining on David Cross, and switching to a 3-at-the-back system. It was left-back turned winger Tendai Jirira who gave AFC a lifeline in the 75th minute.

He beat several defenders, snuck in on the right wing and buried the ball in the back of the net to make it 2-1.

Just 6 minutes later it was substitute David Cross’ ball from the half-way line that Alec Lasinski latched on to. Lasinski took a touch, picked his spot, and fired the ball past the Detroit keeper to level the match, 2-2.

Following several lengthy stoppages for injuries, the referee added on 6 minutes at the end of the game, and with time winding down, Detroit struck.

Striker Tyrone Mondi received the ball on the right wing on the counter attack. His deflected effort found a way to sneak past Tomasso in net, giving Detroit a 3-2 lead.

There was only a minute or two remaining and The Mighty Oak pressed hard to grab an equalizer. However, things went from bad to worse in the final minute when a shoving match resulted in Jake Rufe seeing his second yellow card, leaving Ann Arbor with 9 men to finish the match.

In the end, the lead held, and Detroit City FC came away with a 3-2 victory over AFC Ann Arbor in the NPSL Midwest Regional Championship match.

"It's always tough to go down a goal, let alone 2, and then go down a man, especially on the road in a championship match. When you look at it, what else could have gone wrong? But, given the circumstances the groups collective mentality to claw back into the game was tremendous. To be fair though we've seen that same determination from the men all year," said Head Coach Eric Rudland. 

 

Vaughan's Late Goal Advances Ann Arbor to Midwest Region Championship

The team celebrates the lone goal of the match which came in stoppage time (90'+)

The team celebrates the lone goal of the match which came in stoppage time (90'+)

AFC Ann Arbor advanced to the NPSL Regional Championship Match Friday evening following a 1-0 victory over Dayton Dynamo FC. Ann Arbor dominated throughout, but left it late to secure progress to the Regional Championship match, with James Vaughan scoring from a free kick in the 92nd minute.

The Mighty Oak dictated the tempo from the start, and created several chances in the first half. Alec Lasinski caused problems throughout, while Kaleb Jackson had the best opportunity to give Ann Arbor the lead.

 In the 32nd minute, the ball fell to Kaleb’s feet on the top of the 6-yard box. He settled comfortably, turned and fired an effort on target, which was miraculously kept out by the Dynamo stopper to keep it scoreless. It remained even at the half-time interval.

Dayton came out firing in the second half, coming closest from a corner kick in the 48th minute. It was a good cross, which found an un-marked Dayton player in the box. His effort flashed just inches wide of the far post.

AFC looked to have taken the lead on 52 minutes when defender Ben Thornton tucked the ball past the Dayton keeper, but the referee ruled that Ben was in an offside position.

From then on, it was AFC who controlled the game, brining on several substitutes to increase the energy in the side. Attacking options Jesse Muskwe and Kwesi ‘Jep’ Allen entered, while Chase Pagani joined at the back. In the end it was Jep who was taken down on the edge of the 18-yard box as the clock ticked past the 90 minute mark.

Up stepped Audi of Ann Arbor Man of the Match (and free kick specialist) James Vaughan. He took one look, stepped back, and curled the ball around the wall and inside the upright to give Ann Arbor a 1-0 lead with just seconds left to play.

Dayton instantly brought on more attacking options and threw everything forward to try and force extra-time, but The Mighty Oak held firm and closed out an impressive victory.

The result was AFC Ann Arbor’s first ever NPSL Playoff win in club history.

AFC Ann Arbor Head Coach Eric Rudland was delighted with the victory, and cited the sides’ mentality as crucial to staying in it late on.

“The second half there were waves where we weren’t great.” He said. “We found a way to get through that. We scored a goal, got it called back, and then to pull that [free kick] in the 89th minute […], I think speaks volumes to the groups mentality”

The Mighty Oak are delighted to have a first-ever NPSL playoff win in the bag and will be looking to keep that momentum going into the Regional Championship match.

“We’ve got our scouts here to take care of the Detroit vs. Duluth game for us and give us a plan. We can fill the guys in tomorrow when we meet. We’ll do some regeneration in the morning. We’ll have a team meal and take the bus up here. […] Hopefully those extra hours [between matches] play an advantage for us tomorrow,” said Coach Rudland. 

