The Mighty Oak punched their ticket to the Midwest Region Final with a decisive 1-0 victory over Cleveland SC. A physical game featuring six yellows and one red showed just how tough and resilient this Mighty Oak team can be when the challenge is presented to them.
A first half marked by four yellows and enough fouls for a full game saw AFC Ann Arbor and Cleveland SC head into halftime knotted at zero. AFC controlled the ball much of the first half with a decent chance from AZ in the fifth minute. Cleveland showed flashes, but was unable to convert on any of their opportunities in the half.
Yuri and Odhiambo had AFC’s best looks at goal in the first half. Yuri did an exceptional job possessing a long ball sent from the back line in the 27th minute to make a quick move into space to take a shot that was collected by the keeper. A little over ten minutes later Yuri had another attempt after making a quick turn on a defender. Again though, the ball couldn’t find the back of the net. In the 44th minute Yuri was at work again this time making a play for Odhiambo who’s shot was just off target of the back post.
AFC Ann Arbor came out in the second half with a renewed sense of urgency, hungry for the first goal. It didn’t take long. In the 53 minute Sercan Cihan was able to create space for himself after a nice one, two sequence with Yuri. Cihan cut towards goal, catching a Cleveland defender flatfooted, giving him enough time to send a centering ball to a streaking Serge Gamwanya who finished with a composed low, driven one-timer.
The goal, Serge’s second of the NPSL season, couldn’t have come at a more decisive moment for the club.
Cleveland SC came back with a bit of offense of their own shortly after the goal, but The Mighty Oak was able to escape the pressure without conceding. The remainder of the second half saw AFC relying on their stout defense and complete team composure to protect the 1-0 lead.
A full ninety-minute effort earns AFC Ann Arbor a spot in in the Midwest Region Final where they will face Duluth City FC. The final will be played at Huron High School at 7:30pm tomorrow, July 21. Get tickets here.