Boyzzz Khumalo Named Women's Head Coach

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AFC Ann Arbor are pleased to announce Boyzzz Khumalo as the head coach for the AFC Ann Arbor women’s team. Having served with The Mighty Oak since 2016, most recently as technical director for the club, he has served with many hats. He has been a key part of the men’s coaching staff while also assisting on the women’s side during practices last season in the inaugural campaign. With collegiate coaching experience also for the Madonna men’s side, Khumalo is well-prepared in undertaking his first head coaching job with the club he has put the last four years of his life into. 

Bilal Saeed, chairman of AFC An Arbor, said of Khumalo’s new role, "We're excited about this new chapter for our women's team and Boyzzz couldn't be more deserving of the opportunity. He's got an exceptional understanding of the game, he's very active in giving back to his communities and he is driven to help develop players." Much loved by players of both the men’s and women’s teams, Khumalo’s ability to relate to the players having played in the MLS with DC United makes him a fantastic man for the job.

“I felt like this would be a new challenge and this will help me grow as a coach. Something I’ve always wanted is to be a head coach one day,” said Khumalo when talking about his first impressions of taking the job. “I kind of know what’s needed or requested of us as coaches and as people.” A deep understanding of the club’s set-up makes him a valuable asset in leading the women’s team into their second season of existence.

Even in the early days of preseason, Khumalo already has ideas of the team’s composition for 2020. “You want players who can adapt right away,” he said. With the high level of player in NCAA/NAIA, though, he expects that will not be difficult. He also summarized his coaching philosophy saying, “I see myself more as a teacher, I like to teach the game. I love to see players get better, of course.” 

Within the summer club season, Khumalo is understanding that the women who join the side are looking to help better themselves ahead of a collegiate season or professional future. He hopes to continue to make that possible as he said, “The same thing that’s happening on the men’s side is what we want happening on the women’s side.” With the likes of Stanley Okumu joining a top-tier European side in the men’s game, Khumalo and the club continue to eagerly anticipate the first women’s player to make that jump in competition.

Despite it still only being September, Khumalo is always continuing to learn as a coach. “With me as a person, I’m looking to learn. I still got to make sure I educate myself,” he said. He has already continued to make strides in that. He noted that in addition to attending local collegiate matches he also attended a Chicago Red Stars game “to get an idea of what the pros do” live and in person. “I watch a lot of NWSL games now just to make myself familiar with the women’s game,” he added. For now, in the offseason, the goals are to continue to support those women’s team players that were a part of the inaugural season while also continuing to look for prospective new talent.

With season one now in the books and much of the club’s ‘inaugural history’ being spoken for with the first goals, games, wins, and hat tricks spoken for, some of this pressure of the first season is now off. Khumalo has helped build up teams alongside Coach Rudland at Lansing and AFCAA, and now he will mark his own mark on the women’s side of The Mighty Oak as they continue to build off a first season with talented players and memorable moments. 




2019 AFC Ann Arbor Collegiate Watchlist

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The 2019 collegiate soccer season is underway and AFC Ann Arbor family members are scattered across the country on different campuses this fall. With the network bigger than ever after the inaugural women’s club season, things may be tricky tracking players with the quantity and diversity in location. Not to worry, though, as The Mighty Oak are pleased to have your all-encompassing guide of teams (and players) to watch for in the wake of yet another playoff season for the men, and the very first season for the women.

Men’s Teams:

Michigan: Jack Hallahan (senior), Abdou Samake (senior), Joel Harrison (sophomore), Marc Ybarra (junior)

The Michigan Wolverines are coming off a strong season in the Big Ten, making back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Big Ten Tournament finals, and going on a nine-match unbeaten run during the season. The Mighty Oak are well-represented by the hometown Division One school as two of three captains for the Wolverines (Harrison, and Ybarra) have worn the blue and white of AFCAA. Additionally, Hallahan is the returning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and will hope to have a repeat performance of last season.

Madonna: Breno Stapcinkas (junior), Bruno Piva (freshman), Yuri Farkas (senior), Caio (junir), Leonardo Abonizio (junior)

The NAIA runner-up in the 2018-19 season, Madonna and AFCAA have always seen plenty of players play with both sides. Stapcinkas and Piva will be in their first seasons with the Madonna program, but The Mighty Oak faithful are sure to be watching out for Farkas, coming off a superb season with Flint City Bucks, along with Caio and Abonizio. While Marlon de Freitas is now graduated, they return plenty of talent, and will hope to make a run once again in the NAIA Tournament. A special note of mention goes to Jeff Shuk and Rod Asllani as they coach Madonna, and also to Carlos Rivas (senior) who was a member of The Mighty Oak’s staff. 

Stony Brook: Stephen Turnbull (junior - RS), Jarred Dass (senior)

The Stony Brook-to-Ann Arbor pipeline has been well in motion for two years running, and this will be the second collegiate season that fans in Ann Arbor can have a vested interest in the Seawolves season. Serge Gamwanya and Moco Watson graduated from a team that won the American East regular season crown, but Dass was that team’s leading scorer and was voted to the 2018 America East First Team. Turnbull is a mainstay and be looking forward to this season after having played in just three games last season. 

Concordia: Spencer Ward (senior)

Ward gets special note for being the lone man who will play his collegiate and AFCAA home matches in the same venue. Having made 97 saves last season for a 78.2% save percentage, Ward will be hoping to get into similarly good shot-stopping form for his senior season. The keeper made the start for The Mighty Oak in a handful of games, including the club’s U.S. Open Cup match, as well as serving as Eric Rudland’s favored keeper for the Michigan Milk Cup.