AFC Ann Arbor will battle Detroit City FC for the third time this season, tomorrow night at Keyworth Stadium at 7:30PM for the NPSL's Midwest Region Championship. 

Ann Arbor Will Face Dayton in Midwest Region Semifinal

Association Football Club Ann Arbor discovered their July 28th opponent when Dayton Dynamo scored in the 90th minute to secure a 1-0 win over the Erie Commodores Friday evening in Erie.

Ann Arbor will enter Friday’s match as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, and after Miami Fusion FC lost Friday night, The Mighty Oak have now bumped up from No. 2 to No. 1 in the National Premier Soccer League’s Power Rankings.

AFC will square off against the No. 6 seed, Dayton Dynamo, who were members of the Great Lakes division in 2016. Last season, the teams met twice (only two meetings in club history), with the first match resulting in 3 points for Ann Arbor while the contest in Dayton ended in a 1-1 draw.

Although Ann Arbor has never lost to Dayton, Coach Eric Rudland isn’t interested in past results and will look to prepare his side this week in training for an improved Dayton Dynamo, as both clubs look to earn their first trip to a Midwest Region Finals.

"Dayton will be a great test for us. They been been on a good run of results and have performed at a consistent level throughout the 2017 campaign. The match plan is already in the works and we will start our preparations on the field Monday morning," said Coach Rudland. 

The winner of Ann Arbor vs Dayton will take on the winner of Detroit vs Duluth, Saturday evening at 7:30PM for the Midwest Region Championship at Keyworth Stadium.

General admission playoff tickets are $10. Admission to both semifinal matches at Keyworth on Friday is only $10. Fans can save $5 and purchase a weekend pass for $15, which guarantees entry to both semifinal matches and the final on Saturday.

Tickets will open up to the public at tickets.detcityfc.com on Monday, July 24 at 12 PM ET.

All matches will be streamed live on detcityfc.com/watchcity and foxsportsdetroit.com.

Six Award Winners Named for 2017 Season

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Association Football Club Ann Arbor hosted their 2017 team banquet Thursday evening, in the beautiful showroom at Audi of Ann Arbor, The Official Car Dealership of The Mighty Oak.  

The team distributed six awards recognizing the overall MVP, Offensive MVP, Defensive MVP, Ironman, Hometown Hero and the Strength In The Oak award.

“Each of our award winners are deserving and have played a critical role in our organization. With that being said, this has been a collective effort from every man in the team to win the conference and make a positive impact on the pitch and in the community,” said Head Coach & Sporting Director Eric Rudland.

From left to right: James Vaughan, Zam Zisette, Alec Lasinski, Jake Rufe, Yuri Farkas (not pictured: TJ Tomasso) 

From left to right: James Vaughan, Zam Zisette, Alec Lasinski, Jake Rufe, Yuri Farkas (not pictured: TJ Tomasso) 

2017 AFC Ann Arbor Awards

MVP: James Vaughan

Offensive MVP: Yuri Farkas

Defensive MVP: TJ Tomasso

Ironman: Jake Rufe

Hometown Hero: Alec Lasinski

Strength In The Oak: Sam Zisette

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Ann Arbor Close Out Regular Season Undefeated at Hollway

AFC Ann Arbor ran out 1-0 winners over Michigan Stars FC to remain undefeated at Hollway Field this season, earning the clubs first ever NPSL Great Lakes Conference Championship and the inaugural Michigan Milk Cup in the process.  

It was a difficult first half, despite AFC dictating the tempo in the early going. Though the side had loads of possession and several chances, it was Stars who had the best opportunities to take the lead.

Twice in the first half Stars had tucked the ball in the back of the net, but both were correctly ruled offside. The two sides went into the break, deadlock at 0-0.

The second half started brightly for The Mighty Oak. Efforts from Jimmy Fiscus and Jesse Muskwe were on target early on, but neither were able to beat the Stars keeper.

As the match wore on, it became clear that AFC would need a hero. Cue Kwesi “Jep” Allen.

In the 78th minute, Jep received an excellent pass from Tendai after strong play down the wing from the left back. He took a touch inside, picked out the far post, and curled a beautiful ball into the top corner to give AFC the lead, 1-0.

With just over 10 minutes to play, The Mighty Oak brought on several defenders to help shut up shop, with Matt Braem and Chase Pagani coming on. As the Stars pressed for an equalizer, Ann Arbor sat deep and attacked on the counter.

