The memory of the 2017 Midwest Region Final is something Ann Arbor supporters will never forget. The heartbreaking game winner by Detroit City’s Tyrone Mondi came in stoppage time in dramatic fashion. Mainly because of the part we all remember the most: playing with only 10 men, down 2-0 and fighting and clawing back to level things up late in the match.
When that chapter had closed and the 2018 campaign had begun, only seven players from that roster would return, starting a new chapter in the southeast Michigan rivalry (Ann Arbor leads the all time series 3-1-2). The two sides met in Ann Arbor back on May 13th and spent all 90 minutes of regulation deadlocked at zero; until Alec Lasinski drew a foul on the left wing about thirty yards out, which set up Jake Rosen’s beauty of a ball into the box finding the leaping Martieon Watson to score the game-winning goal in stoppage time.
It was an electric atmosphere after that goal and a thrilling way to end the first NPSL match at the new home venue, Skyline High School. But the work was just beginning for AFC as it was only their second league match of the season.
Now, through seven matches in Great Lakes play, The Mighty Oak remain unbeaten (5-0-2) and atop the conference table with 17 points.
With only five NPSL regular season matches remaining, each point becomes crucial to secure first place and ensure a berth to the postseason. Take away the history between these two clubs and tomorrow’s match remains just as important because of the implications it will have on who makes the playoffs.
“I think it’s become clear that the Great Lakes is competitive this year, there’s a lot a parity and everyone across the league has dropped points. We’re still in a position where we control our own destiny, and we want to keep it that way, so that makes tomorrow’s match important,” said Rudland.
When it comes to controlling their own destiny, Rudland knows they need to improve on finishing and capitalizing on the numerous chances being created. In both draws this season, Ann Arbor has not lacked scoring chances but couldn’t find the go-ahead in either match.
“If we’re not creating chances, that comes down to our system and our approach, and if that’s the case we need to change things tactically . I don’t think that’s the case because we are creating chances, we’re just not capitalizing on them. I think we saw that in the Kalamazoo game a few weeks back and obviously again last night vs Milwaukee. We’re talking with our finishers about focusing on the next play, staying positive and paying attention to the details so our quality can increase in front of goal. We still feel really good about all of our men and I believe that our attacking players will continue to create & capitalize for us,” added Rudland.
In similar fashion to Ann Arbor, Detroit is coming off a Friday night 1-1 draw, and both teams feel as if points were left on the table. Coach Ben Pirmann expressed his concerns about starting off sluggishly and knows that if his team can bring 90 minutes of intensity and passion to the pitch that they’ll be a tough side to defeat.
Both sides have seen changes to personnel since the first meeting and are playing the second part of a two match weekend.
“I know our team has changed a bit since we saw One another back in early May, and it looks like they have changed as well. So we have to take different personnel into consideration and look to create the right match ups,” said Rudland.