GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the Grand Rapids Football Club to earn a spot in the National Premier Soccer League Playoffs, it needs a win in the season finale.
The Boys in Blue (7-3-1) are alone in second place of the Great Lakes Conference Division with 22 points. They play their final regular season contest against rival Detroit City Football Club at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Houseman Field.
For GRFC, making the playoffs is simple. A win on Friday — along with a win from first-place AFC Ann Arbor (7-1-2), which has 23 points — would secure a playoff berth.
“This is really what we play for,” GRFC goalkeeper Noah Fazekas said Tuesday. “You like to say every game means the same but in reality you look forward to these big games. It’s a must-win and the crowd should be pretty wild, so we are going to leave it all out there for them.”
The 25-year-old is in his third year with the Boys in Blue and fought off an injury-plagued 2017 season to become the starter again this year.
“When you’re in the hospital and you miss a lot of time, you realize how much this means to you and the fans mean to you,” Fazekas said. “These big games come Friday and you leave it all on the line.
“My dad used to say, ‘Play every game as if it’s your last,’ and these past couple of months have really felt like that. I’m lucky every time I step on the field.”
Midfielder Daire O’Riordan, a native of Ireland currently at Davenport University, said the Boys in Blue know a win is essential.
“We know it’s not all in our hands but we have to focus on ourselves,” O’Riordan said. “We know it’s going to be a tough (game) but we have the talent and potential. It’s just about if we put in the work right or not.”
In the first meeting between GRFC and Detroit City FC this season, the Boys and Blue earned the 2-0 shutout victory at Keyworth Stadium.
SUPPORT FROM THE ‘GRAND ARMY’
GRFC split its games over the weekend, giving AFC Ann Arbor its first loss on the campaign with a 2-0 victory at Houseman Field. Kenroy Howell scored the game-winning goal in the second minute. On Sunday, a goal from Scott Doney in the 73rd minute wasn’t enough in a 2-1 loss against Columbus.
O’Riordan said a large and supportive crowd is huge when the team is making a push to win.
“The Grand Army here is unbelievable,” O’Riordan said, using the nickname for the team’s fans. “They really motivate us and it showed against Ann Arbor especially in the last 15 minutes. Hopefully we can get the same if not more Friday night.”
AFC ANN ARBOR VS. FC COLUMBUS
AFC Ann Arbor’s opponent, FC Columbus (4-2-2), has 14 points but still has 12 potential points (four games) remaining. It is tied for third place in the division and could catch GRFC in second place for the final playoff slot.
FC Columbus defeated the Boys in Blue both meetings this year.
FC Columbus also has games at last place FC Indiana July 1 and against Milwaukee Torrent July 7. It also has a makeup game waiting with FC Indiana; the originally scheduled game was postponed due to poor field conditions last week.
GRFC will be the first team to finish its conference games within the division. A win would eliminate the slim chance of Detroit City FC making the playoffs this season.
The playoffs start July 14 with quarterfinal rounds, which six teams in the three Midwest Region Divisions will qualify for.