In the end, Jep’s curler was enough to secure a 1-0 victory and put a fine finish on an impressive NPSL Regular Season for The Mighty Oak.

37 points from 14 matches, undefeated at home and first place in the NSPL Great Lakes Western Conference weren’t the only honors for Ann Arbor, as after the match, the side was presented with the inaugural Michigan Milk Cup.

The Michigan Milk Cup is aimed at crowning the top semi-professional side in Michigan.

Coach Rudland was happy with the result, and proud of how the men have continued to perform at home this season.

“I think the guys are obviously comfortable with the pitch, it’s our home field, so we have to have some pride in playing here and I think we did a great job of that this year.” He said.

“The fan support is massive, the community support, all of the sponsors who were involved here on game day and throughout the course of the season play an integral role is us having success here. We had a great run, and hopefully we can get a bid and host some playoff games here as well.”

The Mighty Oak will have a break until July 28th as they wait the results of the Midwest Region Quarterfinals (July 22nd). Visit the NPSL Playoff HQ for more information on the 2017 Playoffs Powered by Mitre.  

Top 10 Reasons to Attend Final Home Match of 2017

Monday’s match is an opportunity for the community to celebrate this team’s amazing season and accomplishments and of course send them into the playoffs with well wishes and support. We’ve got a lot planned Monday so be sure to get your tickets online in advance to save a few extra bucks.
 

1. Great Lakes Champions

With a win over Grand Rapids FC Friday evening The Mighty Oak clinched the regular season Great Lakes title and the first NPSL Championship for the club. Come celebrate with the guys at Hollway Field where the team hasn’t lost since July of 2016.

 

 

2. Michigan Milk Cup Trophy Presentation

After the match, the club will be accepting the second piece of silverware (first is USASA 2015 Region II Amateur Cup Runner Up) as the 2017 campaign earned them the Michigan Milk Cup, a regional contest aimed at crowning Michigan’s top semi-pro soccer team. After the trophy presentation, join the team on-field for post-match autographs.

 

3. Chad Tough Fundraiser - Used Equipment Drive & Silent Auction

Bring your slightly used soccer equipment to Hollway Monday night as we’ll be raising money for the Chad Tough Foundation. The equipment will be sold to Play It Again Sports with 100% of the proceeds going back to the foundation.

 

4. Alumni Day

Former players and coaching staff will be honored right before kick-off as we bring back some notable alumni and former Head Coach from the inaugural season, David Hebestreit.

Team picture from the inaugural season in 2015

Team picture from the inaugural season in 2015

Laith performing at last year's season finale 

Laith performing at last year's season finale 

5. Laith Al-Saadi Performing National Anthem

Ann Arbor’s very own, Laith Al-Saadi will be performing the National Anthem on guitar as he displays his legendary skills that have wowed so many for so long.

 

 

 

6. Wolverines Trooper

Not only can you get a picture with Nutmeg or Miss Moo, two mascots who might be around Monday night, you’ll also get a chance to grab a snap with the infamous Wolverines Trooper.

 

7. Giveaways

Enter for free (must be over 18). Win great stuff from local businesses including Big George’s, Revel N Roll and BTB Burrito.

 

8. Undefeated at Hollway for over 1 year

AFC Ann Arbor hasn’t dropped a contest at home all season long and the streak actually dates back to last July.

 

9. Soccer Plus Kids Zone, Post-Match Autographs + more

Kids can enjoy the Soccer Plus Kids Zone and fans call also try samples from Clean Planet Foods who will also be giving away some free AFC swag! Stick around to meet players and get autographs during the Milk Means More post-match autographs which will take place on-field after the trophy presentation.

 

10. Final Home Match of 2017

We know there’s a good number of you who wouldn’t miss this match for anything but if you’ve been waiting to check out your first AFC Ann Arbor match, Monday will be your last chance this season and it’s the perfect time to learn about this club’s winning ways.

AFC ANN ARBOR CLINCH CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP WITH 2-1 WIN

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AFC Ann Arbor came from behind to win 2-1 over Grand Rapids FC Friday night, securing the clubs first ever NPSL Great Lakes Championship.

The match started quickly as Grand Rapids FC took a 1-0 lead 61 seconds after play began.  

