GAME RECAP: La Liga All-Stars

Andrew Streitel

KZFC blank La Liga All-Stars in friendly

Kalamazoo FC took on the La Liga All-Stars in a friendly match this past Sunday. After a lack luster first half, KZFC would find their rhythm and go on to win the match 4-0 and improve their shutout streak to five games.

Kalamazoo FC had the chance to switch up their line-up as players that have not seen much playing time got their name called as a starter. The La Liga All-Stars did the same, bringing lots of players to get a chance to play against a semi-professional club.

“Those players need match minutes and get their confidence up,” said head coach Brian Clements. “They are doing all the right things in training but it’s just really competitive to earn a spot on the field.”

The game started slow for KZFC as they struggled to find a rhythm offensively and lacked connections in the final third. Although KZFC had the better chances and more possession throughout the first half, they lacked clear goal scoring chances. The La Liga All-Stars were holding their own as they created some great chances on net.

“We lacked composure and the final ball in the first half,” said Clements. “We got in some good positions but our final ball into the box was pretty poor.”

After a back and forth first half, KZFC would receive and penalty kick late in the half. Mario Diaz would step up to take the shot but Stephen Hunter would make a great save to keep the game scoreless going into halftime.

“We had a really precise conversation at halftime and let guys know specifically what they need to do better and they responded well,” said Clements.

Kalamazoo FC came out in the second half with high energy forcing the La Liga All-Stars to play at a quicker pace. Trevor Towghi from the All-Stars would be sent off in the 51st minute after receiving two yellow cards in just six minutes. KZFC would go on the attack from this point on playing with a man advantage.

Nooh Aljabaly would open the scoring in the 57th minute. Aljabaly would dribble past a few defenders and curl a shot past the goalie to score his second goal in two games. KZFC would have full control over the game going forward as goals came quick for the team.

Donovan Michael got on the score sheet in the 64th minute after a cross to the back post led to a tap in and a 2-0 advantage. His twin brother would not be out done, as Dalton Michael scored just two minutes after his brother.

In the 66th minute Dalton Michael, just recently substituted into the game, would get out on the breakaway and easily place the ball past the goalie to give KZFC a 3-0 lead. Michael would score his second goal of the night in the 75th minute. His breakaway goal would be the final goal of the match and give KZFC a 4-0 victory.

After a poor first half, KZFC would dominate the second half and comfortably win 4-0. This is the fifth straight shutout for KZFC and the most goals they have scored in a game this season.

“We need to be better in first halves going forward,” said Clements. “We are very sluggish and not starting games well and need to figure out what is going wrong.”

Kalamazoo FC will be on the road Friday against Grand Rapids FC in the 131 derby. KZFC will be back home on Sunday when they face off against Michigan Stars FC at 5:30 p.m.

2019 SEASON RECAP

Andrew Streitel

KZFC post their best season to date

Kalamazoo FC finished their 2019 National Premier Soccer League season this past weekend. KZFC lost their final game, 3-1 against Detroit City FC, but that result does not compare to the successful season the club had.

Kalamazoo FC had their best season yet in their four-year history as a club. The team finished with a 6-3-5 (W-L-D) record and posted a total of 23 points, the most the club has ever earned. In addition to the record breaking 23 points, the club also tallied a club record six shutouts throughout the season. KZFC also broke their record of most wins in a season with six and earned their first winning season.

Although the team did not qualify for the playoffs, they played extremely well against the teams who did qualify, AFC Ann Arbor and DCFC. KZFC battled AFCAA very well in the two games they played as they tied both games against the club.

Arguably the biggest win in club history came on the road against DCFC, as they earned three points in a 3-2 victory and gave DCFC their only loss on the season. However, KZFC lost their second match against DCFC and split the season series at one win apiece.

The team’s downfall came in the middle of the season when they tied four games in a row. If the club won some of those games instead of tying, the season would likely be very different as they would have been battling for a playoff spot.

Kalamazoo FC will be back for the 2020 NPSL season and look to grow upon their best season to date.

“This team raised the standard for what Kalamazoo FC has to deliver every season,” said head coach Brian Clements. “Now this club needs to be fighting for a championship every year.”

2019 Season Awards

  • Lasse Kjeldsen, Most Valuable Player
  • Elliot Miller, Team Player Award
  • Giuseppe Vitale, Offensive Player of the Year
  • Carson Brinks, Coach’s Player of the Year
  • Isaac Walker, Defensive Player of the Year

GAME RECAP: Detroit City FC

Andrew Streitel

KZFC fall in season finale against DCFC

Kalamazoo FC hosted Detroit City FC on Saturday in the team’s final match of the season. The highly anticipated match did not disappoint as both teams played well and DCFC was able to secure a 3-1 victory over KZFC.

