Association Football Club Ann Arbor’s home opener against rival Detroit City FC at Skyline High School didn’t disappoint. Martieon Watson headed a free kick from Jake Rosen in stoppage time to win the game, 1-0.
Last season, AFC Ann Arbor and Detroit City FC finished one and two in the final National Premier Soccer League’s (NPSL) Great Lakes Conference standings. This was the sixth meeting between both teams over the past two seasons, who are now quite familiar with the level of competition expected of these matchups. The Mighty Oak now holds the advantage in the series 3-2-1.
The Mighty Oak came out in a 4-3-3 formation to start in the first match at their new home, Skyline High School. In the early minutes Detroit City FC held much of the possession, with the one exception of Yuri Farkas’ chance off a counter that rolled just wide of the far post in the 4’ minute mark.
Both teams played conservatively through much of the first half with limited chances and most of the play being around midfield. AFC Ann Arbor’s back line, Breno Stapcinskas, and Joseph Okumu stopped most of the advances that Detroit had. It was evident that both teams matched up well.
At the 39’ minute of the game, the Mighty Oak had their best chance of the first half. Jp Rylah dummied the ball off a pass to let it roll past and onto the foot of Yuri Farkas making a run down the sideline. After a few one-two touches by the Mighty Oak, midfielder Michael Shaikly got the ball in the six yard box, finished with an off balance shot that curved just outside of the near corner.
The second half started out much like the first with Detroit City FC holding most of the possession early. As the second half progressed, it was evident that AFC Ann Arbor and Detroit City FC both came out of half time with a new sense of urgency to get the first goal.
Mike Novotny made numerous key saves in the second half to keep the game scoreless. In the 52’ minute, he made a kick save and was then called upon again for a series of saves between the 57’ and 59’ minute.
It was then in the 69’ minute that Mike Novotny was in need of assistance after being caught out of position high in the keepers box. That assistance came from Joseph Okumu who made a critical clear on a chip shot that was destined for the back of the net after going over the head of Mike Novotny.
Novotny wasn’t done yet though, in the 75’ minute Novotny made his biggest save of the game off a Detroit City FC free kick that found its way onto an attackers foot inside the 18. Novotny made himself as big as possible and stuffed the attempt on goal.
Much of the last twenty minutes were filled with chances from both teams. It was in stoppage time however that AFC Ann Arbor was able to capitalize. A free kick, on a foul of sub Alex Lasinski, deep in Detroit City territory Jake Rosen was able to provide Martieon "Moco" Watson with a perfectly placed ball curling towards the goal that Watson was able to head in for the winning goal.
The Mighty Oak persisted for the full 90 minutes and their efforts paid off, earning a very hard fought three points against their rival and starting the NPSL season with back-to-back victories.
The Mighty Oak return to action with two away contests next weekend. First, they'll travel to Oakland County for the first leg of the Michigan Milk Cup before heading to Indiana on Sunday to resume NPSL play against FC Indiana.