The club’s inaugural match on May 1st, 2015 was a historic and memorable night for the players, fans, staff and greater Ann Arbor as a whole. The Mighty Oak had arrived and the community showed just how ready they were for their own team.
One thing became quite apparent as soon as the match was over: the fans and players fell in love with one another.
The MVP from the 2015 team and fan favorite, TJ Tomasso couldn’t agree more, saying “I love the player fan interaction before, during, and after games. The way the club sets up game days is great for the fans and players and Hollway Field allows for a very personal interaction with the fans.”
Tomasso rejoins AFC Ann Arbor this season and he’s counting down the days until training begins.
He brings a unique mix of exceptional talent, extreme passion, genuine humility and a work ethic that’s second to none.
He added, “Winning is always nice, and a championship would be great for the club and city. I just want to do what I always do which is work hard, try to play well, and lead by example by competing hard every day in training and in games.”
Coach Rudland is looking forward to Tomasso’s experience and leadership on and off the pitch this coming season.
“Bringing back TJ is huge for us as a club. With his accomplished playing career he is one of the most respected GK's in the area. We are looking forward to integrating his leadership, ability to manage a match and professional mentality into our team's culture this season,” said Rudland.
In addition to his maturity and wealth of experience he brings with him, Tomasso is a natural leader. And when he’s not training or thinking about training, he’s working in the ER at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital Ann Arbor.
“I really love what I do because I enjoy helping others. The St. Joe’s ER staff is full of people that do some pretty amazing things and don't really receive much credit for their hard work and dedication. So days and nights at work can be rough so it amazes me how resilient people can be,” said Tomasso.
Read the full interview with TJ below:
AFC: How does it feel to be returning to The Mighty Oak, a team you were not only a fan favorite on, but also played a huge role in as a leader and key player?
TJ: It is really nice to return to AFC and play local again. The inaugural season 2 years ago was a lot of fun and we had a great following then so I'm sure the fan base has only grown since. I am one of the older guys and have been for a few years now, so mentoring the younger guys with advice or information is very important. It was done for me when I was younger so I feel it is only right to pass it on. As most know from two years ago, I play with a lot of passion for the game, my teammates, and for the fans. I feel that is something people can relate to and feed off of.
AFC: You're coming back to a new coach, a higher league (NPSL) and a very competitive Great Lakes Division that you're quite familiar with. What are you most excited for? How are you preparing for this level of competition?
TJ: I am always excited to play and train and I miss that structure of the group when the season is over. On the playing side of things its all about the locker room and the bond that is built between teammates and I feel that is what still helps motivate some of us older guys. That cannot really be replicated anywhere else. I am familiar with the NPSL having played in this league a few years ago so I know how passionate the league's fans are. I've played for Hebes for as long as I can remember and he is the main reason I started playing again four years ago. He was not only my coach but a good friend and I have a great deal of respect for him. Its been a great ride with him between helping starting new teams and leagues but most importantly helping to grow the game on a local and regional level. Playing for a new coach will be different, but after having met with coach Rudland I feel that we have a similar passion for the game, winning, and sense of community. I look forward to getting training going.
AFC: In just a short time with AFC, you gained a pretty big following. How excited are you to know you'll be playing for those fans once again?
TJ: I am very excited! I love the player fan interaction before, during, and after games. The way the club sets up game days is great for the fans and players and Hollway Field allows for a very personal interaction with the fans.
AFC: You had a memorable first year in Ann Arbor in 2015. What was your favorite moment of that season?
TJ: Without a doubt opening night against San Marino. There were a lot of fans, an electric atmosphere, and the game was very entertaining for both us players and for the fans. It was also great because most of my family and many of my friends were there so that always makes it more meaningful. Even though the result didn't go our way the night was a lot of fun and kick started a fun season.
AFC: What do you hope to accomplish with the club this summer?
TJ: Winning is always nice, and a championship would be great for the club and city. I just want to do what I always do which is work hard, try to play well, and lead by example by competing hard every day in training and in games.
AFC: You work in the area- tell us what you do as part of your day job and why it's so important to you?
TJ: I work at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital right down the road as an emergency department patient care technician. I really love what I do because I enjoy helping others. The St. Joes ER staff is full of people that do some pretty amazing things and don't really receive much credit for their hard work and dedication. So days and nights at work can be rough so it amazes me how resilient people can be.
About AFC Ann Arbor
AFC Ann Arbor completed a very successful inaugural campaign in the Midwest Region of the National Premier Soccer League finishing 2nd in the conference while earning the club’s first playoff berth. The club’s third season kicks off in May as The Mighty Oak look to continue their winning ways under Head Coach Eric Rudland. Youth, General and Premium Memberships for Season Tree can be purchased here.