Jim Grewe Joins AFCAA Women's Staff as Goalkeeper Coach

IMG_0226.jpg

The AFC Ann Arbor women’s side have announced the third member of their coaching staff. Jim Grewe joins the AFCAA women as the side’s goalkeeper coach. He is the second member named by Andy Pritchard to the staff as an assistant for the team. When asked what about the club appealed to him, Grewe had a list of two key reasons.

“First and foremost being able to coach with both Andy and Barry is a big draw. Both are coaches that I respect and look forward to working with. Secondly, seeing what the AFC Ann Arbor men's side has been able to accomplish both on the field and in the community over the past few years. Trying to replicate that with the women's side is an exciting and intriguing challenge.”

Grewe’s coaching pedigree includes time most recently spent as the Director of Goalkeeping for the Michigan Jaguars. He has fourteen years of experience with the Jaguars and additionally, served as Michigan ODP Goalkeeping Coach during his time with the Jaguars. Grewe also served as the Goalkeeping Coach for the Eastern Michigan University Eagles’ women’s side. Before coaching, Grewe spent 1997-2000 as a netminder for the Detroit Titans, including helping to helm Detroit to their first ever victory over Michigan State in East Lansing.

Grewe’s experiences were massively influential on his thought process about soccer as a coach. As a result, he told us, “I think the biggest thing I took away from my college playing and coaching experience is that no matter what level you are playing/coaching at there is still a lot to learn and a lot to teach. You have to be willing to learn, grow and adjust no matter your position or role.”

IMG_5464.jpg

Grewe holds a USSF ‘D’ License and, by way of spending his career in the state of Michigan, is plenty familiar with the state of Michigan and talent within the state. To Pritchard, that appealed to Grewe, whom he has known for about a decade, saying, “He has coached goalkeepers in Michigan for many years at all levels - ODP, youth and collegiate.” The time spent in Michigan should make any sort of settling in process rather easy to assimilate to.

AFCAA’s newest coach shared a bit of insight into his coaching methodology for his keepers. “The number one thing I try to instill in the goalkeepers I work with is confidence,” he said. “That has to be the base on which you build.” With the modern game evolving and, as he stated, “the days of just being a shot-stopper are gone,” Grewe also added, “The other big thing I want them to understand is that they are the 11th field player, that has the luxury of using their hands when necessary.” AFCAA will continue to be a forward-thinking club on both the men’s and women’s sides with shifts in modern footballing trends, and the addition to Grewe with his line of thinking is no exception.

As Pritchard’s staff shapes up, there is a methodology behind the coaching staff’s composition. “With the process of naming I know that both Jim and Barry have different opinions/views on the game from me, and that will bring ideas about the game that I may not think of.” Pritchard adds, about his friendship and knowledge of the staff named so far, “I’ve known both coaches for a long period of time and consider both very good friends. I know they will be a great asset to the team. With all coaches living in Ann Arbor, I think that gives us all an extra push to do well.”

As the summer fast approaches, and the staff rounds into form, AFC Ann Arbor will continue to have updates on AFCAA roster and coaching staff news as it develops.



Barry Scott Joins AFCAA Women's Coaching Staff

Barry 2.jpg

AFC Ann Arbor have announced today the next addition to their inaugural women’s side’s coaching staff. Andy Pritchard’s head assistant coach will be Barry Scott. Scott is a coach who spent over a decade in the state of Michigan with the Michigan Jaguars, and spent an additional decade before his time with the Jaguars as a coach.

Scott’s accomplishments on the youth level are impressive with the Jaguars. Scott led the U-17 Michigan Jaguars boys’ team to a United States Youth Soccer national championship in 2012. The side included ex-Michigan State Spartans and MLS Draftees Ken Krolicki and Jimmy Hague, along with Western Michigan and NPSL standout Zach Bock. He followed that up this past summer with another Youth Soccer national championship, this time with the Jaguars’ Green U-14 girls’ side.

Andy Pritchard, the AFC Ann Arbor head coach, had some kind words for a man he has known for seventeen years. “Barry has pretty much won everything in youth soccer there is to win, as well as having professional playing experience back home in Scotland. That I think will help at the higher level.” Scott added to Pritchard’s description of their familiarity, “We both came over to the US with Britannia soccer in the late 90s…I was in Michigan and he was in Cleveland. He then came to Michigan and the rest, as they say, is history.” The pair have a long-running personal history and will be set to work together for the AFCAA women’s side set to debut in the UWS for its 2019 season.

Born in Scotland, Scott’s qualifications are just as impressive as his accolades. He is a USSF A License holder to go with an SFA C License from the Scottish FA. With coaching certifications both in the United States and overseas, it is sure that he will add knowledge and experience along with his expertise.

In speaking with Scott, he is looking forward to everything about the season. “I am really excited about seeing some of the players I used to coach and coach against.” As a head assistant, he foresees his key aspects of the job to be similar to Pritchard’s, both recruiting and developing players to join The Mighty Oak. Scott thinks not just short term, for the AFCAA team’s health, but for the players as a whole, “We want [to] build a successful program while making sure that we continue to develop the players we have to be better, so that they can return to their college programs and will have [taken] steps in their development.”

