Written by Robert Kerr, Staff Writer
Oakland County FC came away with a 1-1 draw against BIH Grand Rapids this past Sunday afternoon. Striker Mike Melaragni added his eighth goal of the season, extending his lead at the top of the club’s top scorers list. The first half strike from Melaragni was nullified by the visitors, in the second half, following a broken play in the County box. The UPSL regular season concludes with OCFC finishing on a 3-2-5 record, with 21 goals scored. Focus immediately shifts to post-season play, as County prepare for a home-and-home series with the Muskegon Risers, and the rescheduled Milk Cup Final, against the Flint City Bucks.
On perhaps the most pristine match day of the season, Oakland County FC and BIH Grand Rapids produced a spectacle as entertaining as any 1-1 result possibly could. During multiple periods in the game, the action, and chances, came thick and fast on both ends of the pitch. While the number of shots in the game were about equal, it was County that produced the more quality of chances, in the game. Ultimately, the game came down to one fine goal, a flukey concession, and missed second half chances.
The games opening twenty minutes were the quietest of the contest. A couple shots from distance, and a few scrappy half chances, was all that was produced, early, as the two teams settled into the game. The game then sprang to life following a super save from Tim Dolan, in the 25th minute. The Troy native was able to react to, and parry, a shot from the top of his box over the crossbar, keeping the game scoreless. The big save gave the Purple Gang a surge of momentum and saw their striker begin to get chances.
Following County’s first corner of the game, BIH Grand Rapids produced a dangerous counter attack of their own, resulting in a corner for the visitors, in the 36th minute. Defending the ensuing corner, veteran County midfielder, Julian Birge, cleared the Grand Rapids cross with a big swing of his right foot. The powerful clearance found the foot of his striker, Mike Melaragni, at the center of the field, with only one defender between him and the goal. The towering striker then dribbled the entire attacking half, and eventually beat his defender with a diagonal burst of pace, at the top of the box. Melaragni then cooly sidestepped the onrushing keeper, and tapped home the opening goal. A moment of quality, and composure, from the Rochester native.
County opened the second half as they finished the first, on the front foot. In the third minute of the second half, a well worked move up the left flank resulted in OCFC left back, DJ Hooks, charging into the opponents box with the ball. The young defender played a low squared ball to the top of the visitors six yard box, but the first time effort from Mario Morana misfired, and was cleared.
Moments after the missed chance, the visitors equalized. An attempted clearance from the OCFC defense popped up over the County penalty area. BIH Grand Rapids’ Miguel Flores reacted first to the looping deflection, and headed the ball into the County net. The goal came totally against the run of play, and stunned all those in attendance.
The ten minutes following the Grand Rapids equalizer, was the toughest period of the game for County. The visitors followed up their goal by putting heavy pressure on County players with the ball, stealing the ball away a number of times, and creating multiple chances. OCFC head coach Darryl Evans then went to his bench, to help his team regain a hold on the match. Tommy Dokho, Fred Prest, and Kevin Buca, all came into the game, within 10 minutes of OCFC losing the lead.
The substitutions did the job of subsiding the Grand Rapids press. The 20 minutes following Buca and co.’s inclusion became a track meet, with the ball going end-to-end with chances a-plenty. The Grand Rapids goalkeeper, Ja Toric, was forced into a number of quality saves, while County wide man Fred Prest saw two of his shots come off the frame of the goal.
The goalkeepers grew as the standout performers during the final chapter of the match, as they both kept out multiple quality chances. As the game progressed towards the final whistle, the hunger for goals from the County players was palpable, but the winning goal was not to be.
The Oakland County FC 2019 season is now all about the rescheduled Milk Cup Final. The original July 2 date against the Flint City Bucks was postponed due to severe thunderstorms. This weeks training sessions, and Saturday June 13th’s exciting matchup against the Muskegon Risers, will all be a big audition for players to earn a spot on the Milk Cup Final roster.
Midfielder Demetri Pliakos
Good game, hard-fought battle on a hot day. We were really pushing for a goal towards the end, and made a lot of good chances. The goalies came up with some good saves in a back and forth game. We could have had it, but it ended up being a draw.
Head Coach Darryl Evans
Overall I think we should of won the game, but it was just one of those games where it just didn’t happen, and we missed a lot of shots.
The OCFC experience, presented by Diversified Members Credit Union, continues beyond the final whistle. Zeoli’s Italian, in downtown Clawson, at 110 E 14 Mile Road, is the official OCFC match day bar. Zeoli’s is serving $1 beers, during every match day, in 2019! Socialize, dine, and cheer with your fellow fans, before and after the game.
Visit oaklandcountyfc.com for game programs, post-match reviews, highlights, galleries, and more! Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, to find exclusive offers and the latest content. Enjoy the game, and #BleedPurple!