Grand Rapids FC welcomed Kings Hammer FC to the Midwest United FC Soccer Complex on Friday evening to kickoff Memorial Day weekend.
Despite falling behind 2-0 to the visitors from Cincinnati, GRFC fought its way back to a 2-2 scoreline as the match entered second half stoppage time. In the fourth minute of stoppage time it was Kings Hammer finding the winning goal, however, as the visitors claimed all three points in a 3-2 defeat of the Boys in Blue.
The opening quarter-hour of play saw neither team with any notable chances on goal as both teams took some time to feel each other out.
In the 17th minute Kings Hammer tallied the first goal-scoring opportunity as Danny Barlow took a shot from the top of the box that rattled the crossbar.
Just over ten minutes later, the visitors capitalized on a GRFC mistake to take the lead. A turnover in the Grand Rapids midfield gifted the ball to Kings Hammer about 40 yards from GRFC’s goal. Kings Hammer forward Marcello Jones collected the ball, took a look up, spotted the Grand Rapids keeper off his line, and chipped a shot toward goal that found the back of the net for the 1-0 Kings Hammer lead.
As the match neared half time, Grand Rapids began to generate more offense but could not trouble the Kings Hammer keeper as the match headed into the break 1-0 in favor of the visitors.
After the break, the visiting side doubled its lead in the 53rd minute as a quick-moving counter attack found the feet of Sam Slocum who slammed the ball into the GRFC net for the second goal of the night.
Grand Rapids continued to fight, however. In the 67th minute what appeared to be a goal from GRFC captain Tony Deakin was disallowed for an offside call. Minutes later, a header from the captain off a corner kick was saved.
Grand Rapids FC continued to push and in the 72nd minute found its opening goal through a corner kick. Austin Sweich played the set piece to the top of the box to Floris Van Nijnanten who, despite a bit of an awkward bounce, connected sweetly on the half volley and sent a rocket into the top left corner of the net to pull one back for the hosts.
The Boys in Blue continued to battle, and with just about a minute to go in regulation, tallied the equalizing goal through substitute TJ Ifaturoti. A collision between the Kings Hammer goalkeeper and a GRFC attacker on a 50-50 challenge saw the ball drop to the feet of Ifaturoti, who after some nifty footwork, was able to bring the ball under control and find the open net to tie the match at 2-2.
With the momentum in GRFC’s favor, a winning goal didn’t seem out of the question. However, against the run of play, Kings Hammer had one more chance on goal as forward Maouloune Goumballe took a shot on frame that Grand Rapids keeper Joe White got a hand to but could not stop, and the visiting side took the 3-2 lead in the fourth minute of stoppage time to steal all three points.
“I’m proud of the fight to get back into it, but we can’t make three errors like that at this level against a team that have quality like they have and come away with a win,” said head coach Stu Collins. “We’ve dominated large parts of every single game. You hope that it’s going to fall, that you’re going to take the chances sooner or later.”
GRFC hosted South Bend Lions FC on Memorial Day at the Midwest United FC Soccer Complex. For the second game in a row, GRFC was able to come back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the match. Unlike the previous instance, the Boys in Blue held on for the point as the match ended 2-2.
Just as it had been in GRFC’s Friday evening match, both teams took some time to get into the flow of the game. The Boys in Blue had a chance on net in the 8th minute off a corner kick, but the header from Tony Deakin was over the bar.
In the 25th minute, South Bend created its first look on goal as a ball was chipped over the GRFC back line for an acrobatic shot attempt from Lions forward Junior Nare, but the attempt went wide of the Grand Rapids goal.
The visitors then created something out of nothing in the 33rd minute to take the lead. Holding possession around the top of the GRFC box, South Bend’s Brennan Creek found enough space to take a shot on goal. The shot went past the outstretched hand of GRFC keeper Tor Erik Larsen, but struck the crossbar. On the spot for the rebound was Nare who found the back of the open net to give the visitors the 1-0 lead, which they took into halftime,
Less than three minutes into the second half, South Bend doubled its lead. A cross from the Lions left side was headed toward goal but blocked. Collecting the rebound at the back post was Nana Tuffour for South Bend who was able to slip it inside the post for the 2-0 lead.
Having been in this position just a few days before, Grand Rapids FC continued to fight, and less than ten minutes later, scored a goal of its own. Grand Rapids FC left back Odei Arrieta beat his defender one-on-one and cut back a cross from the end line to the penalty spot where Eric Conerty was waiting. Conerty put a strong shot on goal that was blocked, but forward James DeCosemo jumped on the loose ball and tapped it home to pull one back for the hosts.
Looking to regain its two goal advantage, a spell of possession for the Lions saw a pair of shots on GRFC’s goal, but Tor Erik Larsen was up to the task as a full stretch save in the 65th minute and a kick save in the 66th kept the Boys in Blue in the match.
Grand Rapids FC continued to push for the equalizer, and in the 81st minute, earned a penalty kick as a GRFC player was taken down in the box. South Bend Lions FC player Brennan Creek was given a red card for the foul, leaving the visitors with ten men for the remainder of the match.
Stepping up to the spot for GRFC was Matty Cornish. With a quick run up, Cornish slammed the ball right down the middle as the South Bend keeper dove to his left, and GRFC knotted the match at 2-2.
In the remaining time, neither team was able to create a shot on goal as the match came to a close at the 2-2 scoreline.
“Way too passive in the first half for whatever reason. We had an honest conversation at halftime about what was required of us, and the lads responded, to be fair,” said head coach Stu Collins. “We cannot be waiting for negative situations to be igniting us to life. We show that when we go to that next level we are very tough to deal with.”
After starting out the season with four straight home matches, GRFC now looks ahead to a stretch of five-out-of-six on the road. Grand Rapids plays at Oakland County FC on Saturday, June 5, with first kick scheduled for 7:00 pm.
The next home match for the Boys in Blue will be on Wednesday, June 9, with first kick scheduled for 8:00 pm.