Finally, when asked about what appealed to Scott about the AFCAA organization, the new member of the coaching staff had plenty in mind, “It’s a great organization that has done really well on the men’s side and very much a part of the community.” He continued, saying, “I am excited to be a part of the program and to work with my long-time friend is going to be fun.” For fans of The Mighty Oak, the happiness and light air Scott speaks of the game he loves is sure to rouse excitement for the season to come.


Men's and Women's Tryout Set for February 15th

2019_tryouts_both.jpg

AFC Ann Arbor will host the club’s annual open tryout on February 15th. Just as in years past, space will be limited and players are encouraged to register early. The event will be held at High Velocity Sports in Canton.

The big difference this year comes with the addition of the Women’s team. From 6 to 8pm, the Women’s team, led by Andy Pritchard, will hold their first open tryout. Prospective players can register in advance for $30 which secures their spot at the tryout. Each participant will receive an AFC Ann Arbor training top.

The Men’s team will host their tryout immediately following the Women’s, from 8 to 10pm. Coach Eric Rudland and staff have identified at least one player each year from the tryout to join the first team. The cost for the Men’s tryout is $45 and includes the cost of a training top as well.

To register, click here.

Novotny Finds New Challenge in USL Championship

DSC_9563 (2).jpg

Coming off the heels of a successful Midwest Pro Soccer Combine for the second year running, Mike Novotny has impressed. This season, it has resulted in his first professional contract in the United States, and second in his career. On January 2nd, Novotny announced his signing with USL Championship side Hartford Athletic for the 2019 season. Novotny becomes the second AFCAA player from last season to sign with a USL side, joining Stanley Okumu (Real Monarchs).

For Novotny, this represents a thrilling opportunity to play at a very high level within the country. His first contract, with Stöde IF in Sweden, presented an opportunity for the goalie to play at a professional level overseas. He told AFCAA last month ahead of the combine his experiences overseas allowed him to realize what it takes to get to that next level, and he has been able to reach it for the season to come.

Novotny learned of the interest on Hartford’s end through Eric Rudland, “I was told from Eric that they struck an interest in me and he really helped along the way with the whole process.” As a whole, Rudland also feels this is a great set-up for his keeper from last season to step into. He said, “Obviously Hartford are a new club with a very good set-up and they have high aspirations. For Mike it's a great opportunity to start with a new franchise where he can earn everything he deserves.” He added that while he may enter the side of one of the youngest players on the team, he will be in a great position to learn.

Hartford is an expansion side for the USL Championship this season, the first season as a whole with the new USL-tier system of Championship, League One, and League Two. HAFC will be led in their first season by Jimmy Nielsen, who spent over a decade playing in the Danish Superliga for AaB, winning the award for top Danish keeper of the year twice in his career. In addition to experience overseas in Denmark, he spent part of a season with Leicester City and won the MLS Cup in 2013 with Sporting KC.

Nielsen, and the staff as a whole, including goalkeeper coach George Kostelis, excited Novotny, who said, “The coaching staff definitely set it apart from other teams. The head coach, Jimmy [Nielsen], was a big-time goalkeeper and I felt I could connect with him well.” Novotny added, “Along with him, the rest of the coaching staff was very personable and you could tell they [want] to make some big things happen this year.”

Previously the head coach at Oklahoma City Energy in the USL, Nielsen’s impact on the squad has seen three Danes already announced and five who have played for Nielsen in OKC, Novotny enters an exciting squad already familiar with the coaching staff and the league as a whole. As shown by his performances in Sweden and Ann Arbor, new faces and places have not seemed to faze the netminder one bit, and he is eager to showcase his quality. When asked about what excited him about this opportunity, he stated, “[A] new city, new people, [and] a whole new opportunity.”

Speaking to Rudland and his involvement in the process, it was clear that Hartford took a liking to Novotny during the search. AFCAA’s head coach said of the process, “[Hartford] carried on their own vetting process and ended up really liking Mike's personality, ability and his ambitions. I kept Mike in the loop throughout the process and at the end of the day it ended up being a great fit for both Hartford and Mike.”

In all the excitement surrounding this exciting time in his career, Novotny still has not forgotten about The Mighty Oak. The man affectionally dubbed “Handsome Goalie” by the Main St. Hooligans said, “Thank you for the endless love and support! AFCAA is always going to have a special place in my heart because of all the people that made it happen.” He continued, saying, “I’m looking forward to watching a successful season.” Surely the AFCAA supporters around the globe will say the same about their keeper’s new side ahead of his season to come as well.


Membership Pick Up Event Rescheduled for Thursday, December 20th

_BPB4799.jpg

Friday’s membership pick up event ‘Pick Up and Play’ at Revel and Roll has been rescheduled for Thursday, December 20th from 6 to 9PM.

The reschedule was due to a delay in shipment of the season scarves. The unfortunate delay in shipping forced the club to move the event to next Thursday, December 20th, from 6 to 9pm, after they arrive.

