By Bob Wolfbauer and Shelly Watkins
Four second-half goals propelled Motor City FC (MCFC) to a 5-0 win over the Cleveland Ambassadors in their opening match of the season at Hurley Field in Berkley, Michigan Saturday afternoon.
Motor City struck first, eighteen minutes into the game with a beautifully played ball over the top of the defense by Colleen McKay. Alexa Spaanstra outran the defender and slotted the ball to the far post, beating the Cleveland goalkeeper. Spaanstra’s goal was the lone score in the first half.
The weather made things difficult for both teams in the first half as a steady rain and a driving wind forced both teams to concentrate their efforts on keeping the ball and not committing turnovers that might lead to opportunities for their opponent.
The tight first half did not surprise MCFC head coach, Aaron Byrd.
“Cleveland is a really good team that is well coached with very talented players,” said Byrd. “We knew it was going to be a battle from the opening whistle and the rain didn’t help our strategy to possess the ball. However, I was really proud of our effort level and quality play which speaks to the character and skill level of our players.”
At the half, Byrd stressed defense and effort to his team and Assistant Coach Radek Popiez emphasized that the first fifteen minutes of the second half would be critical to a successful outcome.
The team heeded both messages, forcing a defensive turnover early in the second half that lead to a brilliant finish at 50:00 by veteran Joanie Sieja. Spaanstra unselfishly assisted on the goal.
“We knew we needed to come out immediately in the second half and take the play to them,” said Byrd. “Our defensive effort created our offense and the players really responded to the challenge.”
From that point forward, Motor City carried the play and added goals by Taylor Timko (63:00) from Mallory Eubanks, Eubanks (65:00) from Spaanstra and Megan Connolly (76:00) converted on a PK, beating the Cleveland keeper in the upper 90.
Spaanstra was named the Motor City FC Player of the Match by her coaches for her defensive pressure and creative play in the final third.
MCFC goalkeepers Bethany Kopel and Victoria Cope shared the clean sheet.
Motor City FC (1-0-0) host Alliance Academy Saturday, June 3 at 7:00 p.m. at Hurley Field, Berkley.
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