Grand Rapids Football Club returned to Houseman Field for the first time in nine months on Friday evening, hosting cross-town foe Olé Soccer Club in a season-opening friendly in front of 3,415 fans. Despite going down to 10 men for the final 23 minutes, GRFC claimed a 2-1 victory propelled by a goal in each half.
From the opening whistle, the Boys in Blue held the majority of the possession, resulting in a number of early goal scoring opportunities.
The first chance came in the 11th minute as the fullbacks nearly connected for the opening score. Making a run down the right side, Peter Brown played a ball into the box that was re-directed by Caleb Postlewait but flew just wide.
In the 24th minute, Jake Love received a cross from Hunter Barone in the box but could not find the corner as his shot also slipped wide.
Grand Rapids then got on the board just inside the half-hour mark as some quick, one-touch passing on top of the box saw Postlewait set up Gabe Mateo who slotted the ball into the bottom left corner for the season-opening goal.
“They worked in from the outside, played it in and then made a few combinations,” said Mateo about the set up. “I continued my run and Caleb laid it up nicely for me right in front of goal and I slotted it away.”
After seven substitutions at the half time break, GRFC got off to a slow start in the second half. The Boys in Blue did add to the lead, though, in the 66th minute.
Receiving the ball in the box, Giuseppe Barone controlled the pass with a defender on his back and laid it off to older brother Hunter Barone who found the back of the net for the 2-0 lead.
Less than two minutes, GRFC found itself down to 10 men as Kosti Moni was shown a red card for a high boot that caught an Olé player on a 50/50 challenge.
Despite the man disadvantage, Grand Rapids still played attacking football and had solid spells of possession.
Olé SC drew to within a goal in the 85th minute as an attempted clearance by goalkeeper Dary DeWalt bounced off the back of a charging Olé attacker and into the net. Olé did not see any more opportunities during the remaining five minutes plus stoppage time, however, and GRFC closed out the 2-1 victory.
“We saw the group in the first half play more maturely, with more rhythm and good position,” said head coach George Moni. “In the second half, because we made seven subs, it effected the rhythm of the game. Overall, I’m optimistic for the future but unhappy with today.”
The team now looks forward to its first appearance in the US Open Cup on Wednesday, May 10. The squad will be traveling down to Chicago, Illinois to face Chicago FC United of the PDL in a match at Wheaton College.
“It is a short period of time and there is plenty of work to be done,” said Moni regarding preparation fo the US Open Cup match. “Obviously our expectations are very high and we want to do better than we did (tonight).”
“It is our opportunity to write history,” said Caleb Postlewait, who has experience playing in previous US Open Cups with Michigan Bucks. “GRFC has presented itself as a top level amateur team in the country in the last couple years, doing well in the NPSL last year and the year before in the amateur leagues. Now, this is our opportunity to go out and prove it.”
Wednesday’s match is scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m. Central/8 p.m. Eastern.