Fans who have purchased their membership and planned to pick it up today were notified via earlier today with instructions on how to get your tickets if you aren’t able to attend next Thursday’s event.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have cause but hope to see you all next Thursday at Revel & Roll.

Frenchy Tackles a New Indoor Challenge

MattBraem.JPG

The man affectionately known as ‘Frenchy’, otherwise known as Matthieu Braem, by those around AFC Ann Arbor is something resembling a club legend with the side. One of just a select handful of players to have spent all three years thus far with the side in the NPSL, his skill as a defender made him a mainstay in the starting eleven. Those attributes are set to carry themselves over to a new challenge as Braem has signed his first official professional contract with the Harrisburg Heat in the MASL (Major Arena Soccer League).

For those who may be unfamiliar with the MASL as a whole, Braem broke it down. “It's like a mix between hockey and soccer, with a really fast paced type of game and lots of chances [for] goals.” While the game retains plenty of soccer elements, the indoor play style means many rules are similar to hockey.

There are six players on the field, five outfielders and a goalkeeper, with the option of a sixth attack (parallel to “pulling the goalie” in hockey) that can use their hands in their own penalty box. With walls surrounding the field, players may pass or bounce the ball off the walls to themselves or teammates as well. There are also cards corresponding to what would be considered a power play in hockey, with a “blue card” sending a player to the penalty box for two minutes. The yellow card in the MASL also excludes the player who committed the foul for five minutes.

With all the rules variations, adjusting to the game will be key for Braem. He is learning under Pat Healey in Harrisburg, though. Healey played collegiate soccer at Towson and was capped nationally on the United States’ national futsal team. Braem described his new head boss to be “known as one of the best defenders to play in the MASL.” As a defender himself, there are certainly very few people to learn about a new craft than someone who is well-versed in the sport themselves, and Healey certainly fits that bill.

There have been plenty of differences from the more expansive outdoor game to the tighter arena game for Braem. He said, “The fitness level is much higher, and more demanding. Your first touch has to be perfect or you get eaten alive. It is known as a veteran league with a lot of highly experienced players, so obviously, as a rookie, they try to put you under pressure and wait for your mistakes.”

While there may be a learning curve, Eric Rudland cited multiple attributes that will help him out. “Frenchy has quick feet and uses his body well. He's also strong in 1v1 duels and can play out of pressure.” These sorts of things playing such an important role in both the indoor and outdoor game prove that while the style of play may be quite different, there are plenty of things to link the two forms of soccer together.

For Braem, this means more than just a contract. “Since I was a kid, I have been dreaming about becoming a professional soccer player, and gave up so much and made so many sacrifices for it, that it makes [this] even more enjoyable. I was so close to giving up not a while ago, and I am really thankful I didn't.” This opportunity has been one coming after much hard work put in by Braem and determination shown to keep going in the world of soccer.

Braem also showed plenty of gratitude towards the AFCAA Family. “I could not be more thankful to the Main Street Hooligans. They’re absolutely amazing. I love to stay in touch with them over social media as well.” Ever the popular man, he continues to hold a wonderful relationship with those around the club. With the indoor season ending in April, Braem also did not want to rule anything out in the future, saying, “Maybe I will be able to compete again in the NPSL this upcoming season. We will see how everything goes and where I end up. But I wouldn't be opposed to coming back and play for the club again.” The future is always changing and never likely to be predicted, but on his current course, things are only looking bright for Ann Arbor’s favorite Frenchman.


Andy Pritchard Named Head Coach of AFCAA Women

DSC_0609.jpg

Association Football Club Ann Arbor have hired Andy Pritchard as the first head coach of the new women’s team. Pritchard, who holds a USSF A License, brings over 20 years of coaching experience to The Mighty Oak. His previous coaching destinations have included serving as Technical Director of Canton Celtic Soccer Club, Director of Coaching for Michigan Rush – Downriver, and Club Director for Michigan Tigers F.C.

In addition to the experience he holds in the United States, he also possesses an English F.A. Coaching License. He spent time in England coaching the Manchester City youth academy players and as a player himself he spent time in both the Manchester City youth academy and on the English university level at Priestley College in Manchester.

This step forward in Pritchard’s career is one of great excitement for the long-time coach in the state of Michigan. “I would like to thank the organization for giving me the opportunity to coach for AFC Ann Arbor.  Getting to coach a women's team in the community I live in means a great deal, especially having two young daughters of my own who love the game. I'm most excited about working with the players and staff, trying to create a team that the community can be proud of,” said Pritchard.

As this is the first season for the women’s side of AFC Ann Arbor, part of what Pritchard feels responsible for is not just on-field results, but also building a culture. Pritchard said, “I would be lying if I didn't say I want to win anything and everything, but the one thing I hope from year one is to produce a training/playing environment that will improve the players over the course of the season, creating something that players will want to come back to for years to come.”

The women’s team, which was announced in October 2018, will begin play in May of 2019 in the United Women’s Soccer league’s Midwest division. The Midwest includes two out of state teams based in Indiana, Indy Premier and the Fort Wayne Gryphons, and five other teams in the state of Michigan: Detroit Sun, Genesee FC, Grand Rapids FC, Lansing United and Michigan Legends.