Detroit City FC came into the match with a 11-game unbeaten streak with their only loss of the season courtesy of KZFC earlier in the year. With the Great Lakes Conference championship already secured, DCFC looked to earn a first-round bye in the Midwest playoffs with a win.

The excitement began right from kickoff as KZFC almost opened up the scoring in the fifth minute. A KZFC free kick was sent into the box and Dalton Michael took a shot from close range but a DCFC defender was able to clear it off the goal line. DCFC would score the game’s first goal just a few minutes later.

A penalty kick was given to DCFC in the eighth minute after a tackle by Carson Brinks in the box. Max Todd calmly stepped up to take the kick and smashed the ball into the bottom right corner giving DCFC the early 1-0 lead.

“This group bounces back from adversity very well and they kept fighting and we scored a goal of our own,” said KZFC head coach Brian Clements. “When it was 1-1 I thought we had a chance, we created some good opportunities but couldn’t find the back of the net.”

The game then went back and forth and KZFC would find the equalizer in the 25th minute. Michael was able to secure a cross and laid the ball back to Isaiah Nieves whose shot beat the keeper to tie the game at 1-1.

“Our offense was very disciplined throughout the season and knew the connections would come,” said Clements. “There was a lot of individual growth throughout the season from the guys up front.”

The game would go into halftime tied at 1-1 with both teams playing well and creating many chances on net. However, goalkeepers from both clubs played extremely well throughout the match.

Things settled down a bit in the second half as DCFC started to see more of the possession. There were no clear chances for either team in the first 25 minutes of the second half. However, things changed quickly as DCFC found the game winning goal in the 71st minute.

Abdoulaye Diop dribbled through three KZFC defenders as he made his way into the goal box. Diop made a slight cut to his left and riffled a shot into the upper 90 that was able to beat Isaac Walker and give DCFC the 2-1 advantage.

“We gave up a goal that was tough, we had a lot of defenders in the area but didn’t win the tackle and it was a rough goal to give up,” said Clements.

Kalamazoo FC pushed men forward looking for the equalizer again but were unable to create a real goal scoring opportunity. DCFC topped the game off with a late goal in stoppage time as Tommy Buono got behind the KZFC defense and curl a shot into the net. DCFC secured the 3-1 victory and earned a first-round bye in the Midwest playoffs.

Kalamazoo FC finished in fourth place in the conference with a record of 6-3-5 (W-L-D). This was the best season yet for KZFC in their four-year history as a club. The future looks bright for the club as they continue their quest for a conference championship.

“This team raised the standard for what Kalamazoo FC has to deliver every season,” said Clements. “Now this club needs to be fighting for a championship every year.”

GAME RECAP: Toledo Villa FC

Andrew Streitel

KZFC earn season sweep over TVFC

Kalamazoo FC earned a two-game season sweep over National Premier Soccer League newcomer, Toledo Villa FC. KZFC was able to post another shutout on the season in the 1-0 victory over TVFC this past Sunday.

Kalamazoo FC would start the game well on the offensive end creating good quality chances. However, the KZFC defense would not start the same as they came out too relaxed which lead to some scoring chances for TVFC. After the first 15 minutes of the game things would calm down and KZFC would control the run of play.

“We struggle at times to get into gear early in the match and it is something we have been battling all year,” said head coach Brian Clements. “Toledo was amazing tonight; they deserve all the credit.”

The match would go into halftime tied at zeros with KZFC in control of the game. TVFC was behind in both possession of the ball and goal scoring opportunities at the break. However, neither team was able to break through in the first half.

The second half was much of the same as KZFC continued to control the play. TVFC would receive their best chance of the night in the 57th minute when a rebound was smashed on target and rattled the crossbar.

“Toledo had great effort on the defensive end and closed down very well,” said Clements. “Their midfield worked hard to connect with their backline and they were excellent tonight.”

The game winning goal came in the 72nd minute after Isaiah Nieves broke down the right wing and slotted a ball back into the box. Alex Segura was able to control the pass and curl his shot into the bottom left corner giving KZFC the 1-0 advantage.

Toledo Villa FC would push men forward in the final ten minutes of the game looking for an equalizer. However, Isaac Walker and company would stay strong for KZFC and earn the team their sixth shutout of the season with the 1-0 victory over TVFC.

Kalamazoo FC has one final game left on the schedule. KZFC will be home on Saturday, July 13 at 3 p.m. as they host first place Detroit City FC. DCFC suffered their only loss of the season in a 3-2 defeat against KZFC earlier in the year.

