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: 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.