The Mighty Oak avenged their previous loss this season to Grand Rapids FC with a thrilling 2-0 victory on the road with minutes early on and late into the match. Despite the red card from Ben Thornton minutes into the second half, The Mighty Oak were able to defend well even down a man while also snagging a late goal to ice the game off. The win puts AFCAA in the playoff places with three games to play and means that the final two matches at home are crucial and The Mighty Oak will need all the crowd support they can get.
The first two minutes let AFC set the tone as Matt Braem found himself free on the back post on a second ball from a corner and was able to drill the ball past the keeper. Before some fans were even able to settle into their seats, The Mighty Oak had taken a 1-0 victory on the road in a venue that had frequently frustrated them in the past. After the early goal, they were able to settle back into a solid defensive block and repel any possible attacks while looking dangerous on counters as well. This would allow them to head into halftime with their one-goal lead.
The game plan for the second half would have to change almost immediately as Ben Thornton picked up a foul that earned himself a yellow card early on, then in a scrum after a foul he would pick up a second yellow for violent conduct getting sent off in the 53rd minute. Abdou Samake, fresh off his debut at the Michigan Milk Cup, would get subbed on in place of Thornton at center back and perform brilliantly.
In fact, despite going a man down, The Mighty Oak would be able to see off dangerous attacks from their home foes (primarily off dead balls) but also create a couple chances themselves. One was a brilliantly run by Will Eskay who found Yazeed Matthews in the center of the pitch, but Joe White made a stellar save to deny him of a goal. Through the ninety minutes of play, it was AFC who stood strong defensively, but the offense would get another shining moment.
A pair of subs, Andres Chalbaud and Jordan Montoya, would link up for the second and final goal in second half stoppage time. Chalbaud made the run and while he could have taken a shot himself, he composed himself after a nearly-too-heavy touch and unselfishly laid the ball off to Jordan Montoya who merely had to tap in the game-sealing goal. Braem continued to defend well also, clearing an attempt off the goal-line late in the match, and the clean sheet would be saved. The Mighty Oak would hold on and win 2-0, and they would also avenge their prior 2-0 home loss to GRFC.
Despite the red card, The Mighty Oak seemed in control defensively with ten men and were well-organized. Marlon de Freitas was a standout (other than the obvious Audi Man of the Match performance of Braem) in the back line as he won plenty of fouls to help kill the game when things were getting tight in the back line. Montoya’s goal also puts him at five and gives him sole ownership of the title of top goal scorer on the team, but it was a gritty team effort to win all three points.
AFC Ann Arbor will venture down to take on FC Indiana on July 3rd for their final home match of the season in hopes to continue this current winning streak in the NPSL. From there, they will return home on July 7th to take on Detroit City FC in a battle of the top two teams in the conference and Toledo Villa FC on July 12th in the final regular season match of the season.