HOLLAND – Grand Rapids FC continued its preseason schedule with a match against Hope College on Friday evening at the state-of-the-art Van Andel Soccer Stadium. With only two weeks remaining until
its official season opener, GRFC identified a number of areas of play that will require improvement as the visitors dropped a 1-0 decision to the host Flying Dutchmen.
In the opening minutes, it was apparent that Grand Rapids was going to see a majority of the ball throughout the game. The Boys in Blue were comfortable connecting passes and making runs forward, but couldn’t find the final pass in the offensive third to place a strong chance on frame.
Hope, meanwhile, sat back, packed players in behind the ball and played for the counter-attack. In the 25th minute, the strategy proved worthwhile for the Flying Dutchmen as a breakaway for forward David White resulted in a goal and a 1-0 lead to the hosts.
“I don’t think Hope had a lot of chances because they defended with a lot of numbers,” said GRFC head coach George Moni. “They based their game strategy on a counter-attacking situation, and when we over-committed too many players we recognized we were unable, in certain situations, to defend properly.”
GRFC nearly returned the favor a minute later, but a shot from forward Domenic Barone was parried wide by the Hope keeper.
Another opportunity presented itself to Grand Rapids in the 44th minute as midfielder Greg Timmer created enough space for a shot from the top of the box, but the ensuing kick sent the ball just over the crossbar.
In the second half, the Blues again saw a majority of possession, but it was Hope creating the more dangerous opportunity. The Flying Dutchmen nearly saw a 61st minute shot double their lead, but the ball ricocheted off the post and was cleared by Grand Rapids.
Despite the best efforts from the Boys in Blue over the remaining half hour, Hope held on to the 1-0 advantage until the final whistle blew.
“Opportunities came, we retained a lot of possession of the ball, but at the end of the day, they packed a lot of numbers in front of the goal,” said Moni. “It was difficult for our team to find any room for penetration, so that is something we need to work on.”
GRFC continues to work new players into the squad every week to determine how best the pieces will fit.
“We’re trying to give everybody a chance to show themselves, because these are prep games, and to identify talent and the holes players could fit in the future,” commented Moni.
Still, there is no doubt that first and foremost, the team is looking for results.
“As you know, our expectations are very high, and with what we’ve built and developed so far, we are under a microscope, to see what we are going to do,” said Moni. “The expectations of every player are higher. We wanted to play a quality game, but obviously, we wanted to get a better result.”
GRFC’s final preseason tune-up will be played next Friday against Aquinas College. The Blues and Saints will face off at Aquinas College with first kick set for 7:00 p.m.