The United Women’s Soccer league began play in May of 2016 and will enter its fourth season this spring/summer. It is in the second tier of the United States’ women’s soccer pyramid and has continued to see increases in growth as the league grows in experience. Upon start of the first season, the women’s side will join the men’s side as the only semi-professional club teams in Washtenaw County.

Prospective players can expect tryout information to be released within the next month but can fill out this form to receive updates and more information.


Giveaways and Game Cards at Pick Up and Play

RevelArcade.jpeg

This Friday marks the club’s annual Membership pickup ahead of the holidays. Those who have purchased 2019 Memberships and selected to pick it up can do so at Revel and Roll on Friday from 6 to 9PM at our Pick Up and Play event.

Friday’s event is also important to the club as we look to gather items to donate to the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County. Blankets, underwear, socks, dental hygiene essentials, spices, diapers, first aid supplies, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, small bottle of shower essentials are key items that the shelter is always in need of.

Every person who attends and brings an item, will receive a FREE 1-hour time play card for the Revel and Roll arcade. In addition to the free hour of games, participants will also be entered into giveaways from AFC Ann Arbor. These items include a 2018 official team stadium jacket, match worn kits and more!

You can still purchase your 2019 Membership here, with the option to pick it up at Friday’s event. Fans who aren’t members or haven’t purchased their package yet are still encouraged to attend. They may even get the chance to meet the new women’s head coach for the first time, who will be making an appearance at Friday’s get together.


Novotny Returns to Combine More Experienced and Refined

DSC_9563.jpg

One year ago, Mike Novotny was gearing up for the Midwest Pro Soccer Combine for the first time. Flash forward one year and two continents later, and Novotny is doing the same thing, only with a whole lot more experience underneath his belt.

Novotny’s first combine experience came off the heels of an acclaimed career as an Eastern Illinois Panther. A four-year starter for the Summit League conference side, Novotny’s best season was saved for last with a 0.95 GAA and 91 saves (good for seventh in the entire NCAA) in his senior year. He was also named Summit League Goalkeeper of the Year honors. That earned him a shot at the Midwest Pro Combine in 2017. It was a huge opportunity for Novotny, who saw doors open for him as a result. “[The combine] gave me the opportunity to go on trial with Pittsburgh and into preseason with the Portland Timbers.” When his spell with the Timbers 2 side of the USL came to an end, another door opened back in Michigan with AFCAA.

At the combine, head coach Eric Rudland saw things during the two days that The Mighty Oak’s faithful would quickly see throughout the summer. When asked about what he liked about the keeper, Rudland responded, “Mike was technically very good and a great shot stopper. He also displayed a proficient ability to play out of the back on the ground, which I knew would fit our style of play well. Mike also trained really hard and exhibited a mentality that I thought would set him apart from others.”

As it turned out, Novotny became a key piece to the AFCAA puzzle in the 2018 season. He kept six clean sheets over the season and was named the AFCAA Defensive Player of the Year following the conclusion of the season. Following his incredibly successful season in Ann Arbor, he moved on to Sweden and joined Stöde IF in Sweden, where he kept four shutouts over the course of five matches, only allowing one goal in his five appearances.

The stint overseas was a fantastic learning experience for Novotny who said, “The biggest lesson I have learned was the grind of playing soccer for a living.” Coming off the college season with just “a couple months jammed with 15 games” to “having games every week for 7-8 months” is a rapid adjustment that takes a professional to get down pat, especially when operating at a top club in both leagues participating in.

Not only is Novotny wiser in terms of football, but having participated in the combine once already, he knows what to expect. “I know what I need to do to get to that next level,” he said when asked about how previous experience at the combine would help him. Always attempting to push himself to be the best keeper he possibly can be, he has also “set the bar higher this year” to impress the professional scouts in Brighton in what he also described as an “amazing opportunity.”

Having experience at the combine is one thing, but it is another to be able to perform under pressure. Fortunately for Novotny, he has been able to do so regularly throughout 2018. Between his help in leading AFCAA to a Great Lakes conference title, including wins in pressure-packed situations to keep a firm grasp on the lead on top, as well as helping to lead Stöde during a push for a promotion play-off (his side ultimately finished fourth, just two points behind second place and a trip to the play-off). His experiences leading the back lines of his sides is certainly appealing to professional sides, where keepers that make sure to have an eye on organization of their teams in the field is always tantamount for clubs.

When it comes to the question of whether or not Novotny is ready, it goes without saying that he certainly is. After the eventful year of soccer, Rudland said, “He has refined some areas of his game so we are confident that he will draw interest form professional clubs.” The improvement has been key in fine-tuning Novotny as an all-around keeper. Novotny also said, on what he was most looking forward to about the combine, “I am looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and showing the coaches and scouts that are in attendance that I am ready for the next level in the States.” In front of over twenty professional teams, Novotny and the other participants of the combine are not going to get much of a bigger stage right in Ann Arbor’s background.