After the goal, Ann Arbor sat in and controlled possession for the majority of the first half. 

The Mighty Oak came close to an equalizer several times, but were unable to right the ship in the first 45. Efforts from Alec Lasinski and Sam Zisette came closest, but the sides went into the break with Grand Rapids holding a 1-0 lead. 

The Mighty Oak didn't make any changes at the half but came out looking like a completely different side. 

Two goals in a space of two minutes saw an incredible turnaround from AFC. 

The first goal came from a set piece in the 54th minute. James Vaughan curled a ball into the box and Ben Thornton climbed well at the back post to slam home a header and level the match. 

In the blink of an eye, AFC took the lead. It was Yuri Farkas cooly tucking home a low cross to give The Mighty Oak a 2-1 advantage. 

With just over a half hour to play, Ann Arbor brought on several substitutes to see the match out. 

Substitutes Jesse Muskwe and Jep Allen linked up well down the left, looking to hit Grand Rapids on the counter attack. 

Grand Rapids weren't going down without a fight, though. In the 80th minute, a Grand Rapids effort smashed into the post but stayed out. 

The Mighty Oak held firm and stuck to the game plan. With the 4 minutes of added time played, the referee blew the whistle and the celebrations began.

The result earned the first NPSL Conference Championship in AFC Ann Arbor's history in addition to securing the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region Playoffs. The top seed has a bye in the first round of regional action next weekend. Coach Eric Rudland was delighted, but wanted to maintain the focus on the playoff push. The Mighty Oak will play on July 28th in the Midwest Regional Semifinal (location and opponent TBD). 

"It's an exhilarating feeling to win the league, but we've said all year this was our goal." He said. "But we don't want to be happy with [just] this. We want to make a push in the playoffs." 

With one final regular season game left to play, The Mighty Oak will return to Hollway Field on Monday July 17th to take on the Michigan Stars - and they will return as Conference Champions! 

Michigan Cyber Range Match Day Preview: AFC Ann Arbor at Grand Rapids FC

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The Mighty Oak are playing the second of three matches in six days, as they travel to Grand Rapids FC Friday evening for the last road contest of the 2017 regular season.

Ann Arbor has already clinched one of two Great Lakes Division playoff spots and need just one point to secure the Great Lakes Championship. The remaining point needed to secure the top spot not only means the club’s first regular season title but will also lock up the one seed which comes with a bye to the Regional Final Four (Sweet 16 nationally).

AFC enters Friday with a seven game unbeaten streak dating back to the only loss of the season back on May 26, 2017 at Lansing United. In the seven match stretch, Ann Arbor has seen 21 goals from 9 different scorers. The defensive effort, led by goalkeeper TJ Tomasso, has been equally impressive as AFC’s offensive attack, allowing only 8 goals in 12 matches on the season. The combination of strong offensive and defensive efforts has led to The Mighty Oak having the largest goal difference in the entire Midwest Region (next best is 17 from Duluth FC in the NPSL North).

Even though the men have momentum, they’ll have a tough challenge Friday evening as Grand Rapids FC have picked up 13 points in the last 6 matches (4 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss). The Mighty Oak will enter a hostile environment in Houseman Field, a place where Ann Arbor has has come up empty handed on points in two attempts (2015 GLPL match, 2016 NPSL match). But Coach Rudland doesn’t seem to be worried as the team has trained hard and prepared appropriately as they have all season long.

“We’re not concerned about what’s been done or not done in previous seasons. We’ve prepared for this match just as every other match this season and our form on the road has been good. Our recent reports on Grand Rapids have helped us comprise useful information for our game plan and we are looking forward to the match,” said Coach Rudland.

Keep up with play-by-play updates on Twitter or watch online here.

Ann Arbor Downs Detroit 3-1 Reclaiming First Place

A brace from James Vaughan helped Ann Arbor earn a 3-1 road victory over Detroit City FC

A brace from James Vaughan helped Ann Arbor earn a 3-1 road victory over Detroit City FC

At the second attempt, AFC Ann Arbor came to Hamtramck Tuesday to take on Detroit City FC in NPSL play. 

The match was originally scheduled for Friday July 7th, but due to extreme weather leaving the field in unplayable condition, the match had to be abandoned with just 5 minutes gone on the clock. 