Western Michigan: Lukas von Lienen (sophomore)

Another in-state club with another keeper as their lone representative. Lukas von Lienen will look to continue serving as Western Michigan’s number one keeper as they continue to be one of the MAC’s premier soccer programs. He was the MAC’s best keeper in terms of GAA last season with a one-even, and stopped fifty shots in his sixteen matches. The German, in addition to applying his trade in net this summer, also gained valuable experience as a pilot and even celebrated his first solo flight in Ann Arbor.

Lawrence Tech: Bryce Nicholson (junior)

The ultra-versatile Nicholson played both center back and full back with AFCAA this past summer, and contributed some valuable minutes both early and late in the season. As an upperclassman, now, he will hope to continue anchoring the LTU back line in the NAIA. An ever-present with the club, he was one of the few players able to be a part of the side from the very first preseason game all the way through the playoffs. 

Stetson: Sebastian Chalbaud (sophomore)

An All-Great Lakes Conference XI choice for 2019, Chalbaud will hope to use that momentum and build upon an outstanding freshman season that saw him named to the ASUN All-Freshman Team. The Venezuelan youth national played and started in eighteen of the Hatters nineteen games and contributed five assists. Now wearing the #10 shirt, big things are expected from the midfield man. 

Florida Atlantic: Alex Alexis (senior) 

Alexis played in all fifteen matches with the Owls as a junior and will look to contribute even more after this summer season. The scorer of the first U.S. Open Cup goal in club history, the pacey winger scored a pair of goals with the Owls last season while contributing seventeen shots as a whole. He hopes to end his career with a bang in the C-USA.

Maryville: Iwan Webster (junior)

The Liverpool native became a key component in the back line for AFCAA. Whether it was starting in the Open Cup, or rotating in the center back position alongside Matt Braem or Ben Thornton, Webster was able to make himself right at home in Ann Arbor. Now, he goes back to Maryville where he started 37 of his 38 games played and helped push his Saints to back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths, as well as a 2018 GLVC Tournament Championship.

Siena: Jacob Pacheco (junior)

A junior-college standout in Arizona, Pacheco makes the move up to Division One this season as he joins the Siena Saints for his career’s next chapter. Having played both defensive midfield and center back during the course of the year, the hard-working Pacheco is more than suited to making the jump in competition to the MAAC for the next two seasons. 

Georgia Southern: Azaad ‘AZ’ Liadi (senior)

Pacheco is not the only man making a transfer up to Division One. Liadi, after a successful stint with Cincinnati Dutch Lions in USL2, will be moving down south to play with the Eagles. Liadi is best known with The Mighty Oak for his 90th minute stoppage time equalizer in the 2018 Midwest Regional Final against Duluth FC and brings an abundance of talent to the pitch. 

Women’s Teams: 

Aquinas: Jenna Smith (senior), Olivia Borgdorff (senior), Brittney Carter (sophomore), Katie Vitella (student manager)

The Aquinas Saints are the best-represented women’s side on this list. With Smith (who played in nine of the ten UWS matches this summer) and Borgdorff having made the jump from Schoolcraft to the Saints prior to last season, they are hoping to finish their collegiate careers off strong. Carter, meanwhile, looks to continue to build off her freshman year and contribute for the Saints. Vitella, having wrapped up her own successful collegiate playing career, now joins the support staff for Aquinas as a graduate manager. 

Central Michigan: Devyn Brough (junior - RS), Amanda Britain (junior)

AFCAA will have a pair of Chippewas playing this season as Brough and Britain look to enter their years of upperclassmen eligibility with a strong season. The Michigan natives went to Auburn and Mount St. Mary’s, respectively, before ending up in Mount Pleasant. Both were named Academic All-MAC honorees and Brough made nine appearances while Britain made eight in the UWS this summer. The CMU pair were key to The Mighty Oak’s play in the inaugural season and will hope to contribute at the same level yet again with the Chippewas. 

Ball State: Tatiana Mason (sophomore), Alex Deruvo (sophomore)

A pair of sophomores from the greater Ann Arbor area will hope to make an impact with one of the top women’s sides in the MAC. The reigning MAC Champions, Mason also returns to the Cardinals as the 2018 MAC Freshman of the Year and a All-MAC Second Team selection. She led Ball State with six goals and chipped in three assists. Known in Ann Arbor for her red scrunchie, she offers creativity and pace on the wing. Deruvo will be hoping to break in the Cardinals first team as she continues to gain valuable experience learning with a strong stable of goalkeepers in Muncie. 

Saginaw Valley State: Tara Arlin (junior)

Arlin makes the jump from Schoolcraft up to SVSU for her next two seasons of collegiate soccer. The first ever female COYMO Award winner, Arlin started 27 of the 28 matches she played in for the Ocelots and saw a massive jump in shots taken as well from her freshman to sophomore seasons. Always a consistent presence on the pitch, as well as in the community, Arlin and the Cardinals hope to build off a team that reached the NCAA Tournament last season.

Lawrence Tech: Alayne Nyboer (senior) 

One of the most consistent members of the AFCAA back line, Nyboer made nine appearances in the UWS as well as sixteen appearances with LTU last season. She was a key points threat for the Blue Devils in the 2018-19 season with five goals and six assists, second-most on the team in terms of total points and goals, but those six assists were good for team best. 