Gamwanya Begins Path to Pros at Midwest Pro Soccer Combine

DSC_1982.jpg

The recipient of the second Main St. Hooligans scholarship for the Midwest Pro Soccer Combine has been confirmed with the second round of player confirmations. Midfielder Serge Gamwayna will be returning to the state of Michigan for the combine to help further his dreams of becoming a professional. The exciting news took the Stony Brook senior, who graduates in December, a bit by surprise, “It was not really something I was expecting. It was something I talked about with Eric a little bit.”

Gamwanya’s play certainly warranted his acceptance to the combine next month. Aside from a stellar year with AFC Ann Arbor, manning the midfield in any position needed, be it box-to-box, defensive, or attacking, he starred for Stony Brook as a senior. He tied for the team lead in goals and points, with six and fifteen, respectively. It was a team that featured fellow AFCAA man Martieon ‘Moco’ Watson as the leading assist-man with seven on the season.

Playing college in New York and hailing from Norway, Gamwanya might have been an unexpected man on a roster for a side in Michigan to those who don’t know about the scouting methods of AFCAA. As Eric Rudland spoke when asked about comparisons between searching for players for AFCAA and the combine, “We evaluate the player applications for the combine the same as we do for AFC. We look at their "TIPS" Technique - Insight - Personality & Speed.” It’s four categories that the midfield man has in spades and has shown on both club and college level. The methods of Rudland do not go unappreciated by the MSH as well. “We are so thankful that AFC really takes their scouting seriously and finds amazing players regardless of their earlier experience.”

Gamwanya was stepping into the unknown, himself, over the summer. He’d never been to Ann Arbor before joining up with AFCAA. The adjustment was not harsh at all and quickly Gamwanya became stapled into the eleven. “The level of all the players is very high, the coaching staff is very demanding, and every practice…you’re learning something new. Every week players are fighting to be in the starting eleven.” The competition “got the best” out of him and that, in turn, made the entire side better as a whole.

As alumni of The Mighty Oak tend to do, Gamwanya had plenty of praise for the supporters as well. “The fans are amazing. Every game you see them out there, chanting, having the smoke everywhere, and knowing every player’s name even if you are not a starter.” He continued on, saying, “Away or home, we always had them traveling.” He gave credit to them as well traveling well to games like Detroit City, for example, saying, “you can hear the Ann Arbor fans in the background really loud.”

The foundation of the club holds its roots in the supporters, and that always rings true whenever players speak about the support they receive from the Main St. Hooligans. The generosity and faith never goes unnoticed when it comes to the support for the club, and it is never more present when supporting former players.



The Mighty Oak Influence Cardinals’ Tournament Run

IMG_2721.JPG

Saginaw Valley State University had yet another successful season as NCAA Tournament trips are quickly becoming the standard for the Cardinals. The fifth straight tournament trip for SVSU included the first trip to the NCAA Division II Sweet 16 since 2014 and just three losses on the season were the fewest since the NCAA Runners-Up team in 2012. The Mighty Oak were very well represented on the team and some key components on this past season’s AFC Ann Arbor side played a similar role for the Cardinals.

Azaad Liadi is known by Ann Arbor fans simply as ‘AZ’, but nickname or no, his production speaks for itself. Liadi wore the number nine for SVSU and produced a team-high 22 points (in the NCAA, a goal counts as two ‘points’ and an assist counts for one) along with nine goals, another team-high. Liadi’s work was good enough to be named to the All-GLIAC First-Team as well as the D2CCA All-Midwest Regional Team. He hit peak form as the season went on with five goals in his final six games played. Just a junior, he has another year to play an essential role for the Cardinals. His form could easily be summed up by a quote from teammate Michael Shaikly, who said happily, “AZ went off this year. It was absolutely mental.” Ever the humble player, Liadi shared the credit as he talked about the AFC coaching staff, “I made a lot of strides in my game starting with the quality of coaching. Being around guys like Eric Rudland, Rod [Asllani], Boyzzz [Khumalo], and [Jeff] Shuk; with the time they all commit to the team it’s hard not to become a better player.” It was a brilliant season for Liadi, who enters his senior season next year, and while he calls it “mind blowing” that he is a soon-to-be senior, he’s excited to help the team with “whatever [they] need from me.”

DSC_0891.jpg

Another integral part of the SVSU side was Michael Shaikly. With four goals for AFC this past summer, fans knew of his ability to find the net from the midfield. He did the same in Saginaw three times and chipped in another two assists. Shaikly joined Liadi on the All-GLIAC First Team and D2CCA All-Midwest Regional Team. The Englishman continued to produce for the Cardinals as his collegiate career comes to its conclusion. His teammates spoke glowingly of his season, Rosen saying, “Shakes this summer also was a huge player for this team: playing the majority of the minutes in the midfield for the club, scoring some big goals, and then also doing the same for us in the college season and captaining the team to the Sweet 16.” He said the AFCAA season aided greatly in his personal conditioning as well. “It was definitely the most fit I’ve been, from a physical perspective. Eric had us all in tip-top condition.” The hard work paid off well for Shaikly, who had an incredibly positive senior season for college and club.

