AFC Ann Arbor’s inaugural season in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) garnered great success, including a postseason berth as well as a US Open Cup bid, the first for any team in Ann Arbor in the 103 year old tournament. A major player in that success was Great Lakes Division Golden Boot, Dario Suarez.
Suarez arrived in Ann Arbor last April with friend and former Cuban National teammate, Hector Morales. As Sporting Director Eric Rudland’s recruiting efforts have become a global effort, he jumped at the opportunity to bring the Cubans to Ann Arbor. The pair acclimated quickly, jelled with their teammates and added an professional mentality and approach to winning.
The moment he joined The Mighty Oak, Suarez emerged as one of the most talented, skilled and passionate player which resonated with Ann Arbor fans immediately. In no time, he began scoring goals and leading his team to hold the top spot on the table for over 9 weeks.
Some of his highlights from the summer for 2016 included ‘the flick’ vs Grand Rapids during the second annual Memorial Day Classic, the header vs Kalamazoo and some key penalties that helped him earn both the Great Lakes Division Golden Boot in addition to the nickname ‘Super Dario.’
The name took quick and was chanted often by Ann Arbor supporters. Suarez began forming a bond with the community on and off the pitch. He spent time coaching youth soccer and working at local events which allowed him to meet many of his fans in person. He also began to fall in love with the city and the club alike. Ann Arbor began to feel like a true second home.
Following the heartbreaking loss in the playoffs to eventual NPSL Champion AFC Cleveland, the entire organization earned a sense of unfinished business. Super Dario was passionate about bringing the club and the city a championship, but wasn’t sure the opportunity to return would be viable. In the offseason, Suarez attended both the Midwest Pro Soccer Combine and the NPSL Combine to pursue opportunities in hope of pushing on to a higher level.
He performed well and was noted by both combines as a standout player, but the opportunities that followed weren’t the fit he had hoped for and his path lead him back to the city he fell in love with last summer.
His high level play and goalscoring ability earned him two team awards in 2016 including Offensive Player of the Year and Team MVP.
“This team has become my family. My heart and my fans are in Ann Arbor and I’m happy to be returning to play for Coach Rudland,” said Suarez.
He seized the opportunities that came his way last season and summer ‘17 promises to have even more doors open for the Cuban native. An AFC Ann Arbor win against the Michigan Bucks in the US Open Cup First Round would lead to a home match for The Mighty Oak against professional side, Indy Eleven. On top of that Super Dario looks to lead the team back to the playoffs and finish what the team felt short of in their inaugural NPSL season.
Catch Dario Suarez and the rest of The Mighty Oak, Sunday, April 23rd for the home opener friendly at 4pm at Hollway Field (Pioneer HS). Get your tickets in here in advance and save.