Adrian: Caroline Fleming (senior)

Fleming enters her senior season as one of the immediate team leaders for this 2019-20 Bulldogs side. A three-year starter, she has made sixty starts, including all 21 for the side that won the MIAA Conference Championship for the first time in program history. She has contributed 23 goals and twenty assists to the Bulldogs over her three years and is coming off back-to-back double-digit goal seasons. 

Columbus State: Rachel Sweigard (sophomore)

When it comes to standout performers from the inaugural women’s season, Sweigard certainly is at the front of that list. Sweigard led the club in goals with seven in seven UWS matches, including a hat trick in the 5-2 home opener victory against Grand Rapids FC. She was also named to the UWS Midwest First Team. Her Cougars went 18-1-2, including a perfect 10-0 in conference play, en route to the national quarterfinals last season. Sweigard played in twenty of those matches, started seven, and chipped in seven goals and four assists -- leading to a points tally good enough for fourth on the team. After impressing in the summer, she hopes to help get Columbus State back to the top of the mountain.

Martin Methodist: Suzuho Yamasaki (sophomore)

The club’s Goal of the Season winner, Yamasaki’s stunning 35-yard strike in the victory over GRFC instantly made club history. Yamasaki was at the heart of the midfield for the entire season and would end the season as the club’s leading minute-getter. In addition, Yamasaki would also be named to the UWS Midwest Second Team for her efforts. She now returns to Martin Methodist where the Redhawks went 19-1-2 and made it to the Second Round of the NAIA Tournament last season. 

Ashland: Bella Petrock (sophomore)

Appearing in six matches in midfield for The Mighty Oak, Petrock was also a stable presence in midfield and was able to help AFCAA control through the middle during matches she was involved in. Petrock made eighteen starts while playing in all twenty matches for the Ashland Eagles, providing three goals. Her Eagles made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large side, and the hope is for a return to the tourney this November. 

Boston: Margaret Berry (sophomore) 

The women’s team’s defensive MVP for the inaugural season, Berry played a vital role with the club. This collegiate season she will return to the Boston Terriers where she played in six matches over the course of the season. Boston enter 2019 as the reigning Patriot League Tournament Champions and will hope to make another NCAA Tournament appearance. The Holly native will hope to transition a superb season with The Mighty Oak into more accomplishments for her collegiate side.

East Carolina: Madie Knaggs (junior)

Knaggs appeared in seven matches in UWS play for AFCAA, and showcased skill time and time again. She will be gearing up for her third season in purple as the Trenton native will look to continue contributing to East Carolina. She appeared in sixteen matches last season and scored a pair of goals, including one in her second career start against SMU. 

Illinois: Erin McKeown (sophomore)

The Ann Arbor Pioneer graduate will be starting her second season of Big Ten play with the Fighting Illini this fall. Having made a handful of appearances with The Mighty Oak this summer, she now looks to translate that into a greater advantage in the demanding Big Ten. With Illinois she made a pair of early-season appearances as a freshman.

Nebraska: Ashley Zugay (sophomore)

Zugay is another Pioneer graduate who played a key role while back in her hometown with The Mighty Oak. She will return to a solid Nebraska side that secured five wins in a tough Big Ten while she played in nineteen matches, with nine starts. She continued to gain more-and-more playing time as the season went on and ultimately played in both matches of the Cornhuskers run in the Big Ten Tournament.




Joseph Stanley Okumu Signs with First Division Swedish Side, IF Elfsborg

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In April of 2018, Jospeh Stanley Okumu arrived in Ann Arbor with fellow countryman, Chris Odhiambo, to join AFC Ann Arbor for their summer campaign. The two Kenyans made their presence felt right away, bringing an intensity and level of professionalism to the training ground that was unmatched.

Okumu immediately made a splash leading a defensive stand that held teams scoreless for the first five matches, and only allowing four goals during the entire season. He was named 2018 TopDrawerSoccer.com National Player of the Year in the National Premier Soccer League and was named Team MVP that successfully defended the Great Lakes Conference Championship.

In the middle of the season, Okumu began attracting interest from multiple USL Championship clubs, and signed with Real Monarchs (Real Salt Lake MLS affiliate) and continued his form helping the club earn a string of great results.

But it was his most recent showing in the African Cup of Nations that sparked global attention on the young center back, which eventually paved the way for his transfer to IF Elfsborg. Head Coach & Sporting Director, Eric Rudland, said, “Stanley was fortunate to feature for Kenya in the African Cup of Nations this past summer and was tabbed one of the top 5 future stars of the tournament under the age of 23. That recognition spiked interest from clubs literally across the globe. Along with featuring in AFCON he has made a positive impact with the RSL Monarchs in 2019, which helped raise his market value in the football world.”

“IF Elfsborg is a respected club with a storied tradition in Sweden, so it's a great opportunity for Stanley to help them achieve their club ambitions, while also exposing him to European football. He has proven himself at every step along the way so far, so this is just another, rather larger, stage for him to showcase his abilities,” added Rudland.

Okumu’s signing to IF Elfsborg marks AFC Ann Arbor’s first player ever to play at a top European club. To be even a small stepping stone in Stanley’s journey was an honor for the staff, his teammates and the fans who were able to see him play.

“We know our place in the football pyramid. Being a 4th division club is all about helping players move up the ladder. Some players are very eager to do that and are willing to make the sacrifices. Those are the like-minded players that we hope to welcome into our club each season. With our connections now to the global game and our club's success we have everything in place to help players move onto higher levels of the game both domestically and internationally. Hopefully there are many more Stanley's to come,” said Rudland.


