It was a perfect fall night for the beautiful game and a good cause at Fifth Third Ballpark last Friday. The Boys in Blue, back for their final match of the year, hosted the La Raza All Stars to support supporter and local soccer legend Rog Garner, who is currently fighting multiple myeloma.
GRFC got the match started with a bang as forward Joe Broekhuizen took a layoff from Elmedin Zukic and found the back of the net in the 5th minute.
In the 34th minute, Grand Rapids nearly doubled its lead as a header from Jalen Rodriguez off a corner kick went just wide.
Shortly before halftime, La Raza equalized as Tony Bugera found himself wide open on the back post for a cross and put the ball home.
In the second half, the match was dominated by GRFC. Jalen Rodriguez continued to threaten for the home side, with a shot in the 52nd minute deflected wide by the goalkeeper.
The Boys in Blue regained the lead in the 72nd minute, with Rodriguez finally finding the back of the net after a few near misses. A long ball from defender Nick Groenewold sent right back Sean Broekhuizen up the flank. A low driven cross from Broekhuizen into the box found the foot of Rodriguez who one-touched the ball into the net.
Grand Rapids rounded out the scoring in the 82nd minute as captain Noble Sullivan received a nice side-footed pass from Jeo Pantoja and slotted the ball past the keeper for the 3-1 wide which they wouldn’t relinquish.
“It was a fun night, it was what this night was supposed to be about,” said head coach Lewis Robinson. “A little bit rusty, having a group of the guys that haven’t trained much together. It was great at the end to see Noble score in the last ten minutes, I think it was in the script and the way it was supposed to go.”
“It was a wonderful showcase of the beautiful game,” said Noble Sullivan. “Obviously, it’s cancer awareness month so we are happy to play our part. The result in and of itself isn’t what really matters, it’s that we had fun and we did it for a good cause.”
“We talked about that before the game, what an important man he is for the club and for West Michigan soccer,” said Robinson about Garner. “He’s been one of our biggest supporters, so if we get an opportunity to support someone like that, and a bigger cause than that, it’s great that we can do that, and that’s the opportunity we have with the club.”