The Mighty Oak begin their 2019 National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) campaign with a visit to a revamped Michigan Stars side, this Saturday, May 4th at Ultimate Soccer Arenas at 7PM. The game marks the kick-off of Great Lakes Conference play and a busy eight-day stretch that sees the First Round US Open Cup (USOC) match against Lansing Ignite book-ended with a pair of NPSL games.
“Obviously, every season opener is exciting,” said Rudland who returns at the helm for his fourth season as Sporting Director and Men’s Head Coach. “We’re looking forward to the early test and opportunity to start positively in conference play,” he added.
Coming off back to back NPSL Great Lakes Conference titles, Rudland’s men will hope to put their best foot forward in the early stages of the season. As players continue to finish up their collegiate campaigns, AFCAA already have a stable core of returnees in Tree City. Featuring ‘Frenchy’ Braem, Jordan Montoya, Jake Rufe and James Vaughan, AFC could deploy any of these returning members of the side. Additionally, newcomers like Bryce Nicholson (Lawrence Tech), Lukas von Lienen (Western Michigan), and Alex Alexis (Florida Atlantic) all have been able to complete successful seasons at the university level before coming to Ann Arbor to begin with AFCAA in hopes of figuring into a starting eleven.
With Stars inactive last season, you must venture back to 2017 season to find meetings between these sides. In the final match of the 2017 NPSL league season, AFCAA topped Michigan Stars 1-0 in Ann Arbor thanks to a 78th Jep Allen winner. The goal meant The Mighty Oak would finish the year undefeated at home and served as a follow-up to a 5-0 victory over Stars on the road.
Michigan Stars are coming off a win in the first round of the Michigan Milk Cup this past Sunday. Hosting Livonia City F.C., Stars needed an 88th minute winner from midfielder Michel Allou to get the win. They will venture to Flint to take on Flint City Bucks in the Milk Cup, but for now their focus is on starting off league play on the right foot. Stars are one of two teams new to the Great Lakes from 2018 to 2019. After a strong third-place finish in 2016, they dropped to a sixth-place finish in the eight-team division before their hiatus in 2018. Consistently competitive, Stars hope to return back to their positive form from three seasons ago amidst a conference where some of the key heavy-hitters have remained the same.
As a seasonal primer, Eric Rudland will be on ‘Welcome to Tree Town’ to discuss the NPSL opener as well as the USOC First Round tie and much more. You can listen to that this Thursday at AFCAnnArbor.com, or on YouTube, Spotify, Apple, or wherever else you may get your podcasts from.
AFC ANN ARBOR ROSTER