Midwest Region Quarterfinal To Be Decided By Coin Toss

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AFC Ann Arbor has been informed by the league that Tuesday’s Midwest Region Quarterfinal match versus the Rochester Lancers, that ceased play due to inclement weather in the 69th minute, will be decided by a coin toss on Wednesday, July 17th.

After the final whistle, both teams were informed by the 4th official who was on the phone with NPSL’s Head of Officials, Paul Scott, that the remainder of the match should be played on Wednesday, July 17th at a mutually agreed upon time. Rochester refused this as an option and began their journey back to New York.

Although, the NPSL doesn’t require lights as minimum standard, AFC Ann Arbor went out of their way to create a contingency plan to play the match at Total Sports Wixom if any weather issues came about. This was on top of pushing the game back to 6:30PM at the request of the Lancers (all evening AFCAA games played at 6PM all season). After the initial delays began, AFC Ann Arbor Chairman, Bilal Saeed, spoke directly with Rochester Lancers GM Marc Mandell, who confirmed that Lancers head coach refused to go to another facility after the match was already underway.

“Once Rochester refused to play at the indoor facility, we were directed by Paul Scott to try and complete the game at Concordia which we attempted. We are now being forced to decide the outcome of this match by a coin flip, because Rochester refused to stay and play the next day, which was also under the instruction by Paul Scott, Head of Officials. Rochester claiming that they didn’t refuse to play at the indoor facility is a bold lie. The GM of Rochester told me to my face, that their Head Coach, Doug Miller, wouldn’t change facilities in the middle of the match. He told me that multiple times. I apologize to our fans and especially the players, that the match will be decided by a coin flip, rather than completing the match on Wednesday as originally instructed,” said Saeed.

Other accommodations to stay the night were also offered from the hosts and quickly refused by Rochester. The club went out of its way, first by pushing the game time back, then creating a contingency plan and finally offering to help with overnight accommodations for the visitors, but Rochester refused them all.

Regardless, the NPSL will hold a coin toss on Wednesday to determine who will advance to the Midwest Region Semifinals.

2019 Midwest Region Quarterfinal Details: Tuesday, July 16th at 6:30PM (Concordia University)

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AFC Ann Arbor will host the Rochester Lancers at home, on Tuesday, July 16th at 6:30PM at Concordia University. Admission to this match will work as a normal match. All memberships will be honored and will not require purchasing an additional ticket. For non-members, tickets will remain the same price at $10 for adults and $7 for youth (kids 4 and up require a ticket).

Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased here in advance.

Tickets will also be available at the gate which open at 5:30PM.

AFC Ann Arbor Lock Up Trip to NPSL Playoffs for Fourth Consecutive Season

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AFC Ann Arbor took care of business against Toledo Villa FC for the second time this season and secured themselves a spot in the 2019 NPSL Midwest Regionals with a 2-0 victory. This will mark yet another trip to the NPSL playoffs for The Mighty Oak as they are four-for-four in club history for getting to this stage. They will hope to eclipse the heights of the last two seasons and push forward through the national semi-finals, but up first will be a mid-week match against an opponent to be determined. 

The Mighty Oak started on the front foot against a shorthanded Toledo side, who only traveled with eleven men. Under fifteen minutes into the match, Jordan Montoya would earn his side a penalty kick after some aggressive goalkeeping saw Montoya taken out in the box. That spot kick, taken by Yazeed Matthews, would be held out by a combination of the keeper Jake Kress getting a piece of it enough to hit the post and bounce clear. The 0-0 score would only hold for another couple minutes, though, as Matthews would make amends as Kress was lured out of his net, Matthews dribbled around him, and would slot home neatly with his left foot.

From there, The Mighty Oak could control the game and dominate in possession through the remainder of the first half. The second half started with much of the same, but in the 58th minute AFCAA would get their second goal thanks to Alex Alexis. Matthews played a nice low cross into the box and it was easy for Alexis to make a run through the center of the pitch and drill the ball into the roof of the net. There would be chances down the stretch for either side, and Alexis almost added a second with a fantastic run through the defense before hitting a shot just wide, but the three points was most valuable and that was what was obtained by the end of the match. 

Fresh off being named Conference Coach of the Year, the win served as a statement of intent for Eric Rudland and The Mighty Oak heading into the playoffs. It was a stellar day at the office for the entire defense as well as Marlon de Freitas was the assister on the first goal with a fantastic through-ball. Iwan Webster was also named Audi Man of the Match for his outstanding defender, occasionally as the last man. The clean sheet and couple of goals serve as a nice performance for the end of the regular season and provide a bit for both attackers and defenders alike to hang their hat upon before entering the postseason. 

The opponent and location of the Midwest Regional quarterfinal match will be determined by results occurred today, July 13. The match is set for July 16th, according to the NPSL website, and AFC will be playing in one of three locations: at home, on the road in Rochester, Minnesota, against Med City FC, or on the road in Rochester, New York, against Rochester Lancers. AFCAA’s website and social media will have all the latest updates on playoff match information.

Milk Means More Match Preview: AFC Ann Arbor vs Toledo Villa FC

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AFC Ann Arbor enter their final regular season match of the season with it all to play for. The Mighty Oak will host Toledo Villa FC on Friday, July 13, at 6 PM. With just a point separating them from Grand Rapids FC for the final playoff spot, a win is the only way to secure a spot in the playoffs. While AFCAA can’t win the Great Lakes Championship for the third season in a row, the destiny is in The Mighty Oak’s hands when it comes to making the postseason for another season.

