After a difficult loss on Friday in Grand Rapids, AFC Ann Arbor went to Kalamazoo on Sunday in a must-win situation. With a playoff berth on the line, The Mighty Oak came to Kalamazoo ready for battle, and took a 2-0 win over Kalamazoo FC, and an NPSL regional playoff spot back to Ann Arbor.
The first half started brightly for the Mighty Oak, and in the 10th minute it was Dario Suarez who capitalized. Bruno Oliveria sent a trademark cross into the box and Dario’s header went flying past the keeper to make it 1-0.
The Mighty Oak enjoyed plenty of possession in the first half, but were unable to make the most of their chances. The sides went in at the break with AFC leading, 1-0.
AFC made sure the result would hold, adding a second goal 15 minutes into the second half. Leigh Rumbold’s flicked header from a corner found Kevin Taylor unmarked at the top of the six-yard box and he buried the chance. 2-0.
The second goal seemed to really take the life out of Kalamazoo, but with 30 minutes left, it took a tremendous team effort to make sure of the result. Substitutes Nate Johnson, Noah Kleedtke, James Vaughan, and Dumisani Manyange came on to get some fresh legs in the side.
Both goals came from corners, and AFC Ann Arbor head coach Eric Rudland was happy with the way his team handled set pieces, both offensively and defensively.
“At this level, we talk about winning the match in both 18 yard boxes. So we needed to win it defensively in our box, and we needed to win it in the attacking 18-yard box. Both those set piece goals were first class,” he said.
The Audi of Ann Arbor Man of the Match was goal scorer Kevin Taylor. KT’s header gave The Mighty Oak the extra push to close out a critical away match.
Today's match marked a historic day for AFC Ann Arbor by completing their first season in the National Premier Soccer League as well as securing the club's first postseason berth.
The Mighty Oak will travel to Grand Rapids on July 22nd (time TBD), the host site for the 2016 Midwest Region Playoffs, to square off against Great Lakes East Division Champs, AFC Cleveland.