In its final regular season home match of the season, Grand Rapids FC hosted Oakland County FC on Wednesday evening looking to continue the push for a spot in the USL League 2 playoffs. GRFC came into the match in fourth in the division while Oakland County was fifth, with the top three teams earning playoff berths.
While the Boys in Blue got off to a slow start, the team showed its resilience in coming from two goals behind to claim a 3-2 victory.
The visitors jumped out to a fast start, scoring two goals in the opening 15 minutes. In the 13th minute, a well-weighted through ball saw August Hunter in on the GRFC goal. On the ensuing shot, Grand Rapids goalkeeper Joe White was able to get a hand on the ball but couldn’t make the save as the ball hit the back of the net.
Just over two minutes later it was Hunter playing provider for Oakland County. Just inside the GRFC half, Hunter dummied a ball that was passed to him, catching the GRFC defender flat-footed as Hunter turned and found space down the left side of the field. Passing to the top of the box for forward Demetri Pliakos, Pliakos took a touch to settle the ball then calmly found the back corner of the net for a 2-0 Oakland County lead.
The Boys in Blue were able to get back into the match in the 37th minute as a long ball from Jack McCarren was played into the Oakland County box and misplayed by the visiting keeper. A touch from forward Milos Christoferou ensured the ball made it into the back of the net as GRFC cut the deficit to 2-1 heading into halftime.
While the first half saw GRFC struggle for good opportunities, the second half belonged to the Boys in Blue.
GRFC nearly pulled level in the 49th minute as Daniel Nimick had a look on goal that was blocked by a lunging OCFC defender. In the 51st minute a header from Matty Cornish sailed just wide of frame and in the 57th, another opportunity from Nimick was just over the bar.
Continuing to apply pressure to the OCFC defense, GRFC pulled level in the 71st minute. Cornish played a corner kick into the Oakland County box and the ball missed the heads of defenders and attackers as well as the punching hand of the OCFC keeper. Falling at the feet of Daniel Nimick, the defender was able to find the back of the net through a crowd of Oakland County players to tie the match.
The Boys in Blue were not satisfied with fighting back to tie the match, however, and in the 79th minute, scored a goal which broke the deadlock. Coming on as a substitute minutes earlier, Theo Maye dribbled along the top of the OCFC box and took a low, driving shot through a group of players. Seeing the shot late, the Oakland County keeper reacted to get a hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it out of the back of the net as Grand Rapids took a 3-2 lead.
A red card to GRFC’s James DeCosemo in the 82nd minute made the final eight minutes plus stoppage time a bit more work for the GRFC defense, but OCFC did not have any troubling shots on Grand Rapids keeper Tor Erik Larsen and the Boys in Blue saw out the 3-2 win.
“We came out flat. I don’t think our mentality was good enough the opening 20 minutes and you’re going to get punished for that at this level,” said head coach Stu Collins. “It sparked a good response from our guys, particularly the second half. I think the performance was excellent and there was a real intent to the way the team went about its business.”
The win is the fifth in a row for Grand Rapids FC and puts the team at 23 points on the season. Even with the win the Boys in Blue sit in fourth place in the division with one match to play. In third is King Hammer FC with 24 points and two matches remaining, while Flint City Bucks sits in second with 26 points and one match still to play.
With a win away at Dayton Dutch Lions on Saturday, GRFC could still make the playoffs but would need some help from around the league. Even so, the team has played well in its debut season in USL League 2.
“The group we’ve put together this year, in such a short space of time, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. If you look at the stats, the goals we’ve scored and the amount of games we’ve lost – there are very few teams in the country that have lost two or fewer games – I’m proud of it,” added Collins. “I think there’s no doubt we’re capable of being a premier club in this league.”