This will be the second meeting in club history with AFC and TVFC, the first coming on the road and ending in a 4-1 victory in favor of AFCAA. Through thirteen matches, AFCAA have 27 points along with eight wins. They also have the second-highest goal differential in the Great Lakes at +13, a sign of the solid attacking prowess The Mighty Oak have shown, especially as of late. 

Speaking of the attackers, The Mighty Oak have been led by a very balanced set of players. Jordan Montoya currently leads the team in goals with five, but five more players have at least two goals. Defensive, both of the most recent starting center-backs, Matt Braem and Ben Thornton, also have a goal. The two of them, along with the full back play of the likes of Stephen Turnbull and Marlon de Freitas, have been at the helm of six clean sheets and five games of just one goal conceded. 

The Opponent

After some early season struggles, Toledo have recovered with a couple of big wins in their inaugural season in the NPSL Great Lakes. Their first win came at the expense of FC Columbus and, more recently, they topped Michigan Stars 4-2, also at home. Toledo sit seventh in the eight-team division, but this opening season has provided plenty of positive moments to build off of for next season. In terms of goal scorers, Josh Dickinson leads Toledo with three, including a brace against Stars. Jake Kirchoff-Sleet has two and the lone goal for TVFC against The Mighty Oak.

The Mighty Oak Fall at Home to Detroit City

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The Mighty Oak fell to Detroit City FC for the first time in just under two years as DCFC topped AFCAA for the NPSL Great Lakes Conference Championship by a score of 3-1. The visiting side found themselves beneficiaries of a hat trick from Shawn Lawson who made his mark on the match all throughout the ninety minutes. AFCAA scored a wondergoal in second half stoppage time at the foot of Will Eskay, but it would ultimately be too little, too late. Despite the result, if The Mighty Oak can secure a result over the weekend, they will partake in the NPSL Playoffs. 

The scoring started relatively early for DCFC through Lawson. He was able to capitalize on a defensive miscommunication in the back line and get a tap-in for himself in the 16th minute. With the match still in its formulative moments, the goal served as a shift in City’s favor for momentum. The Mighty Oak would continue to fight, never giving up their spirit, but a second goal just a couple minutes before halftime from Lawson, again, on a nice ball from the left side made Eric Rudland’s halftime team talk a bit tougher. 

Will Eskay nearly found one back just fourteen seconds into the half with a fizzing shot going just high. It set the pace for the early stages of the half, but it would ultimately settle into a more back-and-forth affair. Ian McGrane would not get troubled in net too seriously, and Eskay almost found his goal in the 64th minute, but Jalen Crisler did brilliantly to get his body in front of the net and make a goal-line clearance in what was shades of the match at Keyworth. 

City would get their third in stoppage time as Abdoulaye Diop was able to hold off Breno Stapcinkas on a one-on-one counter and lay the ball off to Lawson for him to complete his hat trick. Fans of AFCAA would get something to cheer about though just a couple minutes later as Eskay would finally get his goal with a spectacular mid-air effort. It was a sublime finish into the top corner to pull a goal back while avoiding the clean sheet, and it was also a lovely pass into the box from Matt Braem. Ultimately, though, the whistle would blow a few minutes later and the scoreline would show a 3-1 victory to Detroit City.

Despite the loss and the fact that there will be a non-AFC champion in the Great Lakes for the first time since 2016, there is still everything to play for in Ann Arbor on Friday, June 12. With Toledo Villa FC coming into town, a win guarantees The Mighty Oak a spot in the playoffs. Any other result and AFCAA will need help from Michigan Stars against Grand Rapids FC in snatching the second playoff spot out of the Great Lakes. Tickets are on sale and will be available at the door, and AFCAA needs your support in pushing the boys into the postseason.

Milk Means More Match Preview: AFC Ann Arbor vs Detroit City FC

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With just two matches to play in the 2019 NPSL regular season, AFC Ann Arbor are right in the middle of the playoff push. Their upcoming match with Detroit City FC, on Sunday June 7th at 3 PM, could also have the added bonus of deciding the NPSL Great Lakes Champion. AFCAA and DCFC are level on points at the top of the table with 27 points while Grand Rapids FC still remain in the hunt for the postseason with 23 points. A win for either side on Sunday will make it impossible for the other to jump the winner thanks to the NPSL’s head-to-head tiebreaker deciding any potential ties in playoff places.

The Mighty Oak are on a five-match winning streak with each match seeing AFCAA scoring at least two goals in each match and are also riding a three-match clean sheet streak as well. In addition, The Mighty Oak have not conceded a goal before the 85th minute since May 17th in Columbus. In the attacking part of the game, Jordan Montoya has claimed the team lead in goals with five scored, while Yazeed Matthews is following closely behind with four this season. As the season has gone on, Ann Arbor’s attack has begun to properly gel together and will hope to continue their hot streak down this home stretch. 

The most recent result for the men was a 2-0 away victory to FC Indiana in what is always a grueling road trip from Ann Arbor down to Lafayette. A goal a piece from the Chalbaud Brothers, Andres and Sebastian, gave The Mighty Oak the victory as the defense secured the clean sheet well despite missing Ben Thornton as a result of his red card suspension. The win followed up a thrilling 2-0 victory in Grand Rapids where goals came early (Matt Braem in the second minute) and late (Jordan Montoya in second half stoppage time) to help push AFCAA into a playoff position. The goal and pair of clean sheets also helped earn Braem a selection to the Football Manager NPSL Team of the Week. 

