GRFC Gets Two Results This Past Weekend
The “Boys in Blue” go 1-0-1 Against In-State Opponents
Grand Rapids FC showed its depth and determination this past weekend, playing a pair of tough games on back-to-back nights and earning a win and a draw.
The Boys in Blue traveled to Ann Arbor on Friday night, fighting against in-league foes AFC Ann Arbor to a 0-0 draw, then returned to Houseman Field on Saturday to defeat NPSL opponent Lansing United 4-1.
Friday night’s Great Lakes Premier League matchup saw both teams play strong defense. GRFC keeper Chase Rau made a number of key saves to keep the visitors in the contest at Holloway Field, and behind stout defending, the Blues earned an away point.
Returning home on Saturday, GRFC played Lansing United in a game of two halves. The Blues were tied with the visiting NPSL-side 1-1 at the half before three second half goals saw the hosts cruise to the 4-1 win.
Lansing United scored the first goal of the game in the 17th minute, holding the majority of possession up to that point. Grand Rapids FC responded in the 37th minute, as a shot taken by Ahmad Bah took a fortuitous deflection into the back of the net. The game remained tied through the end of the opening period.
The game saw a line-up containing a number of new players for GRFC. Add to that a number of first half substitutions, and head coach George Moni saw a reason for the slow start.
“When you change a lot, you don’t find rhythm, you don’t find chemistry,” said Moni. “In the first 20 minutes it was difficult for us, we were a little bit off the ball, there was no communication, no chemistry between players.”
The team then began possessing more at the start of the second half. In the 49th minute, GRFC found the breakthrough it needed as winger Tyler Fischer was taken down in the box, earning a penalty kick. Stepping up the spot was GRFC’s leading scorer Domenic Barone, who calmly placed the ball into the left side of the net for a 2-1 lead.
Minutes later, Barone found Nick Abdoo streaking up the right wing. Beating a defender, Abdoo’s ensuing shot was too much for the Lansing keeper to handle as the ball crossed the line before a visiting defender could clear it away, giving GRFC an insurance goal.
“We came out and put them away right at the beginning of the second half, just controlled and possessed the second half and had a lot of opportunities,” said Abdoo. “I think we all played well and possessed well.”
Before final time, the Blues added one more goal from Mark Barone. Receiving a throw-in from his twin, Domenic, in the Lansing penalty area, Mark Barone shielded the ball from one United defender then slotted the ball past the charging keeper for the 4-1 lead.
All in all, GRFC scored all four of its goals unanswered, thanks mostly to the strong possession in the midfield after the slow start.
“What I’m told by the coach is to go in there and be dynamic, move the ball around, demand the ball at my feet, play to my strengths,” said midfielder Lito Esquivel, who came in as a substitute at the end of the first half. “I’m glad that when I was in there I was able to make some sort of impact and make the team look better.”
“It was all about controlling the middle of the field, that is what we didn’t do in the first half and it was tough to get our flank play going,” said Abdoo, who also came in as a substitute and played in both weekend contests. “When you control the middle, you control the game, so we definitely got that going in the second half and it helped us and we put it away.”
The team now looks forward to two straight games against league-leading RWB Adria: at Houseman Field on July 3, then away at the Kroc Center on July 12. While RWB Adria has outscored opponents 15-3 in its four league games thus far*, Coach Moni is confident in his team’s ability in the upcoming contests given the improvements of the first year squad.
“I’m very pleased that the guys are improving every week,” said Moni. “You can see in the way they are playing, the speed of play is getting better, and the defense in transition was done extremely well in the later parts of the game. We have a lot of fitness in our legs to make the defensive transition and follow up with our duties on the field.”
Friday’s league tie against AFC Ann Arbor sees Grand Rapids FC in fourth in the league table midway through its eight-game GLPL schedule, one point behind AFC Ann Arbor but with two games in hand. Oakland United sits two points above GRFC with one extra game played, while RWB Adria is comfortably on top with 12 points, seven points above the Boys in Blue and five points ahead of Oakland. Croatian Eagles currently have two points in five games played.
*RWB Adria has played in five league contests, although its match versus Oakland United in which RWB Adria was leading 1-0 was rained out. A final decision regarding the outcome of this game has yet to be made by GLPL officials.