The third season in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) Great Lakes Conference is off to another great start for AFC Ann Arbor as they enter their third league match of the season this Sunday at FC Indiana. Although it is very early in the campaign, Ann Arbor are top of the table in the Great Lakes with 6 points (2-0-0). Sunday will be a great chance to pick up 3 more points for Eric Rudland and team as they complete the first double-match weekend of the season.
Coach Rudland is pleased with the effort of his men so far but continues to stay the course in terms of his approach to each match.
“Everything right now, and always, is about moving forward. So we want to build off our NPSL match outing last weekend. There were some bright spots in our last performance and plenty of things we need to improve on. We've been working in training to make progress tactically and getting players into the right spots in the team system. It's a work in progress so Sunday will be another very important step in that process,” said Rudland.
Midfielder Henry Ramirez, new to Ann Arbor for 2018, will be facing his former club, a side he is very familiar with as he lead them through their inaugural NPSL season. Henry, along with a handful of other players, arrived to training less than two weeks ago, so each training session has been an opportunity to create more chemistry between the players.
Expect to see a similar lineup to Sunday’s match vs Detroit City FC with some small potential changes.
“Sunday we expect to make a few changes personnel wise to the team who played this past week. Some changes will be make by default due to player availability and other changes will be tactical,” commented Rudland.
Ann Arbor is two matches into Great Lakes Conference play and have yet to concede a goal. The defensive efforts have been an all around team effort and the depth The Mighty Oak have in the backline should equate to continued success in stopping other teams from scoring.
The match is set for a 2PM kick (EST) and will be live streamed from FC Indiana's Facebook Page.
FC Indiana are also playing a double match weekend having lost to Grand Rapids FC Friday Night, 0-4. This may cause some heavy legs for the men in red Sunday as the club is expected to play a similar roster to the one that dressed on Friday.
FC Indiana were new to the conference (and league) in 2017, so The Mighty Oak have only played the Lafayette based side twice, each of which resulted in 3 points for Ann Arbor. They can tell you one thing that stands out about the Lions home pitch. It’s short. Very short.
Knowing this going into Sunday has allowed Coach Rudland and team prepare accordingly, having spent some time in training this week addressing the adjustments that need to be made because of the lack of length.
“The pitch is very short. It changed our tactical approach last year both with and without the ball and we expect the same to be true this year. Every match is about exposing space and the opponents weaknesses so we have to look at the available pockets we have to play in, which always differ per game, and pin-point where we can have success with the ball,” added Rudland.
On top of the size, The Mighty Oak will be back on a natural grass surface tomorrow. When Rudland was asked about the back and forth between grass and turf he said, “The continual surface change actually is tough on players. We're not making excuses because we must acclimate, but turf and grass are miles apart in how they play. The pre match warm-up is critical in that players get comfortable on the surface..gauging the weight of their pass, the texture of balls flighted, and the distance of first touches. We also try to train the day before each match on a similar surface to help prepare the players both technically and mentally. For instance, this Saturday we will try to train on natural grass in preparation for Sunday. In a perfect world we would always train and play on a well manicured natural surface, but this is not the reality to football at our level so we must accommodate and remain flexible.”
Click here for roster vs FC Indiana