The Opponent

Detroit City conceded their first goal in over 840 minutes of consecutive play on Friday in what was an eventful 1-1 draw with Grand Rapids FC. Ahead of their summer league play in the NPSL Founder’s Cup, DCFC have put together a strong league campaign where they moved past an early speed bump against Kalamazoo FC to put together a strong defense supplemented by the NPSL Great Lakes’ leading scorer in Shawn Lawson (nine goals) and the third-most prolific scorer in the conference in Max Todd (seven goals). 

The first meeting of these two teams was a 0-0 draw at Keyworth Stadium with memorable moments like a penalty missed off the post from Lawson along with a Jack Hallahan attempt cleared off the line. This fixture last season was also memorable as The Mighty Oak secured a late-winner in second half stoppage time thanks to a Moco Watson header off a free kick. AFCAA have secured a clean sheet over City in each of their last three meetings. 


AFC Ann Arbor Women Fall 2-1 in the Final UWS Game of the Season

AFC Ann Arbor ended their last game of the season against Grand Rapids FC with a close 1-2 loss. Sweigard netted the first goal in the hot and humid Houseman Field in the 37th minute, but GRFC bounced back with a goal from Longoria and other from Sagara in the 41st and 57th minute.

AFCAA would start the match strong with a couple quick shots from Knaggs. In the 6th minute, Knaggs picked up possession on a ball deflected from the referee and fired a shot which was saved by the keeper. Knaggs then would attempt a header from a corner taken by Mami Yamaguchi in the 14th minute but it hit the post and went wide. GRFC responded by two long range shots from Segara in the 18th and 22nd minutes but Sweier saved well the first shot and the second went high.

The quick five-minute ping pong game of scoring took place around 40-minute mark. The Mighty Oak started off in the 37th minute with Yamaguchi’s through to Sweigard and Sweigard’s well-taken shot after dribbling past the keeper. The lead didn’t last too long, however, as Kendra Longoria, in the 41st minute, put a solid right foot contact to a goal following a great dribble on the right side. AFCAA tried to find a second during the stoppage time but couldn’t and we entered the second half level 1-1.

AFCAA didn’t take too much time to grab the first opportunity of the second half. In the 47nd minute, Yamaguchi again sent a clean pass down to the left finding Sweigard, who then found a one-on-one chance but the shot went into the keeper’s waiting arms. Sweigard was an inch away from the goal in the 52nd minute, as Jenna Smith cleverly passed the keeper and sent a high ball in an acute angle, but the header from Sweigard deflected off the defender and went away from goal.

Unfortunately, it was not The Mighty Oak who found the second. Riko Sagara kept the ball well inside the penalty box and scored with a right foot in the 57th minute. The Mighty Oak shifted up for attack but failed to grab a close chance. Efforts from Yamaguchi, Smith, and Vitella were either went wide or saved. Defensively, the team improved after conceding the second, pressing hard, and as a unit they succeeded on not letting GRFC grab the third. 

It was a learning season for the UWS newcomer in the league, but two important league victories and reaching semis in the Michigan Milk Cup bring about hope and confidence for next season. The Mighty Oak will prepare strong in the off season and will start off the second season with positive energy.


The Mighty Oak Top Grand Rapids 2-0 on the Road

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The Mighty Oak avenged their previous loss this season to Grand Rapids FC with a thrilling 2-0 victory on the road with minutes early on and late into the match. Despite the red card from Ben Thornton minutes into the second half, The Mighty Oak were able to defend well even down a man while also snagging a late goal to ice the game off. The win puts AFCAA in the playoff places with three games to play and means that the final two matches at home are crucial and The Mighty Oak will need all the crowd support they can get.

The first two minutes let AFC set the tone as Matt Braem found himself free on the back post on a second ball from a corner and was able to drill the ball past the keeper. Before some fans were even able to settle into their seats, The Mighty Oak had taken a 1-0 victory on the road in a venue that had frequently frustrated them in the past. After the early goal, they were able to settle back into a solid defensive block and repel any possible attacks while looking dangerous on counters as well. This would allow them to head into halftime with their one-goal lead.

The game plan for the second half would have to change almost immediately as Ben Thornton picked up a foul that earned himself a yellow card early on, then in a scrum after a foul he would pick up a second yellow for violent conduct getting sent off in the 53rd minute. Abdou Samake, fresh off his debut at the Michigan Milk Cup, would get subbed on in place of Thornton at center back and perform brilliantly.

In fact, despite going a man down, The Mighty Oak would be able to see off dangerous attacks from their home foes (primarily off dead balls) but also create a couple chances themselves. One was a brilliantly run by Will Eskay who found Yazeed Matthews in the center of the pitch, but Joe White made a stellar save to deny him of a goal. Through the ninety minutes of play, it was AFC who stood strong defensively, but the offense would get another shining moment.

A pair of subs, Andres Chalbaud and Jordan Montoya, would link up for the second and final goal in second half stoppage time. Chalbaud made the run and while he could have taken a shot himself, he composed himself after a nearly-too-heavy touch and unselfishly laid the ball off to Jordan Montoya who merely had to tap in the game-sealing goal. Braem continued to defend well also, clearing an attempt off the goal-line late in the match, and the clean sheet would be saved. The Mighty Oak would hold on and win 2-0, and they would also avenge their prior 2-0 home loss to GRFC.