Although the match was delayed, the implications remained high as the top two sides in the divisions looked to battle for position atop the Great Lakes table. 

The first half resumed in the 5th minute Tuesday, and from the off Ann Arbor were on the attack, going close through Kyle Breitmeyer. 

However it was Detroit who made the most of their chances, scoring on the stroke of half time to take a 1-0 lead into the break. 

Going down seemed to wake Ann Arbor up offensively. First it was Yuri Farkas cutting inside on the right, but his effort hit the post and stayed out. 

In the 57th minute, AFC found a lifeline. With a free kick from 25 yards out, James Vaughan stepped up and curled a beautiful free kick into the bottom corner to level the match at 1-1. 

Just 7 minutes later it was Audi of Ann Arbor Man of the Match Alec Lasinski's turn. The former DCFC striker latched onto a loose ball in the box to give his home town side the lead against his former club, 2-1. 

With 25 minutes to play, The Mighty Oak sat in deep to defend, looking to put the game out of reach on the counter attack. 

In the 90th minute, substitute Kwesi Allen did just that. "Jep" slid in behind the defense and rounded the keeper before being dragged down in the box, earning a late penalty for The Mighty Oak. 

Again it was Vaughan who stepped up to take the spot kick. As cool as you like, Vaughan nestled the ball in the back of the net to secure a critical 3 points away from home. 

After a hard fought road victory, Coach Rudland lauded the mentality in the side, especially in the second half.

"That was a big part of our half time talk was 'Hey, mentally we've got to stay with one another here." He said. "We've got to stay together and we'll work through this."

Speaking to the tactical adjustments, Coach Rudland felt that the substitutes helped shift the momentum for Ann Arbor, singling out the Man of the Match Performance by Alec Lasinski.

"When we brought Alec on, which we knew we wanted as our first change in the second half, he was fantastic." 

The result sees AFC Ann Arbor return to the top of the NPSL Great Lakes Division Table with 31 points from 12 league matches. 

AFC Ann Arbor play the final away match of the regular season as they take on Grand Rapids FC, Friday night at 7:30, before heading back to Hollway Field on Monday for the final home match of the regular season versus Michigan Stars. 

Ann Arbor Clinches 2017 Playoff Berth

Association Football Club Ann Arbor clinched a 2017 postseason berth after a Lansing United loss Friday evening mathematically confirmed Ann Arbor could not finish below second in the Great Lakes Conference. 

Ann Arbor is only in its second year in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), a team comprised of 96 teams nationally, and have qualified for the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in arguably one of the toughest regions in the country.

The clubs success has been driven by Head Coach and Sporting Director, Eric Rudland, who is thrilled with his team’s efforts so far but said there is plenty of work left to be done.

He added, “Every season we want to be in the hunt to qualify for the playoffs, for me that is this sign of a competitive club. So to advance to the playoffs for our second year in a row is a tremendous step for the culture of our club. A lot of the credit goes to our owners, who all want to see the club succeed. They have devoted their time and finances which has positioned the club to have success on the field. Finally, you have to have the horses to run the race. In our case the the players we have are not only talented, they have molded well into a collective unit and are hungry to win.”

Last year’s team earned a 6-3-3 and record in the Great Lakes and secured their postseason fate on the last match of the regular season. This summer, the men have locked up one of two playoff spots with three matches remaining and have only dropped one contest all season long. Rudland is thrilled with the production and work rate of his team but The Mighty Oak remain focused on securing the number one spot in the conference.

Rudland said, “It's a big accomplishment. We all know that our conference of the NPSL is arguably the most competitive in the nation, so to qualify for the playoffs with 3 matches still remaining speaks volumes for our organization and our players. With that said, we still have 3 very important regular season matches on the table and want to finish our league play in good form and push to finish 1st in the conference.”

When asked if the large number of returning players from last years team have unfinished business, Rudland replied, “For sure. All of the returning players have a chip on their shoulder. The way we went out of the play offs last year was devastating. We all feel a sense of producing in the playoffs and proving that we are worthy of playing on a national stage.”

Click here for more information on the NPSL Playoffs. 

AFC Ann Arbor travels to Hamtramck Tuesday evening to play Detroit City FC at 7:30PM in a match that was rescheduled due to unplayable field conditions at Keyworth Stadium caused my severe thunderstorms Friday evening, July 7th.