Amateur Football Club Ann Arbor played until the last second to secure a 2-1 victory over their rivals from the north, the Muskegon Risers Soccer Club, Sunday night at Hollway Field in Ann Arbor.
Sunday evening marked the first meeting between these two teams, and it proved to be a match-up that fans can circle on their calendars for future seasons, as the game between the two Michigan based clubs was not only competitive but entertaining as well.
AFC Ann Arbor (3-4-1, 1-1-1 GLPL) were welcomed home by Ann Arbor faithful on Sunday evening after falling to Grand Rapids FC 5-1 a night before, and found themselves in a scrappy game against Muskegon Risers SC on home turf.
Muskegon looked to capitalize on AFCAA’s lack of rest by starting the game off with high energy pressing, forcing the AFCAA defenders to pushback and defend the goal. Within the first four minutes of the match Muskegon had already forced veteran goalkeeper T.J. Tomasso to make four saves.
Tomasso made an outstanding save in the tenth minute of the game when a shot came at him from 35 yards out and bound for the back of the net. But Tomasso got his fingertips on the ball and forced it to go off of the crossbar, keeping the game even at zero.
“He’s absolutely the best goalkeeper around,” Coach Dave Hebestreit said about Tomasso, “There is no better goalie around here.”
Tomasso would finish the game with 11 saves.
After defending for the first ten minutes of the game AFCAA was able to push forward, and off of a throw in, forward Kyle Breitmeyer sprinted past Muskegon defenders and put the ball past keeper Reece Richardson, giving AFCAA its first lead of the night.
Muskegon found a way to answer nine minutes later when defender Jamie Waters slipped a second chance ball past Tomasso after the goalkeeper had made a save on the first attempt.
AFCAA found themselves in trouble again in the 34th minute when defenders were unable to clear the ball from the goal box, and an open forward for Muskegon was able to get a foot on the ball but it was Tomasso who once again came with an incredible save to keep “The Boys in Blue” in the game.
Before the halftime whistle blew it was obvious to both sets of player and coaches that play had gotten a little choppy and aggressive on both sides of the ball, with AFCAA having to find a way to counter Muskegon’s aggressive style of play.
But coach Hebestreit was prepared for Muskegon’s style of play.
“I told the team at halftime that the way Muskegon played reminded me of the city of Muskegon,” he said, “A tough, blue-collar type of city and that’s the way they played; they didn’t play pretty.”
After halftime, Breitmeyer was able to split the defenders again and had an open look on net but sent the ball wide keeping the game deadlocked at 1-1.
In the second half of the match the game started to slow down, and a lot of possession was held by both reams in the middle of the field, with both teams incapable of breaking through to the attacking third.
Frustration was starting to mount in the last ten minutes of the match with plenty of fouls stalling the game, and handfuls of free-kick opportunities for both teams, with nothing coming from the chances.
Tomasso once again kept victory in sight for AFCAA when he came up with a save in the 84th minute, off what looked to be a definite goal for Muskegon, but Tomasso was able to get his hand on the ball and force it wide.
Growing tension finally boiled over in the 90th minute when a corner kick from AFCAA led to an altercation between the Muskegon goalkeeper and AFCAA forward Ade Adiniyi.
The altercation between the two players grew into an all-out brawl between a majority of players on the field and the fight lasted for about 5 minutes.
When all was said and done, a red card was issued to Richardson and defender Alex Tozer, while AFCAA forward Brooks Belhart was also sent-off for his part in the altercation.
Because Muskegon’s goalie was issued a red card and sent off of the field, AFCAA was awarded a penalty kick in the 5th minute of additional time, but the shot by Jay McIntosh was saved by the replacement goalkeeper.
McIntosh was able to put the rebound into the net, and secured the 2-1 victory for “the Oak” in the 97th minute of additional time.
“The referees lost control of the game,” Hebestreit said, “but I have to commend my players for their grit, for their tenacity and their toughness in the face of some adversity today and being able to get the win.”
Follow Robert Sherman on Twitter: @r__sherman