In just two seasons, AFC Ann Arbor has managed to attract top talent from around the globe. With players coming from Australia, Brazil, England, Cuba, Switzerland, Germany and beyond, The Mighty Oak is a true representation of the game’s global spirit.
The club also works diligently to find the top local players, a mixture of current college players and seasoned veterans looking to extend their career. These efforts, lead by Head Coach & Sporting Director Eric Rudland, have their challenges. When competing with 5 Michigan clubs in the same division, all hoping to attract the top local talent, separation is made by expert recruiting and navigation of the mitten state. With a coaching background in Michigan for more than 10 years, Rudland’s approach doesn’t limit his focus to the big schools or marquee names. Instead, his experience allows him to identify the top talent across the board.
Recent Saginaw Valley State University commit Jake Rosen’s story is AFC Ann Arbor’s most recent highlight fitting that narrative. Jake, who has spent his last two collegiate seasons with Schoolcraft College, will be taking his Livonia pride with him to Saginaw’s campus this fall. Rosen’s debut for The Mighty Oak came in 2016 and he became a regular starter in Coach Rudland’s post-season qualifying squad. Jake’s stand-out 2016 moment came in an early road match at DCFC where the Schoolcraft kid logged all 90 minutes in a pivotal 1-1 tie on the road. His stellar NPSL season combined with his accolades while at Schoolcraft earned him an opportunity to continue his career at SVSU, one Mighty Oak fans know he will take advantage of.
Rudland added, “Jake is an important returning player for us in 2017. He became a mainstay in our back line last season and epitomizes the term ‘attacking outside back.’ He’s technically well rounded and proved himself a strong defender. Most importantly, Jake is committed to training and improving daily which makes him a pleasure to have in the team.”
AFC Ann Arbor caught up with Jake to talk about 2016 and the upcoming season.
AFC: What did you expect going into the 2016 season when it was all said and done, did the experience exceed your expectations?
Rosen: I knew that out of the NPSL teams, Ann Arbor had one of the more established fan bases for the league but didn’t think that that the community genuinely cared that much about us. The first event in Plymouth with USA Hockey was a pretty cool experience and a day I will never forget because I signed my first autograph. Then, the “Reveal N Roll” event really made me feel like Ann Arbor was the right decision getting to know the staff and seeing the community was all for supporting me before they even knew who I was. The community support exceeded all of my expectations and I’m looking forward to representing for Ann Arbor again this summer.
AFC: Coming from one of the smaller, local schools, did you feel intimidated coming into a program that had guys who had international caps?
Rosen: I didn't really feel intimidated at the fact I was playing with older players as well as international players, but more anxious to see how I would stack up with the competition. I've always enjoyed playing with new players because it gives me a reason to show I can play with anyone. As I see it I'm a footballer playing with other great footballers there is no reason to be intimidated.
AFC: What was one of the most memorable experiences you had in 2016 with the club?
Rosen: Being able to play in the first match at Keyworth against Detroit City FC was an amazing experience. The atmosphere was nothing like I've ever felt before that made me realize why I fell in love with this game in the first place. Being from Michigan and knowing what that match meant for the sport in this state, I feel truly blessed I got to play in that match. It’s an experience I will never forget.
AFC: What did you learn about yourself this summer playing for The Mighty Oak?
Rosen: All of the teams I've been a part before, I've had more of a leadership role. Being the youngest player on AFC, I noticed that I could learn from the players that had more experience than me while still making an actual impact on the game myself. I appreciated the opportunity to learn from the older guys and I know I’m a better player because of it.
AFC: You're typically a midfielder but Coach felt your impact would be biggest as a right back. What was that transition like for you?
Rosen: In the beginning I was nervous because I never really played there before but at the same time I was thrilled he was giving me the opportunity to be in the starting 11. As the season went on, the staff was working with me every day and I grew to become very comfortable and confident with my position.
AFC: What was it like playing for Coach Rudland? What do you think he helped you with the most?
Rosen: It was an absolute pleasure. His professionalism on and off the field is something I never experienced from prior coaches I have had. He played a huge role in helping me take that next step in finding a 4-year school (program) that would be a good fit for me. I can’t thank him enough for everything he did for me and I’m thrilled about transferring to SVSU.
AFC: Your family is a big part of your support system and could be found in the stands EVERY game. What does it mean to you to have them by your side supporting you every step of the way?
Rosen: Words can't explain how much it means to me my family shows up to every game. I play this game for them praying one day through this game, I can give back to them for all they have done to put me in the position I am in now.
AFC: What are you most excited about for the upcoming season? What do you hope to accomplish with AFC this summer?
Rosen: Between the tough opponents we have to face in NPSL play and our daily training sessions, I’m excited to be playing at an extremely competitive level again this summer. It was great to make the playoffs our first year in the NPSL, but this year the goal is to win a national championship.
About AFC Ann Arbor
AFC Ann Arbor completed a very successful inaugural campaign in the Midwest Region of the National Premier Soccer League finishing 2nd in the conference while earning the club’s first playoff berth. The club’s third season kicks off in May as The Mighty Oak look to continue their winning ways under Head Coach Eric Rudland. Youth, General and Premium Memberships for Season Tree can be purchased here.