By Steve Gunn
MUSKEGON – Last week the Muskegon Risers played their very first game in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd in Detroit.
On Saturday they were pleasantly surprised.
The Risers played the first home game in history at Reeths-Puffer High School, and it couldn’t have gone much better.
The best part, of course, is that they beat the Dayton Dutch Lions 3-1 to record their very first victory.
But there was a lot more for the team to be happy about at the end of the day.
While an exact attendance figure wasn’t available, it was clear that a lot of Muskegon folks were very curious about their new pro soccer team. They packed the bleachers at the high school stadium, and hundreds more brought folding chairs and sat around the edges of the field.
Crowd estimates varies anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000.
The fans were more than a little welcoming of the Risers, applauding loudly when the starters were introduced, roaring with each Risers goal, chanting “Let’s Go Risers” throughout the game and high-fiving the team as it left the field following the win.
The Risers players were clearly impressed, pointing at and applauding the crowed as they walked off the field.
“It was fantastic,” said Risers forward Brogan Shrimpton, who scored two goals in the game. “Good vibe, good energy. It’s good to see so many people out.”
“I didn’t go in with any expectations,” said Risers owner Matt Schmitt. “We were very focused on the process, staying true to the marketing, connecting with the community and hoping people would respond. It was definitely a good start.”
The fan’s responsiveness was a sign of strong soccer knowledge in the community, Schmitt said.
“We may have tapped into an enthusiasm that’s been around for awhile but hasn’t been exposed,” Schmitt said. “People are excited about the game of soccer and our community-oriented brand. We can build on this. We need to figure out what what we could have done better and keep improving each week.”
Several fans said they came to the game out of curiousity, and were happy they did.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect,” said Alex Aamodt of Norton Shores. “I haven’t been to too many high up soccer games. It looks good so far. They’re putting on a good showing. I knew there were a lot of soccer fans in the area.”
“I’m kind of surprised how many people came out,” said Justin Cartwright of North Muskegon. “I hope it continues. If the team can get this kind of support continually there’s no doubt it will continue to play here.”
Andrew Storck of Muskegon Township said he brought is 13-year-old son out to gain some soccer knowledge from the pros.
“My son plays for Reeths-Puffer select soccer,” Storck said. “I want him to get some experience watching some elite soccer so maybe he can apply it. I didn’t know how advanced this (level of play) would be, but there have some nice moves and there’s a lot of action going on.
“I like it a lot.”