By Justin Haggerty
MUSKEGON – The phrase “home is where the heart is” summed up the Muskegon Risers’ big night on Saturday.
After playing their first three summer seasons at Reeths-Puffer High School, the Risers moved to the more centrally-located Monsignor Kehren Stadium at Muskegon Catholic Central for the 2017 Premier League of America season.
But before they arrived at their new home, the Risers played the first month of their summer season on the road.
So a big crowd of local fans was more than thrilled when the Risers delivered a 2-0 victory over Grand Rapids Ole at MCC on Saturday.
The Risers earned three points in the league standings and remain in second place in the PLA East Division with 10 points and a 3-1-1 league record.
“It was great,” Risers head coach Ben Ritsema said about the crowd. “I’m sure there were empty spots (in the bleachers), but I sure didn’t see many. The crowd was phenomenal. I think our indoor season brought some new fans to us.
“It was a great night in Muskegon. We love this location because it’s centrally-located to so many districts. I couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be more excited about it. I hope they come back next Saturday and watch us play.”
The first half was scoreless, which prompted the Risers to get more aggressive in the second half.
“We just couldn’t find that final pass when we really should have just shot the ball a couple times,” Ritsema said. “We definitely talked about that at halftime. We have to shoot to score.”
The Risers finally broke through when Ole was called for a takedown in the box in the 65th minute and Muskegon was awarded a penalty kick.
Junior Kazeem took the penalty kick and was denied, but followed through by charging the rebound and slamming it home to put the Risers up 1-0 with 23:52 to play.
Risers captain Stu Collins capped the scoring in the 90th minute with a low shot from the top of the box, just inside the post.
Grand Rapids’ best opportunity came in the 63rd minute with Mitchel Tobon alone with Risers’ keeper Carter Selvius. Tobon’s close-range shot hit the goal post and bounced back to Selvius, who held on.
“(In the second half) we settled it down and got a little more greedy, got used to the turf and were with the wind,” Ritsema said.
Muskegon faces games on two straight days next week, but Ritsema isn’t bothered by that.
The Risers will visit Grand Rapids next Friday before returning to MCC on Saturday to play Fort Wayne in a non-league game at 6 p.m.
“This is a hard-working team,” he said. “They want to win, they’re very competitive, that just fuels tougher practices and it really prepares us for games. This is our first back-to-back. I’m not real worried about our depth, some guys will just have to play less minutes in the second one.”