CASCADE TOWNSHIP – A first-half brace from forward Domenic Barone proved to be the difference between Grand Rapids FC and Aquinas College at MVP Fieldhouse on a gorgeous Friday afternoon. GRFC, playing in its final exhibition match, held the opposing Saints off the scoresheet to claim a 2-0 win.

“I thought we did well in the first half, we created a lot of opportunities and chances and the shape of the team was better,” said GRFC head coach George Moni. “We played a 3-5-2 for the first half. Knowing the opposition was playing a 4-5-1, they had less attacking power so we decided to go and operate more on the flank and we tried to exploit their flat line of defending and we scored two goals.”

The Blues tallied the first goal of the contest just five minutes in as the Barone brothers connected for a very nice opener. A long pass from the back line off the foot of Mark found its way into the Aquinas box, where Domenic settled and finished.

Domenic then netted his second in the 28th minute, receiving a pass from strike partner Ahmad Bah and depositing the ball into the net for the 2-0 GRFC lead.

In the second half, chances were also available for the Blues, but the finishing not quite there.

“We had opportunities to finish the game off, but we didn’t finish those chances,” said midfielder AJ Dufendach. “And against a young team that was eager to prove something in front of the hundreds of people here, they could have easily gotten back in it. But, we held our own. We’re still figuring out how to play with each other.”

While chemistry has improved since the first exhibition against Grand Valley nearly three weeks ago, the team is still waiting on a number of players to join the team as they finish college studies and enter into summer break.

“We’ve done some training sessions but not everyone has been able to make it,” added Dufendach. “I think once we start training together, once the summer officially comes and we have later practice times, I think the team will start meshing together more.”

Head coach Moni was happy with the team’s communication throughout the match.

“People are a lot more comfortable communicating with each other, raising their voices and guiding each other through the process,” commented Moni. “That’s very important for us, having players in many parts of the field that coach, guide, and (allow the team to) operate in unison.”

With just eight days until the team’s first official match, an away contest against Lansing United on Saturday, May 9, the team still has plenty to work on.

“We still have a lot of work to do, obviously finishing will be one part. At the same time, we’ll put a lot of emphasis on our defensive structure, the shape of our unit, and the transition in the midfield,” said Moni. “In our three training sessions before Saturday, we’re going to cover all those areas and make sure everyone performs better.”

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