Despite the red card, The Mighty Oak seemed in control defensively with ten men and were well-organized. Marlon de Freitas was a standout (other than the obvious Audi Man of the Match performance of Braem) in the back line as he won plenty of fouls to help kill the game when things were getting tight in the back line. Montoya’s goal also puts him at five and gives him sole ownership of the title of top goal scorer on the team, but it was a gritty team effort to win all three points.

AFC Ann Arbor will venture down to take on FC Indiana on July 3rd for their final home match of the season in hopes to continue this current winning streak in the NPSL. From there, they will return home on July 7th to take on Detroit City FC in a battle of the top two teams in the conference and Toledo Villa FC on July 12th in the final regular season match of the season.



Milk Means More Match Preview: [Away Double Header] AFC Ann Arbor at Grand Rapids FC

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It is shaping up to be a massive Sunday afternoon and evening out on the west side of the state for AFC Ann Arbor. The Mighty Oak will travel out to Grand Rapids where GRFC will host both the men’s and women’s teams in a rare doubleheader with both matches featuring the same two teams’ men’s and women’s sides. At 3 PM it will be the men taking the pitch for a match that will be crucial in settling the NPSL Great Lakes playoff race, and at 5:15 PM the women will play their final match of their inaugural season. 

The AFCAA men are coming off a 3-2 loss in the Michigan Milk Cup semi-finals to Oakland County FC, thanks to an 88th minute winner from OCFC. However, with some key players getting rest in the match, The Mighty Oak will hope to continue their winning ways in the league. Since the home loss to GRFC, AFCAA have been 3-0-1 since then and have also scored eleven goals in their last three games. At the top of the goal-scorers list are Jordan Montoya and Yazeed Matthews, each with four a piece, and they both will be hoping to add to that tally. 

To no surprise, the season is coming to an end in thrilling fashion as spots one and three in the Great Lakes are separated by just three points, and each of AFCAA, GRFC, and Detroit City FC will play each other once more in their final four games. If The Mighty Oak wish to regain their NPSL Great Lakes Conference crown, the key will be to snag maximum points against these top-of-the-conference foes. 

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For the women, this match serves as the return leg of the match that was The Mighty Oak’s first ever win for the women, as they toppled GRFC 5-2 at Concordia University. While, most recently, AFC fell 5-2 on the road to Indiana Union, the hope is to finish the season on the right foot. This match also serves as an opportunity for the women to claim their first win on the road in club history. All three of the club’s victories have come in the confines of Concordia University and, despite some close calls, the points away from home have been tougher to come by. 

The Opponent

Grand Rapids FC’s men’s side will have played three games in the six days prior to their bout with The Mighty Oak. Things were rolling along quite well for GRFC, however Michigan Stars were able to take three points away from a home match against GRFC and drop Grand Rapids into second place in the conference table. In their other matches they secured a victory over Kalamazoo FC thanks to an early penalty, but would fall in the semi-finals of the Michigan Milk Cup to Flint City Bucks. Like AFCAA, all eyes are on the rest of the NPSL season. 

GRFC’s women’s side remain right in the thick of the playoff push and it will be up to The Mighty Oak to play spoiler for them. After eight matches GRFC sit in the fourth and final Midwest playoff spot with eight points, putting them level with Michigan Legends on points and a point behind Detroit Sun. With GRFC squaring off with Sun after their match with AFC, the pressure is on for a historically strong team to continue to secure points and stay in the playoff places. 



Milk Means More Match Preview: AFC Ann Arbor vs Oakland County FC [Milk Cup Semis]

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The Mighty Oak will hope to become champions or finalists for the third of three years that the Michigan Milk Cup has existed. Standing in their way are a familiar UPSL foe, Oakland County FC. OCFC have already knocked off one higher-division opponent and will be hoping to do the same as AFCAA host their fellow ‘oak’-named club. Having played in a two-leg quarter-final in last season’s cup competition, AFC will hope to get the same result in one leg as they got in both of the legs last season. 

AFC Ann Arbor are here by way of beating UPSL division-leaders BiH GR in the quarter-finals of the cup at Concordia. AFCAA ran roughshod in the first twenty minutes with a couple goals from Andres Chalbaud from the penalty spot and Will Eskay capitalizing on a defensive mishap. From there, The Mighty Oak set into cruise control and could maintain control thanks to some timely saves from Spencer Ward. 

In general, The Mighty Oak are riding their best bit of form this season, with a three-game winning streak with eleven goals scored and only two conceded, both late goals for the opposition with the game well in hand. The scoring boots have been put back on for Jordan Montoya as well, as his brace against FC Indiana put him back on the top of the scoring list for AFCAA tying him for team lead in goals with four (Yazeed Matthews also has four). Their results, plus results elsewhere in the conference, meant that The Mighty Oak are entering their mid-week cup match in second place in the NPSL Great Lakes.

The Opponent

There is already some Milk Cup history between these two sides. AFCAA topped OCFC 4-1 on aggregate last season when the quarter-finals of the Michigan Milk Cup were held over two legs. The Mighty Oak won the first leg on the road by a score of 2-0 and were able to secure the fixture at home with a 2-1 win, only conceding on a penalty kick. 

