Grand Rapids FC opened up its 2016 regular season schedule against local side Ole Soccer Club on Friday evening at Houseman Field, and from the weather to the Grand Army’s tifo to the 3-0 final score, the match could not have gone any better for the second year squad.
Five players in the starting eleven were returners from last year’s team, while the remaining six were seeing their first regular season action for the Boys in Blue. In the 11th minute, one of last year’s stalwarts, Mark Barone, opened up the scoring.
On a corner kick, winger Tyler Fischer sent an in-swinging ball to the back post for forward Joe Broekhuizen. Backpedaling, Broekhuizen headed the ball across the goal where the charging Barone leapt over a defender to nod the ball home.
“We practiced that a lot this week,” said Fischer about the set piece. “Joe was fading far post, and if he couldn’t put it on goal, he was going to put it across and Mark was right there for it.”
In the 42nd minute, Fischer, who was named Man of the Match, doubled the GRFC lead as he redirected a free kick from midfielder Lito Esquivel into the back of the net.
Ole nearly responded at the end of the first half on a set piece of their own, but the ensuing header was off the cross bar and out of play.
“We need to be a little bit more organized defensively, especially with some quick corner kicks and set pieces,” said GRFC head coach George Moni.
In the 56th minute, Ole had another strong chance on goal off a GRFC turnover, but goalkeeper Dary DeWalt came up with the save to maintain the clean sheet.
Grand Rapids all but ensured the result in the 74th minute as forward Hunter Barone tallied a goal off the bench, winning the ball in a scrum in the Ole box and firing it into the back of the net for a 3-0 GRFC lead.
The 3-0 score held through the end of the game as the Boys in Blue claimed the victory in front of 5,448 Grand Rapids soccer fans.
“We had really good training this week, so it was good for the boys to start playing,” said captain Tony Deakin. “We knew we were going to get a good crowd out tonight, but 5,000 people in our first game is unbelievable. Ole gave us a good game, it was hard fought, but I think we showed them we were comfortable on the ball and we took our chances when we had them.”
“We have really high expectations for our team this year,” commented Fischer. “We have a lot of good guys coming in, we want to possess the game and finish our chances, and I feel like we did that tonight.”
GRFC now looks ahead to next Saturday when it will host Muskegon Risers at Houseman Field.
Although Friday saw a three goal victory, the Boys in Blue will work to improve on the winning performance while also looking to incorporate new players into the squad in the upcoming week.
“We have a few more players coming in next week as well,” said Deakin. “It’s going to be competitive, we’re going to be fighting for spots and playing time, so that’s always exciting, but it keeps you motivated and keeps you ready to play.”
“This is a work in progress,” said Moni. “Having a lot of talent in the team, it forces everybody to work harder, to increase the inner competition, and when we work from the inside, we can make a difference on game days.”
Kickoff next Saturday is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.