DSC_9584.jpg

Jake Rosen played another key role with his senior leadership, but his season was unfortunately cut short with an injury after nine matches played. Once a transfer from Schoolcraft, he embedded himself in the Cardinals match plans quickly. Rosen was able to play a role also in team leadership, as he said, “I honestly enjoy having younger teammates and helping them on and off the field. I believe it’s just what I owe to the game.” It’s a testament to the ‘team first’ attitude that Rosen has, and what has made him such a valuable component to the AFC sides he has played for over the past few seasons.

The final member of The Mighty Oak was Liam Travers. The man from Hartlepool played an essential role in providing an attacking spark off the bench. Travers played in all 20 matches for the Cardinals and provided four goals, three of those goals coming in matches he appeared in as a sub. It was a productive season for the Englishman, who had to deal with some adjustments in coming over to the States. “I remember when I first got to Ann Arbor and my first practice session [was] probably about 80 degrees. I was like, ‘wow,’ I was sweating buckets. And then, later on in the college season, we travelled to Northern Michigan and I don’t think I’ve ever played in colder weather in my life.” Despite the fluctuating weather patterns, ones that Michigan natives are all-too-familiar with, Travers said about his time, “I thoroughly enjoyed my summer in Ann Arbor, I met some great people and made some great memories.”

The common thread among all the players is the enjoyment they each had spending their summer in Ann Arbor. Rosen, a returning man with AFC, also had similarly high praise as he said, “The owners and staff always create a very good culture in the beginning of the season that make it easy for the players to buy into on and off the field.” Liadi gave a profound quote when talking about how much the club means to him, saying, “My experience was unparalleled, I would encourage any player with the opportunity to play there to take that chance and they won’t regret it; not only are you playing at a high level that will help you make strides as a player but it’s truly a big family across the board.”




Main St. Hooligans Help Make Combine Dreams Come True

DSC_0788.jpg

The Midwest Pro Soccer Combine is right around the corner and the names of players participating have began to be confirmed. One name AFC Ann Arbor fans are surely familiar with is Henry Ramirez. Henry just finished his senior season with UMKC and spent the summer with The Mighty Oak, though it was cut short due to injury. Now, on December 19th and 20th, Ramirez gets a chance to perform in front of professional scouts and teams. This also due to a little help from the Main St. Hooligans.

MSH have funded two scholarships for AFC Ann Arbor players to help them take that next step in realizing their professional sporting dreams. “The idea came up because we were watching Stanley Okumu play for Real Monarchs the same day that one of us read an article that mentioned Lars Eckenrode, who is playing for Toronto FC II,” the MSH told AFCAA. “It was kind of a, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be cool to be able to follow more AFC players on pro teams?’”

The combine itself produces plenty of top-tier talent. Last year alone saw three attendees drafted into MLS, seven players play in the USL, and a whole slew go overseas. Eric Rudland is known as the Head Coach and Sporting Director of The Mighty Oak, but he’s also the Director of the MPSC. When asked what the combine meant to him, Rudland responded, “The combine was developed to help players push on and achieve their goals. For me it's been a great platform to build bridges from our level to the pro game.” Rudland also noted that AFC have managed to acquire talent from the combine as well. Of last year’s participants, Jordan Montoya and Mike Novotny were selected from the combine to play key roles in AFC’s season.

A show of support like this for former players is more than just one gesture. For the Hooligans, they also take pride in providing a fantastic experience for the players. “Supporting the players though, it’s a little different, on top of showing up for games, the little things go a long way, like communicating on twitter, supporting them on their college or other teams so we make an effort to do that… We want them to look back on their time with the team fondly.” Eric Rudland understands just how impactful the MSH are for the club too, as he said, “The supporters group is the life blood of our club. They are a reflection of the community, of the club and are the driving force of our players during competition. The fact that they are willing to take another step in supporting our men is very generous.”

That is incredibly evident when speaking to Henry Ramirez himself. Ramirez gave a special message specifically for the fans of AFCAA, “I’d like to say thank you to the Main St. Hooligans because they are the best fans ever and on top of that they are the most loyal. My time in AFC Ann Arbor wasn’t long, [but] they have always showed support and welcomed me as one of their own and I am very thankful for them.”

Ramirez considered his time with AFC Ann Arbor “absolutely amazing” and considered the fans the best in the NPSL. He mentioned something you find common with AFC alumni, that you play not simply for an organization, but rather for a community. The fans will certainly look back at Ramirez’s time with the club with nothing but positive thoughts, and that is exceedingly evident given his reception of a scholarship for the combine.

Rudland himself had high praise for Ramirez as a player as well. “Henry is a really intelligent footballer with a huge engine. He's the type of player that has a good chance of making the jump to the next level.” Ramirez plays the number ten with most frequency and was a key in the more up-tempo brand of football that The Mighty Oak are known for. He is active both on and off the ball, whether in possession or not, and constantly works hard on the pitch. Despite the injury-shortened season, Rudland said, “He's 100% healthy now and looking to take the next step in his career.”