While Oakland County pulled an upset in Kalamazoo to knock the NPSL side out of the cup, they have been going through some league struggles as of late. OCFC are currently on a five-match losing streak with some hectic games among those. These include a seven-goal and nine-goal set of matches, and three matches of conceding a winning goal for their opponent at the eighty-minute mark or later. When it comes to this competition though, they were able to secure a 2-1 victory over KZFC thanks to a brace from Fred Prest. Their leading scorers on the season have been Mike Melaragni, with six goals, and Mario Morana, with four.

This will be the second of two semi-finals to be played, as the Flint City Bucks of USL League Two will be hosting Grand Rapids FC on the 25th, so The Mighty Oak would know their theoretical opponent if they are able to stave off this upset-minded Oakland County side. 



AFCAA Take Three Points at Home from FC Indiana

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The Mighty Oak continued their winning, and goal-scoring, ways as they topped FC Indiana 3-0 at home on a lovely Saturday evening. As the playoff push is on, the win continues to keep AFCAA right in the heart of the race as they look forward to a big match in Grand Rapids as well as a Michigan Milk Cup semi-final game. The win also saw a return to the scoresheet for Jordan Montoya as he was named Audi Man of the Match for his brace. The win meant that AFC would remain unbeaten in club history against FC Indiana.

All the scoring would take place in the first half for AFC Ann Arbor. Things would kick off in the 18th minute where, after a scrum in the box in front of the net, including a shot off the post, Jarred Dass saw the ball land at his feet and he drilled an effort straight past the keeper into the top corner of the net. It was a superb effort from the wing man who helped get The Mighty Oak settled into the game thanks to that early goal.

After that came Montoya’s pair of goals as he bagged his second brace of the season. The first was a near own goal in the 38th minute that Montoya was able to get to first and force it over the line to take credit for the goal. His second would come just minutes later when, in the 43rd minute, after some wonderful build-up play, he and Jake Rufe played a one-two together and Montoya simply had to keep his composure and finish past the FC Indiana keeper. The goal put AFCAA up three entering the half and allowed them to play relaxed and securely for the rest of the match.

The second half came and went with few run-of-play incidents. Ian McGrane was called into action a pair of notable times: once where he parried a long shot away, another off a deflected shot that forced a dive out of him to secure. In the end, The Mighty Oak’s defense will be thrilled to keep the clean sheet after having conceded late in each of the past two games. AFC would also almost add a fourth, but another near own goal would instead hit the post. There were limited openings for AFC in the second half, but the key is snatching the three points in an important match.

As the season enters the final sprint, every game continues to mean a great deal. That was well on display as a sizable crowd saw a fantastic doubleheader conclude with The Mighty Oak men continuing to perform well in attack as of late. They have scored eleven goals in the past three matches, and the attack seems to be clicking into gear. They will take a break from NPSL action as they host Oakland County FC on June 26th in the Michigan Milk Cup, before venturing over to Grand Rapids to take on GRFC in a men/women doubleheader in NPSL/UWS league play. That match will be on Sunday June 30th.


AFCAA Women Earn First Clean Sheet Victory in History Over Detroit Sun

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It was such a memorable day for the AFC Ann Arbor women’s team, as they defeated Detroit Sun 1-0. The effort from Suzuho Yamasaki made it possible to clinch their second victory in the league, the third of the 2019 campaign as a whole. The Mighty Oak ended their first home season in a meaningful way.

It was a thrilling first half for The Mighty Oak who dominated for most of the 45 minutes. Devyn Brough opened up the match in the 6th minute with a solid shot after finding a mistake from the Sun defender Rachelle Topolewski which went wide. AFCAA then fired some shots to test the keeper, Katelyn McEachern, but none of them went into the net. The best opportunity of the half came in the 43rd minute again from Brough. She made a solid challenge against Zoe Hudson when faced with the one-on-one opportunity, but the effort went over the bar, unfortunately.

The Sun didn’t just sit back and watch The Mighty Oak attack. Gabriella Mencotti was a threat to AFCAA defense as she managed to create two one-on-one opportunities, in the 39th and 45th minute. Victoria Norris made a solid tackle to prevent a shot in the first threat and the second went high up. The scoreboard kept silent throughout the first half: 0-0.

The first twenty minutes of the second half were full of more chances by The Mighty Oak. Katie Vitella on the right side stroke a strong right-footed shot in the 50th minute but it got deflected by the keeper. Vitella, after seven minutes, then swerved a brilliant cross which found Devyn Brough on the left side. Brough controlled well and fired a volley but it was well saved by the keeper.

AFCAA finally got on the scoreboard thanks to a great effort by Suzuho Yamasaki. A mistake from a Sun midfielder was well detected by Yamasaki, who then dribbled about 15 yards forward and finalized with a solid right foot contact, in the 59th minute. AFCAA tried hard to find a second goal through two newcomers, Emily Eitzman and Caroline Flemming, but they were unable to do so.

The last ten minutes of the match were a hard mission for The Mighty Oak defense to keep the scoresheet clean. Tracey Mccay, a substitute for the Sun, attempted two long range shots in the 83rd and 87th minute, but the first was well defended by Victoria Norris, and the second stroke the post.

The solid defensive effort made possible for the team to earn the first clean sheet victory of the inaugural team’s UWS league season, made even sweeter by avenging a 2-4 defeat suffered at the hands of the Sun at the beginning of the season. Although our home odyssey has come to an end, the season is not over. The women are back in action next Friday, June 28th, as the team make a trip to Indiana to face the current second-place holders of the conference, Indiana Union.