“Games against Detroit are always fun; they bring a lot of energy,” said Clements. “They are one of the front runners and we are trying to chase them down and see what we can do.”

GAME RECAP: Michigan Stars FC

Andrew Streitel

KZFC and MSFC end in draw

Kalamazoo FC and the Michigan Stars FC battle to a 2-2 draw in a very high intensity match. It was a hot and humid day but both clubs performed well in the heat offensively scoring two goal apiece.

Kalamazoo FC came out of the gate strong with lots of pressure on the MSFC back line forcing multiple turnovers. KZFC’s high intensity would pay off early as they scored the opening goal in just the seventh minute of the game.

Isaiah Nieves whipped in a corner kick that found Carson Brinks who was able to head the ball home and give KZFC an early 1-0 advantage. This goal would give KZFC lots of confidence as they continued to push forward to create many chances in the first half. KZFC was in control throughout the half until stoppage time came.

“I thought we created chances very well in the first half and defended well until Ruddock went down and we didn’t adjust,” said head coach Brian Clements. “We gave up a cheap goal and that kind of changed the game.”

Alex Ruddock would have to be substituted out of the game after an apparent head injury occurred late in the first half. KZFC was down one of their best defenders when MSFC would capitalize on a mistake by the defense. After KZFC failed to clear a cross, Steven Juncaj was in the right place to clean up the mistake and a tie the game at 1-1 heading into halftime.

“We just need to focus on the details and be sharper on the ball,” said Clements. “We didn’t finish our chances and made too many mistakes.”

Michigan Stars FC would score the next goal in the 49th minute giving them a 2-1 lead early in the second half. A sloppy turnover by the KZFC defense lead to a one on one and Isaac Walker was unable to make the save. KZFC would respond well after conceding the goal, creating plenty of goal scoring chances of their own.

“I think we were a little fatigued defensively as guys are putting in a lot of minutes and we made some mental errors,” said Clements. “When you make two big mistakes that lead to goals, it is tough to win.”

Nieves would get on the score sheet again in the 56th minute after his goal tied the game yet again. David Magallon played a great ball to the back post that found Nieves who was able to beat the keeper and score the teams second goal of the match.

Kalamazoo FC controlled the run of play for the rest of the match but were unable to find the game winning goal after creating many chances. The game would end in a 2-2 draw and Nieves was awarded the man of the match for his assist and goal.

Kalamazoo FC will play two games this upcoming weekend as they travel to face FC Columbus on Friday, July 5. KZFC will be back home on Sunday, July 7, when they host Toledo Villa FC.

GAME RECAP: Grand Rapids FC

Andrew Streitel

KZFC suffer tough road loss

An early penalty kick for Grand Rapids FC gave them the edge they needed as Kalamazoo FC would fall 1-0 on the road. With both teams fighting for a playoff spot, the game featured high intensity with good play from both clubs.

The game did not start well for KZFC as the referee would call a penalty kick in favor of GRFC in the third minute of the match. Isaac Walker guessed the right way but Sammy Biek would smash a ball into the right corner giving GRFC an early 1-0 lead.

“It is always tough when a decision in the first couple minutes goes against you and you give up a PK that is questionable,” said head coach Brian Clements.  “We never really bounced back after giving up the early goal.”

Grand Rapids FC would sit back for the remainder of the first half, absorbing anything that KZFC threw their way. KZFC saw the better of the possession in the first half but could not test the goalkeeper as they struggled to get shots on net. The game would go into halftime with GRFC holding the one goal advantage.

“Grand Rapids were able to sit deeper and we couldn’t figure out a way to get through them,” said Clements. “We only made one big mistake in the beginning and if its 0-0 maybe it’s a different game.”

The KZFC offense struggled throughout the match as they could not find a way to get a meaningful goal scoring chance. Both teams were very aggressive in the second half with lots of yellow cards issued to both clubs. The first 20 minutes of the second half was fairly back and forth with no clear chances for either club.

As the half moved on GRFC would gain more control of the match and looked comfortable with the 1-0 lead. KZFC would push men forward late in the game looking for the equalizer. However, the tying goal never came and KZFC would suffer their second loss of the season in a 1-0 defeat.

“It was a frustrating loss as we did not do enough to earn a win,” said Clements. “We struggled to keep the ball at certain points and collectively our attack was frustrating.”

The loss would end a three-game winning streak for KZFC and also end their five-game shutout streak. With only four games left on the schedule, KZFC’s chance of making the playoffs is slim as they will need help from other clubs.

