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: 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: 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: Grand Rapids FC

Andrew Streitel

KZFC fall short against GRFC

Kalamazoo FC suffers its first loss of the season as they fall to Grand Rapids FC 2-1 on Friday night. Nils Valdmanis was able to score his first goal of the season late in the match.

Friday night was yet another important match for KZFC in their race for a playoff spot. Grand Rapids FC came into the match ranked 13th in the latest National Premier Soccer League power rankings and second place in the conference.

The first half was not pretty, as both teams struggled to find a rhythm offensively. However, both defenses were playing well stopping every attack that came their way. The first half was mostly back and forth until the 40th minute when GRFC would score their first goal of the game.

“We struggled a little bit to get out of first gear and were very sloppy,” said head coach Brian Clements. “Grand Rapids broke up our play very well and a lot of credit goes to them.”

A turnover by the KZFC defense lead to a 3 on 2 that GRFC was able to capitalize on. James Decosemo was able to slot the ball into the bottom right corner. KZFC goalkeeper, Isaac Walker, made some nice saves to finish the half and KZFC went into halftime with a 1-0 deficit.

After a good first 10 minutes of the second half for KZFC, GRFC was able to find their second goal of the night. TJ Ifaturoti used his speed to break down the right side of the field and placed his shot in the left corner of the net. GRFC would able to hold most of the possession in the next 15 minutes till KZFC would make things interesting and score a goal of their own.

With his first touch of the game, Valdmanis, finished a pass that was slotted back to the middle of the box. After erasing the two-goal deficit to one, KZFC would raise their intensity trying to find the equalizer. KZFC was not able to find the tying goal and would lose the match 2-1.

“This loss was a massive eye opener for us tonight,” said coach Clements. “Our ability to move off the ball and keep the ball are things we still need to work on.”

KZFC will host Oakland County FC in the annual Michigan Milk Cup tournament this Sunday. This quarterfinal match is set to kickoff at 5:30 p.m. at Mayors Riverfront Park.

GAME RECAP: Detroit City FC

Andrew Streitel

KZFC scores in stoppage time to beat DCFC

Kalamazoo FC pulls out a thrilling victory over Detroit City FC at Keyworth Stadium. Elliot Miller scored his first goal of the season in stoppage time to give KZFC a 3-2 win on the road.

After seeing heavy rain throughout the day, the field was water logged and both teams would have to adjust to the speed of the ball early in the first half. Detroit City FC saw more of the ball in the first half as they continued to pressure the defense of KZFC early. KZFC looked to attack on the counter with not much success in the first half.

Lasse Kjeldsen and the KZFC defense did well to keep the game scoreless for most of the first half. Goalkeeper Isaac Walker also added some big saves to keep KZFC in the game early on. After a few counter attacks by KZFC, Detroit would open up the scoring in the 40 minute.

Shawn Lawson was able to score the opening goal for Detroit after a ball was slotted across the goal box and he placed his shot into the right corner. KZFC would go into halftime trailing 1-0 with what would be an exciting second half to come.

Detroit would start the second half strong again with lots of pressure on the back line of KZFC. However, KZFC would hold them off and score a goal of their own in the 57 minute. After a penalty kick was awarded to KZFC, Giuseppe Vitale rose to the challenge and placed the ball in the left corner to tie the game at 1-1.

Detroit would respond well by regaining their lead just five minutes later on a miscue by the KZFC defense. Max Todd would secure the ball and score on an open net to give Detroit a 2-1 lead in the 63 minute.

The game would then go back and forth until KZFC would tie the game for the second time in the 73 minute. Dalton Michael would use his speed to get out on the breakaway and slot the ball home to score his league high third goal of the season.

Detroit would then go on the attack creating many chances to score but the back line of KZFC would play phenomenal in the final 15 minutes of the game to hold Detroit to two goals in the game. KZFC looked dangerous all game long on the counter attack and they had one more in them which would end up being the game winner.

Elliot Miller made a run down the right side of the field and got in behind the Detroit defense. He would then take a shot just outside the goal box and chip the goalkeeper to give KZFC a 3-2 lead in stoppage time.

KZFC held strong in the final two minutes of stoppage time and secured, a very hard to get, three points on the road at Keyworth Stadium. Lasse Kjeldsen was named man of the match for his stellar defense. KZFC is currently tied for first place with AFC Ann Arbor in the Great Lakes Conference of the National Premier League.

Kalamazoo FC will be back home on Friday when they host conference rival, Grand Rapids FC. Kickoff at Mayors Riverfront Park is set for 7 p.m.