Grand Rapids FC opened up the home portion of its NPSL schedule on Sunday evening, hosting the Milwaukee Torrent at Houseman Field. Despite allowing a pair of goals within the opening 11 minutes, GRFC netted three in the second half to earn a come-from-behind 3-2 victory.
In the first half, Milwaukee came out with a high press, and in the 9th minute, grabbed the opening goal. After earning a free kick, the ensuing ball played in by Milwaukee was redirected by Andrew Wiedabach into the net as the visitors took a 1-0 lead.
In the 11th minute, the lead doubled as Nemanja Medic hit a turning shot in the box that found the back of the net for the second goal of the match.
Milwaukee continued to control the tempo, and at halftime, the match remained at 2-0. Then, after the break, Grand Rapids FC made a few substitutions and a tactical change that shifted the momentum in the match.
Among a group of four substitutions were GRFC veterans Noble Sullivan and Nick Abdoo. Playing as wingers, Sullivan and Abdoo began to wreak havoc against the Milwaukee defense.
“Recognizing the shape of Milwaukee’s unit, we switched into a 3-5-2, brought on two forwards, and we switched the wing backs, they were the ones that changed the game,” said head coach George Moni. “The substitutions – with Noble contributing on the first goal and Nick Abdoo scoring the other one – were a handful for the opposition to manage.”
The first breakthrough for the Boys in Blue came in the 56th minute. A long pass from Peter Brown sent Sullivan on a run up the left side. After continuing his run into the box, a step over from Sullivan created just enough space to send a cross into the box that was tapped in by Joe Broekhuizen to bring the score to 2-1.
Minutes later, Abdoo scored the equalizer from a tight angle as a long throw-in from Trent Vegter bounced through the box and to the feet of Abdoo who ripped the shot into the roof of the net.
“We regrouped in the second half, had a good pep talk, came out with the wind and switched up the formation,” said midfielder Greg Timmer. “We just started knocking it around and putting the pressure on them in the second half with the wind, and that’s how we got our three goals.”
Grand Rapids scored the third goal in the 86th minute to complete the comeback. A flick over the top of the defense from Elmedin Zukic was just past the outstretched foot of a Torrent defender, and falling at the feet of Sullivan, was slotted into the bottom left corner of the net for the match-winning goal.
“Elmo can find you with his eyes closed, so I knew that I had to make a positive run,” said Sullivan, who was named man of the match. “The ball came and I got good contact with it and went and celebrated.”
The win gives GRFC four points in NPSL play for the weekend after the Boys in Blue also earned a 1-1 draw away at Michigan Stars on Friday evening. Grand Rapids looks forward to two more matches over the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend, hosting Michigan Stars on Friday and traveling to AFC Ann Arbor on Monday.
“This is just the beginning of the season, we haven’t reached our peak yet,” said Moni. “We’ve gone through training sessions and we’re preparing everybody. I’m very optimistic, and the optimism comes from the unit, from the quality of players that we have here.
“We know Michigan Stars now, we’ll prepare a little bit tactically to manage the game situations there, and then we have some information about Ann Arbor, so we’ll do a lot of preparation tactically, physically, and technically in the next two or three days.”
Friday night’s match against Michigan Stars is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Houseman Field, while Monday’s game in Ann Arbor is a 1:00 p.m. start.