On May 16, AFC Ann Arbor held its media day at Concordia University’s football field. As the players took headshots, dribbled around the ball before practice, and filled out sheets of paper answering superlatives like, “What are your favorite songs to listen to before a match?,” we caught up with head coach Eric Rudland to ask him about the 2016 season.
Current: What new roster additions are you excited for this season and what have you seen out of them so far?
Rudland: I think we only have a few returning guys. We’ve had players coming in as late as last Tuesday. We had a kid, Colin Watson, our right back, come in from Pennsylvania at a Division II school, but he came through Manchester United’s academy in England. We saw him play yesterday in a friendly for the first time. He did well. Basically our whole first 11 is new guys.
What is it like to have a team that is completely new every year?
This is my first year with the club too. The goal from this year to next year is having some continuity and consistency. That’s the challenging and the fun part — trying to create a new team and a competitive side with guys that have never played with one another before in a short amount of time. We only have a three month season and sometimes guys that start our first game have only trained for a short time with one another before. We’re still pretty early on that process.
With you being a first year coach, have you had a relationship with any of these players before?
A lot of them. Probably six, seven guys I have coached before. And we brought in guys who have played with one another before, even if I hadn’t coached them. For instance, we have four players from the University of Charleston, they already have a relationship based on how they played college soccer together. Same thing, three guys from Western Michigan University. I think those things go a long way in helping cultivate some culture and cohesion between the players.
What are you most excited for this season?
We just want to keep pressing on. Think about the next game and hopefully finish in the top two in the league, that’s the goal. Just focus on process. We’ve done that the first two weeks and we hope to do it again this week to get prepared for Detroit (City FC).
AFC Ann Arbor will square off against Michigan Sporting at 1pm on Sunday, May 22 at Hollway Field