The Mighty Oak traveled to Milwaukee this weekend to begin their 2018 campaign to defend the Great Lakes Conference Championship. The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) opener saw both teams down key men (Milwaukee due to suspensions and Ann Arbor to injuries).
Ann Arbor came out in a 3-5-2 with Okumu, Braem and Stapcinskas towering the backline. After possessing most the early minutes of the match and finding the final third a few times, The Mighty Oak called upon Hunter Morse to make the first save of the season. At the 15’ mark, Morse denied a Torrent attack that saw a cross redirected towards the net but a huge save kept the match scoreless.
JP Rylah (played in 2016 for The Mighty Oak) created many early chances showing his speed, touch and passing ability proving a key component in the Ann Arbor attack.
All in all, AFCAA had at least five quality scoring opportunities in the first half that came up short but the attack proved to be dangerous nonetheless.
The Torrent looked to press The Mighty Oak to begin the second half but Ann Arbor’s backline and midfield Maestro, Marc Ybarra, had other plans and broke up most Milwaukee advances.
It was in the 55’ that JP Rylah flashed up the right wing carrying the ball nearly to the endline before crossing the ball low and fast into Yuri Farkas who calmly poked the opening goal home past Milwaukee’s goalkeeper.
From there, Ann Arbor continued to dominate possession and create quality chances, but three more goals were on the way.
The 74’ minute saw Marc Ybarra (University of Michigan) volley a loose ball off an Ann Arbor corner kick into the back of the net before the keeper could even react. A class goal for Ybarra’s first club goal.
Shortly after in the 85’ minute, another piece of quality came but this time in the form of a chip from KB9. A left footed chip from 20 plus yards looked effortless for Breitmeyer as he continues to add to his total as The Mighty Oak’s all-time leading scorer.
The final goal came from Marlon Freitas, a second year player, getting his first major action for the team. Featuring and scoring in his first match of the season, Freitas will have the opportunity to make an even bigger impact for AFCAA this summer.
It was an all around team effort and grind to earn three tough road points with a combination of returning players and new players made their mark on the match.
“We had some great individual performances on Saturday in Milwaukee. Our key returners were very good on the night; Yuri, Kyle, Frenchy, Jake. It was nice to get JP back in the side after not having him in 2017, he did well in a new role for us. And we had plenty of new men step up in a big way. Marc Ybarra served as the heart beat of our midfield play, we caught a glimpse of Stanley's presence in the back-line and I thought Hunter Morse came up with a huge save for us in the first half to keep the game at nil-nil. This week we expect a number of players to step up. We will have to use a handful of different players between our two matches so it's a prime opportunity for the men to prove what they can accomplish,” said Rudland.
He added, “It feels good to kick off the 2018 campaign. We are still a new group forming and have a lot of unknowns, but to pick up 3 points on the road in the first league match is a good start for our club. The groups mentality and ability to grind was good last night. We still have a ton to work out tactically and personnel wise, but we found solutions throughout the match and displayed a willingness to stay together.”
No other Great Lakes Conference matches were played this weekend, but four matches are slated for the coming one.
Association Football Club Ann Arbor return to action this Wednesday, May 9th at 6PM for first round US Open Cup action. Ann Arbor will host the Ocean City Nor’easters at Eastern Michigan University’s Scicluna Field. The winner will advance to play the Charlotte Independence in North Carolina the following Wednesday (May 16th). Tickets are available and can be purchase online here. Seating is limited so fans are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets to sit on.
The Mighty Oak’s next NPSL match will be their league home opener at Skyline High School, Sunday May 13th, against Detroit City FC at 3PM. Tickets are available and can be purchased here.