For Ramirez, the combine represents a continuation of the chance to pursue a lifelong dream of his. Henry told AFCAA, “Ever since I’ve been a little kid my dream has been to become a professional soccer player. With the combine I feel like this is amazing opportunity to showcase my skills and abilities in front of professional scouts!” The feeling is surely quite similar for plenty of fellow players that will join the midfielder in performing in front of, as of now, a confirmed seventeen professional clubs – a list that includes three MLS teams and four overseas clubs.

For players like Ramirez, the MPSC serves as a chance for players to play the game they love for a living. In lower-levels of the American football pyramid, this can be difficult. The Main St. Hooligans touched upon this, saying, “We get that these guys are here because they absolutely love the game, not because they’re chasing money or glory, so it makes it even more important to show them that we appreciate them being here and being a part of our AFCAA Family.” No matter how they may help, the support that the Main St. Hooligans provide to both the players and team itself remains vital for the club’s heart to continue beating.



To Serge & Moco | From Stephen Turnbull

Pictured from left to right: Stephen Turnbull, Martieon Watson and Serge Gamwanya

Pictured from left to right: Stephen Turnbull, Martieon Watson and Serge Gamwanya

Throughout my time at Stony Brook I have learned many things that have helped me evolve as a soccer player, and also as an individual. Amongst other people, there are two guys in particular that contributed to my evolution: Serge Gamwanya and Martieon “Moco” Watson.

Most college players will tell you that the hardest part of college is adapting as an 18 year old freshman. The summer before my first season I spent every day with these two guys doing fitness and building strength to put myself in the best situation to have success. No matter how tough the running was or how hot it was out on that field, these guys pushed me through it all, and for that I am thankful. As a result I was fortunate enough to play every game in my first year. Without them my freshman year could have looked very different.

As my college career went on the three of us developed a very strong bond. They taught me the Norwegian and Trinidadian culture which I will hold onto for the rest of my life. The greatest thing about soccer is the different cultures, and nations. I truly am blessed to have met two teammates that have traveled such a long way to share their culture.

This past summer Serge, Moco, and I were fortunate enough to represent the amazing club AFC Ann Arbor. I cannot begin to describe what this opportunity has meant to me, it changed me as a player, and person and I will be forever thankful to the club. This summer allowed me to train hard and enjoy the city of Ann Arbor with my best friends; I got the best of both worlds. Our relationship grew even stronger this summer with The Mighty Oak, forming a bond we will hold onto forever.

After the season with Ann Arbor we went back to New York to begin their senior season. This season was a huge success for the team, and for Serge and Moco individually. Unfortunately for me I had some health issues that ended up sidelining me for the whole season, but that wouldn’t stop me from motivating my brothers! All season long we would make jokes saying “watch out for the Ann Arbor boys” or as Moco would say “Ann Arbor boys dem dangerous.”

I was able to share the honor of being a captain along side of Moco and Serge this year. This opportunity meant so much to me as I was able to learn, from two of the best! Moco and Serge ended their season in a shiny matter, as they both were highly decorated in awards that they both absolutely deserved.

These two guys are amongst the best players I have ever played with, but what makes them so special to me is the relationship I have built with them. They will be my great friends for life. I can’t describe how much these two will be missed everyday in the locker room and out on the field. I wish they didn’t have to graduate but, I am so thankful for the time I got to spend with them.

Congratulations to Moco and Serge on an outstanding college career. The future is extremely bright for you two. Much love for my brothers!

stephen_sig.jpg
 

-Stephen Turnbull



2019 Memberships On Sale Black Friday

IMG_2761.JPG

The upcoming season for AFC Ann Arbor is a milestone marker for the club as the men’s side begins their fifth year of competition, in the same year the inaugural season for the new AFCAA women’s side launches.

With the addition of at least 7 home women’s matches this summer, fans can expect a total of 17-20 matches between the men’s and women’s teams. The men’s team will begin training in early April and friendlies later that month with the women expected to begin training in late April to early May with matches beginning just after that.

General, Premium and Youth Memberships will return for 2019 and go on sale Friday, November 23rd, at 12:01AM. The introductory pricing for memberships will only be valid until Monday, November 26th at Midnight.

General Memberships will include an individually numbered silver (metal) membership card, a 2019 season scarf and admission for 1 to all home men’s and women’s matches and will go on sale for $89. Prices will go up beginning Tuesday, November 27th. The limited time pricing of $89 allows fans to pay only $10 additional to receive admission to all of the women’s matches as well.

Premium Memberships will include an individually numbered black (metal) membership card, a 2019 season scarf and admission for 2 to all home men’s and women’s matches plus an additional 10 flex tickets to use at your discretion. The 2018 Premium cost $139 and from Black Friday until Cyber Monday, fans can get the 2019 Premium Membership for only $149 which includes admission to all the women’s matches for you plus one.

The Youth Membership and Flex Plan Tickets will also go on sale on Black Friday for $69 and $79, respectively. Flex plan tickets will include 10 tickets that can be used in any combination for men’s and/or women’s matches.