Kalamazoo FC will be home this Sunday when they face the Michigan Stars FC in the second match between the two clubs. The game is set to kickoff at 5:30 p.m. at Mayors Riverfront Park.

GAME RECAP: Toledo Villa FC

Andrew Streitel

KZFC earn another shutout in win against TVFC

Kalamazoo FC were on the road for their only National Premier Soccer League match of the weekend against Toledo Villa FC. KZFC would go on to win the match 2-0 and improve their shutout streak to four games.

This was the first match of the season against NPSL newcomer, TVFC, and KZFC would start the two-game series well with a commanding victory. KZFC would start strong with both Donovan and Dalton Michael performing well in the offensive third. It was a back and forth first 25 minutes as KZFC had the better chances on net but TVFC controlled the ball.

It was much of the same for the rest of the first half until stoppage time arrived and things got more exciting. Nils Valdmanis worked hard to get a turnover and found Giuseppe Vitale open near the top of the box. Vitale calmly slotted the ball into the right corner and scored the game’s first goal. KZFC goalkeeper, Isaac Walker, would be tested just minutes after the goal when he made a great point blank save to keep TVFC scoreless entering halftime.

Kalamazoo FC would start the second half with lots of energy as they pressured higher up the field. This would rattle TVFC as they struggled to keep possession of the ball. KZFC was in control of the second half when they added another goal in the 66th minute.

A shot from long range was deflected back into the box and Nooh Aljabaly would smash the rebound home and give KZFC a 2-0 advantage. Aljabaly substituted into the game just ten minutes before and made an immediate impact scoring his first goal of the season.

Kalamazoo FC continued to control the flow of the game after their second goal. The defense would be tested though late as Walker made another huge save late in the game to keep the teams shutout streak alive. The KZFC defense held true and the game would end in a 2-0 road win.

Kalamazoo FC has now won two games in a row and continue their four-game shutout streak. The team has not lost a NPSL game since late May and look to continue their run next weekend with two league games.

Kalamazoo FC will be on the road in the 131 derby against Grand Rapids FC this upcoming Friday. KZFC will be back home on June 30th as they host Michigan Stars FC at 5:30 p.m.

GAME RECAP: FC Columbus

Andrew Streitel

KZFC earn third straight shutout in win

Kalamazoo FC earned its third straight shutout in a much needed three points on Friday against FC Columbus. KZFC were able to find the game winner late in the match and earn a 1-0 victory over FCC.

It was the defeat cancer game in Kalamazoo, as the team partnered up with the West Michigan Cancer Center to raise money to help prevent cancer. Every ticket sold was a dollar donated to the West Michigan Cancer Center. The match did not disappoint either as both teams played at a high level.

“It was a battle tonight just like every night in our conference and around the league,” said head coach Brian Clements. “Columbus is very well organized and bring lots of threats that we had to deal with tonight.”

Kalamazoo FC started the game strong putting lots of pressure on the FCC back line. Dalton Michael would have a great chance in the sixth minute but the goalie would make a diving save to keep the game scoreless. It was a defensive battle all night with neither offense gaining much momentum.

“The defense has been well organized and they trust each other a lot,” said Clements. “It’s a back four that is so solid and we do a really good job with team defending as well.”

The game entered halftime tied at 0-0 with KZFC having a slight advantage of possession and goal scoring chances. However, none of the chances for either team in the first half were too dangerous.

Kalamazoo FC would start to gain more control of the game in the second half with lots of possession and play in the FCC half of the field. However, the defense of Columbus would be stout throughout most of the match. FC Columbus had a handful of chances of their own in the second half but nothing to threatening.

“I thought we grew into the game in the second half and we started to make more chances and got the goal we have been dying for,” said Clements.

The only goal of the match came in the 81st minute courtesy of Donovan Michael. Carson Brinks would send a ball into the box that found an open Michael on the back post that smashed the ball away. KZFC would stay strong defensively and hold on to the 1-0 victory.

“This win gives us a little bit of confidence, we were going through a rough stretch for a little bit,” said Clements. “Three points is everything in this league and ties will kill you so this was a big three points.”

This win for KZFC breaks their three-game tying streak, and improves their shutout streak to three games. Elliot Miller was named man of the match for his contributions on defense that helped KZFC secure the shutout win.

Kalamazoo FC will be back in action Friday when they travel to National Premier Soccer League newcomer, Toledo Villa FC. KZFC will be home next Sunday for a friendly against the La Liga All-Stars starting at 5:30 p.m.

