After a successful inaugural season in the NPSL, many of The Mighty Oak players have returned to their respective college programs across the country. With over 20 players playing at the collegiate level, AFC Ann Arbor will be well represented this fall at campuses throughout the nation.
For fans who just can’t wait until next May, this is a great opportunity to keep up with some of their favorite players in a very competitive atmosphere.
Sporting Director Eric Rudland is excited for the college season to get underway.
He added, "With another college season upon us, I'm looking forward to seeing our men in action for their respective university programs. The early feedback from college coaches is that our Mighty Oak players have come into pre-season fit & sharp, so we are hoping they make big impacts throughout their fall campaigns. I know our owners, staff and fans will be in attendance to support players throughout the fall as much as possible."
University of Michigan
Lars Eckenrode, Tristan Jacobs, Noah Kleedtke, Ryan Kobakof, Braden Horton
The University of Michigan Men’s Soccer varsity program fielded their first team 17 years ago. Two notable alumni of the program played huge roles in AFC Ann Arbor’s success this summer in Knox Cameron and Kevin Taylor. Player/Co-owner Cameron saw limited action on the field for The Mighty Oak this summer but made an impact with the game winning goal in the Saline Showcase vs. Northwood while staying very active in the club’s front office.
Kevin Taylor, another former Michigan player turned pro, returned to The Mighty Oak this season and played a pivotal role in the team’s defensive schematic. His experience and expertise helped bring a level of leadership and organization AFC’s backline that helped the club advance to the NPSL Sweet Sixteen in just their first season in the league.
As “Team 17” prepares to take the pitch this fall, The Mighty Oak have 5 current Michigan players who spent time with the club over the summer. Ann Arbor native and Pioneer High School graduate, Tristan Jacob, suited up for his second season with AFC and returns to the Wolverines for his junior year.
Defender Lars Eckenrode (Springfield, VA) enters his senior season as one of the nation’s most talented players on the back line. Having started all 17 matches and playing a full 90 minutes in 13 of them, Eckenrode will be a key member of the Wolverines 2016 fall campaign.
In addition to Eckenrode and Jacob, Ryan Kobakof, Braden Horton and Noah Kleedtke, who all saw time with AFC Ann Arbor this summer, will be supporting the maize and blue jersey this collegiate season.
The Wolverines open up their season with a pair of road contests in Florida against USF (Fri, 8/26) and FGCU (Mon, 8/29) before returning to Ann Arbor to host Columbia (Fri, 9/2) and Yale (Mon, 9/5) at the Michigan Soccer Stadium for the Labor Day Tournament. Click here for more information on the University of Michigan’s Men’s soccer season and for their complete schedule.
Western Michigan University
Jake Rufe, Tommy Clark, Dzenan Nezirevic
The Broncos are coming off an 11-4-4 season which ended in a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in the MAC Tournament Semifinal to Buffalo.
Three Western Michigan players spent time with The Mighty Oak this summer including Dzenan Nezirevic, Tommy Clark and Jake Rufe.
Rufe, a redshirt freshman who transferred to Western from Indiana, played a significant role in AFC Ann Arbor’s 2016 campaign in the midfield and will look to play a similar role for the Broncos this fall.
WMU opens their season on the road against The Herd of Marshall University (Fri, 8/26) with the home opener slated for the following week vs IPFW (Fri, 9/2). Click here for the Broncos complete schedule.
The inaugural Saline Showcase featured AFC Ann Arbor taking on the Timberwolves of Northwood University at Saline High School’s Hornet Stadium. The Mighty Oak won the match compliments of a late goal scored by Knox Cameron.
Northwood’s junior midfielder James Vaughan went from playing against AFC that match to joining The Mighty Oak midfield for the rest of the summer.
Vaughan, a Bexhill, England native, will be a key player for the Timberwolves this year as they open their season against the Pumas from St. Joseph’s College (Fri, 9/2). Click here for the Timberwolves complete schedule.
Yuri Farkas, Godfrey Kegode
The Crusaders had two players don The Mighty Oak uniform this season in Yuri Farkas and Godfrey Kegode. Farkas, a native of Brazil, made a huge impact for AFC Ann Arbor right from the start scoring 4 goals in the first 4 games of the season (2 friendlies; 2 NPSL matches).
Farkas and Kegode will play important roles for Madonna this season which kicks off with a road test at Goshen College (Sat, 8/27). Click here for the Crusaders complete schedule.
Jake Rosen, Hector Morales
The Ocelots open their season against Morton College (Fri, 8/26) where Sophomore Jake Rosen will play a key role in the midfield. After his freshmen season with Schoolcraft, Rosen joined The Mighty Oak back line looking to gain experience and ended up playing key minutes for AFC as one of the team’s top defenders.
Joining Rosen for his first season with The Ocelots will be standout player, Hector Morales. Morales, a former Cuban National Team player will look to make an impact right away for Schoolcraft. The Ocelots are going into the season ranked number name and host Morton College in their season opener (Fri, 8/26). Click here for more details on their complete schedule.
University of Charleston
Fabian Veit, Bruno Oliveria, Rafael Simones, Jermaine Windster
The University of Charleston Golden Eagles had four players on AFC Ann Arbor’s 2016 roster including the Iron Man award winner, Bruno Oliveria who played all 90 minutes of every league match for The Mighty Oak.
The Golden Eagles dropped a heartbreaking match in the NCAA Division II Semifinals in 2OT last season and look to get back to the Final Four this year with the help of all four players who spent time in Ann Arbor this summer.
Charleston’s home opener vs Gannon University (Thu, 9/1) can be streamed online. Click here for the team’s complete schedule.
Peter Tappenden, Zach Pagani, Chase Pagani
Colgate had three players, all local Ann Arbor natives, return to the area this summer to suit up for The Mighty Oak. Goalkeeper Peter Tappenden stepped in as the started late in the season and played a significant role for AFC Ann Arbor down the stretch.
The Pagani brothers will look to make an even bigger impact for the Raiders this season as senior Zach spent much of last year injured. Chase, a defender started six times last year for Colgate and is expected to have a bigger role for the team this year which opens up the season against Loyola Marymount (Fri, 8/26). Click here for the Raiders complete schedule.
The Mighty Oak’s Defensive Player of the Year Matthieu Braem will be returning to Loyola Chicago for his senior year, as a key component to the Ramblers backline. Braem was 1 of 2 players for AFC Ann Arbor to play every minute of every league match showing just how important of a role he had this summer in the Oak’s defensive schematic.
The Ramblers will host Valparaiso (Sat, 8/27) for the season opener with two additional home matches slated for Labor Day Weekend. Click here for their complete schedule.
Other Mighty Oak college players to keep an eye on:
Cornell- Rhys Moeller
Opening Match: Central Connecticut University (Fri, 9/2) // Complete Schedule
Seton Hill- Colin Watson
Opening Match: Wheeling Jesuit University (Thu, 9/1) // Complete Schedule
Northern Kentucky University- Diego Martinez
Opening Match: Eastern Illinois (Fri, 8/26) Watch Here // Complete Schedule
University of Northwestern Ohio- Dumisani Manyange, Thapelo Moruti
Opening Match: Thomas University (Fri, 8/26) // Complete Schedule