New for 2019 is the Family Membership. This includes admission for at least four to all home matches. The tickets are actually allocated as 80 flex tickets so essentially if you miss a game, your tickets roll over. Bring the whole neighborhood out to one match or spread it out over the course of the season- it’s up to you and your family how and when to use these tickets. Plus you’ll get two 2019 season scarves and the option to add on additional scarves at only $15 each (half off). The Family Membership will go on sale at an introductory price of $199 on Black Friday.

T

Fans will have the option to have their membership sent directly to their doorstep or to pick up up (free of shipping charge) at our “Pick Up and Play” event on December 14th at Revel & Roll. Anyone who attends and donates any of the following items: blankets, underwear, socks, dental hygiene essentials, spices, diapers, first aid supplies, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, small bottle of shower essentials to help those at the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, will receive a FREE 1-hr time play card for the arcade.

The 2019 season will be a big year and we are excited to have you join us with the purchase of a membership at these introductory prices. Wither you are purchasing one for yourself or a friend, we are glad to have you as part of the AFC Family. We hope you can join us in person on December 14th to celebrate with coaches, staff and players.






Catching Up with Captain Cawley

AFC at DCFC -20180610-42.jpg
“It’s not just a club, it’s a family.”
— Jack Cawley

At 26 years old, Jack Cawley has lived a life of football that plenty of players many years his senior have only dreamt of. Coming from Heybridge Swifts in England with FA Cup experience, Cawley was looked at by fans of the Mighty Oak as someone who could provide a bit of leadership. But he too was voyaging into unchecked territory in the States. Now, after just a season, he gave that leadership and much, much more to the AFC fans, who hold a special place in their hearts for him.

The fondness Cawley holds for the club rings resoundingly, even over the phone while he spoke after a training session with his new side. “Everyone made me feel welcome from day one…I didn’t get homesick once because I felt at home.” It’s something that the entire AFCAA Family takes pride in. Cawley himself noted this. When discussed how the club’s atmosphere starts at the base, he says, “They want the whole community of Ann Arbor to get involved with the football club, which you should. With people like Jamey [Amrine, club founder] and Eric [Rudland, head coach] and Bilal [Saeed, club chairman] involved they make sure that’s happening.” As discussing Amrine and Saeed’s upcoming trip to England , which involves a trip to meet with Cawley, he said about the entire ownership, “Their commitment to the club is outstanding and should never go unnoticed.”

Cawley made sure to note the quality of the side and coaching staff, and was very complimentary of Rudland. “I knew Eric was a good coach…his knowledge of football is outstanding. He’s up there [as] one of the top coaches I’ve ever been coached by.” From a player like Cawley, this is high praise given that he has been at a multitude of teams throughout the English football pyramid. His faith in Cawley was well-rewarded as he put in plenty of praise-worthy performances in the summer.

Back in his home country, Cawley remains active in the footballing world as he balances his working career with his footballing career. Cawley stars for Maldon and Tiptree F.C., located in the North Division of the Isthmian League. While semi-professional, the football is still competitive, the eyes of higher-ups are still on the team (the club serve sort of as a “feeder club” for League Two side Colchester United, located in the region), and Cawley is still performing. On November 10th, down 2-0 to Dereham Town, Cawley’s goal in the 85th leveled the match and put The Jammers in prime position for a winning goal with just a minute to spare.

The Jammers are just five points back of first place in the table and automatic promotion. They currently reside in fourth place, good for a playoff spot in the promotion playoffs. Of the road this far, “We’ve played a majority of the teams in the top playoff spots” which bodes well for Maldon and Tiptree’s hopes of continuing their strong play.

Coming from England to Ann Arbor then back to England is a whirlwind of travel and football. Even hearing about Cawley’s voyages could be enough to make an experience traveler’s head spin. Ever the even-keeled man, Cawley was not fazed. “Usually in England, by the time I was in America that’s my rest time usually. I finished my season in England on a Tuesday and on a Saturday, I go out to America, so I had four days to myself. I then flew back on a Saturday and started back on a Thursday.” Cawley took the positives from his experiences: “I came back very fit and I was very, very sharp so it helped me a ton in my match sharpness.” It is the sort of attitude that you would expect from the center back. His willingness to play plenty of games and play them often was a key attribute in his endearment towards the Main Street Hooligans.

You perhaps never would have known it, but ‘Captain Jack’ wasn’t always ‘Captain’. “[AFC] was one of the first or second times I’ve been captain so in terms of my leadership skills…it gave me a good experience of captaincy.” Now the captain of Maldon and Tiptree, his second straight side serving as captain, Cawley gained a valuable experience captaining the Mighty Oak. Always a vocal leader on the pitch, he led by example too. That key attribute of the captaincy has helped him greatly when heading back overseas.

Just as the fans loved him, so too did Cawley love the them. When asked about a message for the fans, Cawley wanted them to know, “how outstanding they were.” A favorite moment of Cawley was the victory over Detroit City F.C. on the road. “When we beat Detroit, and I saw their passion, it was overwhelming. So that’s why I kind of got up on that [the railings between the field and stands at Keyworth Stadium] and gave them a hug.” As Cawley said about the side, “It’s not just a club, it’s a family.”