GAME RECAP: AFC Ann Arbor

Andrew Streitel

KZFC and AFCAA battle in scoreless draw

Kalamazoo FC hosted back to back Great Lakes Conference champion, AFC Ann Arbor, on Friday in their second match of the season against the club. Similar to the game at Ann Arbor this match ended in a 0-0 draw with both clubs earning a point.

It was Special Olympics night in Kalamazoo, as KZFC honored participants of the Special Olympics from the Kalamazoo area. It was a great night with a good atmosphere for an important match as KZFC hoped to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.

The first half started with both teams creating chances but the defense from both clubs would get the best of the attack and stop anything that came their way. Alex Ruddock and the KZFC defense played extremely well throughout the entire match. Ruddock earned man of the match honors as the team earned their second shutout of the season.

“The defense is starting to form a partnership; they understand each other and aren’t afraid to get on each other a little bit,” said head coach Brian Clements. “They have been playing very well the past few games.”

The game entered halftime scoreless with AFCAA having more of the possession. However, KZFC continued to work hard and had plenty of chances of their own in the first half but failed to convert on those chances. KZFC goalkeeper, Isaac Walker, made some key saves as well in the first half to keep the game knotted at 0-0.

“Whenever you play Ann Arbor you are going to have to defend a little more,” said Clements. “We got behind the ball and defended well and created some great chances that we weren’t able to capitalize on.”

Kalamazoo FC played much better in the second half creating lots of quality chances. The best chance of the game came in the 53rd minute when Dalton Michael got out on the breakaway. However, Ian McGrane would make a great kick save to keep Michael from scoring and keep the game scoreless.

 “Ann Arbor plays a lot of guys in the midfield and we were forcing the ball into their center midfielders,” said Clements. “In the second half we started playing balls into the channels and found success with that.”

Kalamazoo FC would continue to have the better chances in the second half but failed to find the back of the net. AFCAA started to push more players forward late in the match as both teams looked to find the late game winner. The final ten minutes of the game was a hectic one as both teams opened up looking to score. However, the defense from both clubs would stay strong and the game would end up in a 0-0 draw.

Kalamazoo FC will be on the road Sunday as they face FC Indiana. The team will be back home next Friday when they host FC Columbus with kickoff at 7 p.m.

“We just need to continue to get points in every match,” said Clements. “Everybody in the league is good and can beat anyone on any given day.”

GAME RECAP: Oakland County FC

Andrew Streitel

KZFC eliminated from Michigan Milk Cup  

Kalamazoo FC suffered a bad loss in the quarterfinals of the Michigan Milk Cup this past Sunday. Oakland County FC was able to come into Kalamazoo and win a 2-1 game and move on to play Grand Rapids FC in the semi-finals of the Milk Cup.

Kalamazoo FC started the game very well, keeping possession of the ball and creating some solid chances in the first 10 minutes of the game. However, OCFC were the ones who were able to open up the scoring.

“We are really struggling in the attacking third and building any type of connections,” said head coach Brian Clements. “Give them credit they defended very well throughout the match.”

Oakland County FC scored their first goal of the evening in the 12th minute. A nice cross to the back post found a wide-open Fred Prest who volleyed the ball into the net. The next 10 minutes of the game would then be back and forth as OCFC gained more confidence with having the lead.

Kalamazoo FC would start to put more and more pressure on the OCFC defense as they created chance after chance. In the 30th minute KZFC would find the equalizer as Dalton Michael’s shot from outside the box would find the back of the net. After scoring his fourth goal of the season, Michael and the KZFC offense would have plenty of more chances to score another in the first half. However, the game would go into halftime all knotted up at 1-1.

“I think we created some good chances in the first half and we did not finish those chances which lost us the game,” said coach Clements.

The second half was much like the first half, with KZFC controlling the ball with lots of possession. However, KZFC was lacking the final pass to finish off the chances they were creating and frustration grew as they were not able to find the game winning goal.

Oakland County FC broke out on the counter attack in the 63rd minute and found the last goal of the game to give them the 2-1 lead. Prest was able to score his second goal of the match when his close-range shot went through the legs of KZFC goal keeper Michael White.

KZFC would raise their intensity the last 15 minutes of the contest but the lack of good chances on net would be their downfall. Despite having majority of the possession, KZFC would end up losing the match 2-1 and be eliminated from the Michigan Milk Cup.

“It was a tough loss, in the second half I thought they sat in very well and countered and got a goal,” said coach Clements. “We need to watch the film and correct what we have been doing wrong.”

Kalamazoo FC currently sits in second place in the Great Lakes Conference of the National Premier Soccer League, fighting to stay in playoff position. The team will be on the road next week as they travel to face Michigan Stars FC. The game will be played at the Ultimate Soccer Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m.