The 2018 campaign is off to a hot start for The Mighty Oak as they’ve secured their position atop the Great Lakes Conference table just three matches in. AFC Ann Arbor has earned 9 points (out of a possible 9) posting a 3-0-0 record with defeats at Milwaukee, vs Detroit and at Indiana.
Ann Arbor will look to continue their impressive play as they travel to Kalamazoo Friday evening the fourth Great Lakes Conference match of the season for a 7PM kickoff.
Looking at the numbers, The Mighty Oak are off to a more than impressive start scoring 11 goals for and having yet to allow a single goal slip past the keeper in league play. Things have definitely been clicking both offensively and defensively, but Coach Eric Rudland and team are continuing to build chemistry and work hard day in and day out at training to fine tune their tactics.
Yuri Farkas leads the way tallying five goals in just three matches with the remaining six goals coming from six different scorers. This diversity in The Mighty Oak attack has kept defenders guessing where the attack will come from with wingers JP Rylah, Kyle Breitmeyer, Azaad Liadi and Chris Odhiambo all posing a serious threat for opposing defenses.
Ann Arbor’s defense has matched, if not exceeded, the offensive production of the team. Captain Matthieu “Frenchy” Braem anchors the backline with support from one of the early standouts of the season, Stanley Okumu. The Kenyan center back has shown his ability to make big plays, drop long balls to wingers feet in stride and absolutely shut down any attack coming his way.
"We talk about defending as a unit, all 11 players. So our back line and our goalkeeper have been very good for us thus far, but clean sheets really come down to a collective team effort. We’re picking good pressing moments, we’re playing with the Highline and we’re on our front foot to regain possession as quickly as possible. Our Player’s have clear indications that this is an expectation in the way that we want to play," said Head Coach Eric Rudland.
The depth this roster has shown early should definitely worry other teams, with twenty-four players having appeared for Ann Arbor in NPSL play through three matches. With Henry Ramirez, Marc Ybarra, Caio, Jake Rosen and Michael Shaikly all putting in solid shift in the middle of the pitch, and Mike Novotny and Hunter Morse both earning clean sheets, Ann Arbor have proven their system strong being able to use so many different players so early. All great signs for The Mighty Oak.
"We believe that we have a deep roster and good positional balance, which allows us to create a rotation of players. We’re always looking at ways to keep our men sharp and performing at their maximum capacity. So with the double weekend this weekend and the following two weekends, three weekends in a row, we’re going to have to continue to rotate players to keep them fresh and sharp," added Rudland.
Although AFC have shown many signs of brilliance early this season, any road league match is a test for the visiting side. Ann Arbor will look to steal another three points and return from Mayors Riverfront Stadium back home ready to take on Oakland County FC in the second leg of the Michigan Milk Cup on Memorial Day.
Kalamazoo will put up an incredible fight Friday night as they have yet to get one result against Ann Arbor in 4 tries (over 2 seasons). On top of that, a draw will keep them unbeaten in league play three matches in, something the Kalamazoo side has never done.
This past Sunday, they hosted an improved and complete Milwaukee side and went down 2-0 before storming back to tie things up and secure their fourth point of the season. Janum Sailor and Paul Liagre lead the attack for Kalamazoo who have a goal differential of plus four coming into Friday’s matchup.
“Kalamazoo has been on a run of good results. We prepare for them just as we do every other opponent. We respect them for the qualities they have, and their previous results. Also they Will be at home, which we have to respect as well. With that said our focus has been primarily on what we need to do to get a result. How we want to play with and without the ball, and making sure that we’re working hard to get our game plan right for the match. Our players have responded well in training this week, so we are looking forward to the away challenge tomorrow night,” said Rudland.
Note: The match will not be streamed so follow along on Twitter for updates or make the trip to Kalamazoo and join the growing traveling supporters of The Mighty Oak. Get tickets here.
Click here for the match day roster vs Kalamazoo FC