AFC Ann Arbor are thrilled to announce Stephen Turnbull as the first player set to join The Mighty Oak for the 2019 season. Turnbull will be joining AFCAA for his second season, returning after a successful 2018 campaign last season. The Holtsville, New York, native plays his collegiate soccer at Stony Brook University, where he played with fellow AFCAA alumni Serge Gamwanya and Martieon ‘Moco’ Watson.
Turnbull said on the upcoming season, “I am extremely excited to return to Ann Arbor this season. I felt last season towards the end I was finally getting into the mix and I was able to have an impact, which is something I would like to strive for from day one.” Indeed Turnbull, the right back, was not the starter for AFC right away, but as the season went on, Turnbull proved his value. Eventually, the defender played his way into the starting eleven where he became a staple at right back.
Turnbull noted last season’s home bout with Grand Rapids FC as a turning point for himself at the club, saying, “I wasn’t set to start that match but…I was able to start that match and record my first assist for AFCAA.” When speaking of his favorite moments, while giving that one as an individual memory, one for the team as a whole stood out for him, “I would say…winning the league at our home field. Seeing how much it meant to everyone around me was so amazing and made me really feel a part of something special.”
The passion he speaks of is evident when talking about what why he was so excited to return back to The Mighty Oak, “This past summer gave me a home-like feeling from day one, and that’s something that’s very difficult to find.” Turnbull continued, praising the staff who made his time last season “even more special than it already [was]” while also crediting others saying, “The people surrounding the club are who make it so amazing, so when choosing to come back it was a no-brainer.”
When talking about his importance, head coach Eric Rudland made it clear that the feeling of excitement in Turnbull returning is mutual among club and player. “Stephen was an integral member of our backline in 2018. Anytime you can bring back a man who played a key role in the team's success it helps set up the group and the individual player for success.” Turnbull’s own personal growth is key to himself too, as he is excited to get an opportunity to return and continue to showcase his skills at the NPSL level. Turnbull said, “This summer season I am looking for the ability to get in and play as many minutes as possible.” With his future, Turnbull wants to play at the professional level, and the club, he made clear, gives him a great opportunity to play for an audience that could help push him forward.
The personality fit is apparent with Turnbull and AFCAA, but the fit within the operating style of the club is a match as well. Rudland said about the first signee for The Mighty Oak, “He fits our system and style of play really well as an attacking outside back. He came into our group last year and battled day in and day out to win a spot, so our hope is that he can re-enter our environment and be at a high level right away.”
When discussing his style of play, Turnbull had a firm grasp on what makes him operate so well in his side’s line of defense, “As a right back I try to be as solid, and dangerous, as possible. A lot of teams don’t expect right backs to have a big impact, but I feel that having an outside back that is dangerous on both sides of the ball is key.” Indeed, as AFC fans saw on plenty occasions, many-a-time would play come from the wings and result in goals or chances through open play as a result of full back play. Within both the modern game of football and The Mighty Oak as a club, full back possesses plenty of importance within the game.
Turnbull’s game possesses plenty of strengths. When asked to point out some of those that he brings to the table, he had multiple in mind, “[They] are my ability to make runs up the sideline in support of my midfielders, and my ability to beat players off-the-dribble in dangerous areas. Creating 2v1 situations on the outside is my favorite when I’m attacking, and my least favorite when defending!” Finally, Turnbull concluded, nothing comes without hard work, as he noted by saying, “I never stop working and I always give it 100%. I think the coaching staff enjoys that aspect about players so that’s what I bring every day.”
Looking forward to the season, Turnbull has his own goals both personally and as a member of The Mighty Oak. As touched upon, personally, he hopes that this season will allow him to continue to give him great opportunities to look ahead to playing at the professional level. As a team though, he says, “I want to win the regional championship because last season we were right there and just didn’t quite get it, so I feel this year we can win it and go on to fight for the national championship.” With Turnbull returning in the blue and white, those lofty goals are surely that much more obtainable.