AFC Ann Arbor are glad to announce the return of Jose ‘Tito’ Jimenez to the AFCAA Family for his second season in 2019. Jimenez, better known as Tito, is a much-loved keeper who serves a vital piece of the club’s composition. A mainstay at practices and someone who has seen game action as well, Tito has continued to serve as a massively important presence in training to start the 2019 season, serving as the starting keeper for the team’s first two closed door scrimmages.
Tito’s story as a member of the club shows just how influential the side can be on not just the fans of the club but the players as well. “The year I attended Schoolcraft I ended up playing for the soccer team there, which is where I met and played with Jake Rosen…and was coached there by Jeff Shuk,” explained Jimenez. Following that year, he unfortunately encountered road blocks that would not give him the opportunity to go back to Schoolcraft. That is where the AFC connections came in. “Me and coach Shuk held a really good friendship and here and there I would train with him and I would help him coach the goalkeepers with the Northville Rush.”
He explained to AFCAA that “by doing that I was always doing and being around what I loved the most [which] was goalkeeping and soccer” but things would only pick up from there. Jimenez would say, “One day I asked Shuk if we could schedule days to do some goalkeeper training because I was just tired of being an average player and playing in non-competitive leagues.” Shuk obliged and invited the keeper out to a training session. “I could honestly say that my skill level got so much better,” Jimenez said of his experiences in these training sessions.
Since that moment, Jimenez remained an important member of the squad, training with Shuk and the fellow goalkeepers day-in and day-out. He assessed the situation and said, “Honestly, if it wasn’t for Shuk and the AFC staff [I don’t know] if I’d still be playing soccer, but here I am.” He continued to show gratitude for the coaching staff as he added, “Coach Rudland let me stay and practice and eventually trusted me enough to give me some playing time and I thank him and Shuk for believing in me when sometimes I wouldn’t even believe in myself.”
To Jimenez, this truly is a family, not just a club. His driving forces for his continued hard work are not just for himself to improve, but also out of love for the club itself. He also is determined to show others, including kids playing the game, that despite not having the resources to play in travel leagues, “I can still compete with such high-quality players this club has and the NPSL.”
On the keeper’s return, Eric Rudland said, “We are really happy to have Tito back with us. He came through in the clutch for us last year and brought a lot of value to the culture of our team.” He added that, “We are hopeful that he can be just as important for us this year.” Jimenez’s highlight of his time with the team is, indeed, one of those crucial moments where he came up big in the clutch.
Jimenez shared with AFCAA that his favorite moment was the day before a Michigan Milk Cup tie with Oakland County FC. The Mighty Oak had trumped OCFC 2-0 away, and were looking to hold on to their aggregate lead at home. Rudland informed Jimenez that he would be in line for the start in net in what he described as “one of the happiest moments of my life” because he would be able to represent The Mighty Oak. “To finally have the trust of Eric to be in the starting XI,” said Jimenez, “was such an amazing feeling that my hard work was being rewarded.” AFC would win that day 2-1, with Jimenez only getting beat by a well-taken penalty kick once the tie was already decided.
Jimenez’s favorite aspect of the club is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the atmosphere surrounding the organization. “It’s such a professional environment and a good vibe atmosphere that everybody is looking to better themselves professionally on and off the field,” said Jimenez. Within this professional environment, Jimenez says that this season, "I [look] forward to [working] twice as hard to not only better myself but to show [people] that if you work hard for what you want, you can achieve anything.”
About AFC Ann Arbor
Founded in 2014, Association Football Club Ann Arbor launched it’s men’s semi-pro team in 2015 and has competed in the NPSL since 2016. Led by Head Coach & Sporting Director, Eric Rudland, the team has found great success winning back to back Great Lakes Championships (‘17 & ‘18) and earning US Open Cup bids three straight years (2017-2019). In October 2018, the club announced the launch of the women’s side, who will be skippered by Andy “Pritch” Pritchard in their inaugural season of the United Women’s Soccer national league. Owned and operated by a group of local soccer fans and entrepreneurs, AFC Ann Arbor has become a fixture in the greater Ann Arbor community.