AFC Ann Arbor are pleased to announce James Vaughan’s return to The Mighty Oak. The 2019 season will mark the Englishman’s third in blue and white as he spent 2016 and 2017 with the club. The Bexhill native has had a storied career with AFCAA and will look to add to it in this upcoming season. A starter in both his seasons with The Mighty Oak under Eric Rudland, he scored five goals and four assists through a midfield position in a 2017 campaign that saw him win Team MVP. He was also a four-year starter at Northwood, culminating in a 2017-18 senior campaign that saw him score eight goals and chip in six assists over seventeen games, good enough for a spot on the Division-II All-Midwest Region Team.
“Having left for a year to pursue other options I definitely realized that the Ann Arbor franchise and the community behind it is high above the rest,” said the returnee. “With a family feel to the club I cannot wait to be a part of it once again.” His return is cause for plenty of celebration for fans and staff alike. Rudland called Vaughan a “welcome addition” to an already solid squad. His statement that the ever-consistent midfielder has only continued to progress since being named Team MVP in 2017 is even more reason for optimism for fans of The Mighty Oak.
As a player, fans may be familiar with Vaughan as a whole, Rudland offers some glowing praise as his coach. He says that he expects, “big things from him as a central connector in our midfield line.” When it comes to traits that make him so suited for this job, Rudland offers these, “He has great vision, awareness and is really proficient in build-up play. He fits our system and style of play really well and we are keen to get him into the squad.” Make no mistake, he is a superb individual piece that fits well into the AFCAA team puzzle as a whole.
When asked what makes him so successful, though, Vaughan, ever the team player, attributes success at the NPSL level to the collective. “I think the team chemistry is one of the biggest things for me as to why I have had some success at the club,” he tells AFC. He continued, “You are around these boys for 3-4 months and by having the great relationships I do has enabled me to be confident in my abilities.” Also speaking on the necessity of trust, he says, “Trusting one another is a vital part of a team’s success and Coach Rudland's teams always have this in abundance.”
AFCAA as a whole are represented by many around and with the club as a ‘family.’ Vaughan truly represents the statement that once one is a member of the AFCAA Family, they are always a member. Despite not being a member of the squad last season, the midfielder said, “Even over the last year I have kept in contact with Eric and his coaching staff as well as players I have played with over my two-year stint at the club.” Vaughan showed his commitment to remaining loyal to the club both by words (with teammates and coaches) as well as actions. He stated, “I would come back to watch games whenever I could because they club makes you feel like you are always a part of the AFCAA Family.” Fans of the club will be happy that instead of simply watching the games, he is back to being a part of them for the side.
Another connection Vaughan has still had with the region, and specifically Rudland, is through the Midwest Pro Soccer Combine. Vaughan participated in both the 2017 and 2018 combines, and he joins Jake Rufe, his ex-teammate in 2016 and 2017 at AFC, and Henry Ramirez, as players set to join the club following the 2018 installment of the event. On the experience as a whole, Vaughan called it “a great experience,” to which he elaborated on, saying, “…putting yourself in a position to where you can compete with the top talent from around the country is a great way of understanding where your game is at and what you need to do in order to reach the next level.” With a glowing recommendation of it as a whole, it is clear that the combine has allowed him greater knowledge of his ability as a player in general.
For Vaughan, with so many special moments with the club, it is hard to pick just one moment that he loves the most. If he has to choose, Vaughan says, “…it would be the win over Dayton in the Regional Semi Final game back in 2017.” When asked why, he recalls, “This being a huge day for the club, I think all the boys wanted to give everything they had to the cause. I can remember the day like it was yesterday…a scorching day with a midafternoon kick off.” He added about the victory in extra time, “I think everyone at the club celebrate like we had won the world cup!” With Vaughan returning to the eleven, the thought, and hope, for fans is that he will help give more moments like that to remember.