AFC Ann Arbor came from behind to win 2-1 over Grand Rapids FC Friday night, securing the clubs first ever NPSL Great Lakes Championship.
The match started quickly as Grand Rapids FC took a 1-0 lead 61 seconds after play began.
After the goal, Ann Arbor sat in and controlled possession for the majority of the first half.
The Mighty Oak came close to an equalizer several times, but were unable to right the ship in the first 45. Efforts from Alec Lasinski and Sam Zisette came closest, but the sides went into the break with Grand Rapids holding a 1-0 lead.
The Mighty Oak didn't make any changes at the half but came out looking like a completely different side.
Two goals in a space of two minutes saw an incredible turnaround from AFC.
The first goal came from a set piece in the 54th minute. James Vaughan curled a ball into the box and Ben Thornton climbed well at the back post to slam home a header and level the match.
In the blink of an eye, AFC took the lead. It was Yuri Farkas cooly tucking home a low cross to give The Mighty Oak a 2-1 advantage.
With just over a half hour to play, Ann Arbor brought on several substitutes to see the match out.
Substitutes Jesse Muskwe and Jep Allen linked up well down the left, looking to hit Grand Rapids on the counter attack.
Grand Rapids weren't going down without a fight, though. In the 80th minute, a Grand Rapids effort smashed into the post but stayed out.
The Mighty Oak held firm and stuck to the game plan. With the 4 minutes of added time played, the referee blew the whistle and the celebrations began.
The result earned the first NPSL Conference Championship in AFC Ann Arbor's history in addition to securing the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region Playoffs. The top seed has a bye in the first round of regional action next weekend. Coach Eric Rudland was delighted, but wanted to maintain the focus on the playoff push. The Mighty Oak will play on July 28th in the Midwest Regional Semifinal (location and opponent TBD).
"It's an exhilarating feeling to win the league, but we've said all year this was our goal." He said. "But we don't want to be happy with [just] this. We want to make a push in the playoffs."
With one final regular season game left to play, The Mighty Oak will return to Hollway Field on Monday July 17th to take on the Michigan Stars - and they will return as Conference Champions!