ALLENDALE – With another winter come and gone and spring weather finally arriving in West Michigan, Friday evening provided the perfect setting for Grand Rapids Football Club’s first scrimmage of the new season. And, much like it did in the inaugural campaign, year two began on the campus of Grand Valley State University as GRFC faced the Lakers’ club soccer team.
In a game that saw stingy defenses on both sides, the Boys in Blue defeated Grand Valley 2-0.
Despite the lack of outdoor training sessions for GRFC, the visitors did get on the board quickly as a pair of returning players connected in the fifth minute. Collecting the ball off a broken corner kick, midfielder Lito Esquivel crossed it into defender Sean Broekhuizen at the top of the six, who then directed the ball into the back of the net for the opening goal.
The goal was one of the few chances Grand Rapids had in the first half, however.
“We were a little bit rusty, a few of us haven’t played for a few months,” said captain Tony Deakin. “It was good to get back out on the field and play a little bit, we started out a bit slow. Fair play to Grand Valley, they did a good job, they sat in and made it hard for us to play.”
On the other end of the pitch, Grand Rapids played strong defensively. Grand Valley had very few opportunities of its own thanks to cohesive play from the Grand Rapids back line and keeper Dary DeWalt.
After the halftime break, GRFC again found the back of the net early in the period, this time within seconds.
Forward Joe Broekhuizen, in his first game in Grand Rapids blue, played a ball ahead to forward Tyler Fischer who outran his defender then slotted the ball past the keeper and into the bottom right corner of the net to double the GRFC lead.
The two goal advantage is all Grand Rapids would need to claim the win. Happy with the victory, coaching staff and players alike did also realize there were improvements to be made.
“The reason we came here was to identify our strengths and weaknesses, to recognize what we needed to work on, and the game exposed a lot of things that I was worried about,” said head coach George Moni. “One of the things we need to work on is to continue to develop the fitness of the players.”
Grand Rapids did play with a small roster, only dressing 15 players for the match.
“We gave some players the night off, so we’re being very cautious (with potential injuries),” said Moni. “We’re trying to develop a training program that can help everybody to get better and get fitter.”
The team was also lacking a number of collegiate players that have yet to finish up their academic years.
“Obviously the full squad is not here yet, so when those guys come in there will be a lot more competition for spots, me included,” said Deakin. “It should be a fun season. We are excited to get going again, and we start up again next week when we play Hope.” GRFC returns to the pitch next Friday, April 22, this time traveling farther west to the campus of Hope College in Holland. The Boys in Blue will face the Flying Dutchmen with first kick scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
“Coming to Grand Valley was a great opportunity for the players to start and we’re going to build from here,” said Moni. “It was a great environment, we had a lot of fans showing up, the weather was
awesome, so we are happy to start.”