Association Football Club Ann Arbor officially kicked off their 2018 National Premier Soccer League campaign this past Saturday at Milwaukee, earning three points on the road with a 4-0 result over the Torrent.
The first of three matches in eight days went well but focus quickly shifted to preparing for the US Open Cup First Round opponent, Ocean City Nor’easters, who will travel to Michigan for Wednesday’s match at EMU’s Scicluna Field at 6PM.
Ann Arbor Head Coach & Sporting Director, Eric Rudland, knows better than anyone just how big this match is for the club.
“US Open Cup is a great platform for the club to gain recognition and for our individual players. Hosting it in our own backyard and squaring off against a top PDL side is a great opportunity that we don't take lightly. We collectively want to win the first game so we can push on to face a USL side in the second round,” he said.
Wednesday’s contest is set for 6PM at Eastern Michigan University’s Scicluna Field (see match experience details below for more info), which marks the first time The Mighty Oak have hosted a match in Ypsilanti.
“We do a lot of outreach in Ypsi and have a ton of relationships in the community including one of our favorites in the Bishop Elementary Spanish immersion program. I live down the street, graduated from EMU and care a great deal about this community so being able to play such an important match for our club at a place I love so much is extra special for me personally. And you won’t find a better natural grass surface available for rent in all of Washtenaw County so we’re grateful to Coach Scott Hall and the EMU Women’s Soccer Program to welcome us with open arms to host this match at their home pitch,” said AFC Ann Arbor Chairman, Bilal Saeed.
“Eric and his staff have done an amazing job of building a winning culture over the past couple of seasons and the players have worked hard to earn us a spot in a tournament that means so much to this sport in the US so we’re all looking forward to Wednesday to say the least,” added Saeed.
A first time opponent for The Mighty Oak, Ocean City are a team who have found some success. The PDL side known as the Nor’easters, made it to their league’s national semifinals in 2016 and they’re also no stranger to the US Open Cup. In 2017, the Nor’easters advanced to the second round before losing in PKs to Penn FC (formerly known as Harrisburg City Islanders).
If there’s one thing the two clubs have in common, it may be in the make up of the roster. Ann Arbor’s features over half of its roster from overseas from twelve different countries while the Nor’easters are about the same in terms of domestic vs international but have players from thirteen different countries. One thing is certain: the world’s game will be well represented in Ypsilanti on Wednesday evening.
Rudland commented on the opponent adding, “They are a worthy opponent no doubt. With that said we prepare for Ocean City just like any other opponent. Our scouting department is putting together as thorough of a report as possible. Obviously they don't have a lot to go off this season yet, but we can look to matches they've played in the past and build a framework of what they might look like. Also, we can look at the individual players they have on their roster, their tendencies, weaknesses, etc from their fall college seasons. So we are going through that information to make sure both our staff and players are educated to the best of our ability. And at the end of day we know we need to be tactically flexible to find solutions during the match and display a greater desire mentally during the match to succeed. Most Open Cup matches come down to those two factors.”
Bleacher seating is VERY limited and will be reserved for members, who will also need to purchase individual match tickets for Wednesday’s match, as all memberships do not include the US Open Cup admission. (Don’t forget to bring your membership card with you still)
Don’t forget fans, bring your own chair or blanket to sit on if you have it. The Main Street Hooligans will be posted up on “Hill 1” with additional standing room on Hill 2. The intimate setting for Wednesday’s match will be a great experience for those in attendance. For those that can’t be sure to tune into the stream and watch the match live.
See the map below for parking info and details.
The match will be streamed by the AFC Ann Arbor media lead by Michael Kroodsma on the call available here at ussoccer.com.
The official team sheet will be released on match day, Wednesday, May 9th.
Rudland gave some insight on what to expect personnel wise saying, “We have a few changes forecasted for Wednesday, but we will ultimately make decisions after our training session early this week. We need to see which players are fit for 90 minutes as you are only allowed 3 changes in Open Cup. Also we have some new players coming into the team this week that we want to evaluate in our team training environment and gauge their ability to break in. We feel good about two systems of play at the moment, so we will be working towards solidifying our system of play on the training pitch as well.”