Grand Rapids FC welcomed AFC Ann Arbor to Houseman Field in the season finale on Friday evening. Despite a goal in the opening two minutes for the Boys in Blue, two quick strikes in the second half from Ann Arbor allowed the the visitors to come away with a 2-1 win.
Grand Rapids got off to a quick start as 62 seconds into the match, the Boys in Blue found the back of the net. On a defensive miscommunication, an Ann Arbor defender allowed the ball to roll past him right to Kosti Moni, who poked it between two more defenders to Anthony Bowie who found the bottom right corner of the net.
AFC Ann Arbor nearly leveled the score in the 14th minute, but a save from goalkeeper Noah Fazekas and an important clearance from defender Tarwo Konbloa kept Grand Rapids ahead.
The Boys in Blue nearly added a goal late in the half as both Jalen Rodriguez and Trent Vegter made runs forward from their defensive positions, but shots from each were just off the mark.
In the second half, a pair of goals for AFC Ann Arbor swung the momentum of the match. In the 54th minute, a free kick for the visitors was headed in by Ben Thorton.
Just a minute later, a run down the left side resulted in a dangerous cross to the center of the box that was hit home by Yuri Farkas.
AFC Ann Arbor continued to press, and if not for a few huge saves from Fazekas, Grand Rapids could have found itself behind by more than one.
Fazekas’s play allowed GRFC to stay in the match, and the Boys in Blue nearly equalized on two occasions. In the 80th minute, a turning shot from substitute Scott Doney slipped past the opposing keeper but bounced off the right post and was cleared by the defense.
Minutes later, Doney met a corner kick in the air, but his header slipped just wide.
Unfortunately for Grand Rapids FC, they could not find the equalizing goal, and AFC Ann Arbor downed the home side 2-1 to claim the win.
“This is the beauty of soccer, sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t get what you want,” said head coach George Moni. “We had a good start, then Ann Arbor put some pressure on us, and for a few moments in the second half, we lost focus. It changed the momentum, and although the boys played well afterward and we pressed and created a lot of opportunities, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t.”
Grand Rapids FC finishes the season with a 6-2-6 record. Depending on a Lansing United result on Sunday, the Boys in Blue finish either third or fourth in the Great Lakes West conference.
“Based on our expectations, it’s been a difficult season,” said Moni. “We set high expectations for ourselves based on what we achieved and accomplished last year, and we’re disappointed because we wanted to be top of the league.”
“I’m nothing but grateful and thankful to the players,” said Moni. “For their sacrifices, for their travels, for taking off work to be with us – nothing but gratitude for the players.”