By Justin Haggerty
The Muskegon Risers came into Saturday’s match on a roll. They hadn’t lost a league match since May 13.
But the Risers, along with the rest of the Premier League of America, had last weekend off due to the holiday.
Their rustiness was apparent on Saturday when the Risers fell behind early and suffered a 3-2 loss to Oakland County FC at Muskegon Catholic’s Kehren Stadium.
“We didn’t have a game last week, and we were really playing well together (before that),” said Risers head coach Ben Ritsema, whose team fell to 5-2-1 and remained in second place in the PLA’s East Division, with first-place RWB Adria coming to town next Saturday.
“You could tell there was some rustiness with a lot players, but also as a unit there was some rustiness with some of the movement, the communication in the back, and some finishing chances. You can’t win them all, but I think that’s one that we could have won if we would have been a little sharper.”
Each team had chances in the first half, and Risers goalkeeper Carter Selvius made several saves, but Oakland County entered the locker room at halftime with a 2-0 lead.
The game was scoreless until the 23rd minute when Muskegon was called for a takedown just outside the penalty box, but the referee determined that it happened inside the line, giving Oakland County a penalty kick.
Charlie Miles took the kick and blasted it by Selvius to put OCFC up 1-0.
“I don’t even think he (referee) conferred,” Ritsema said. “I think it could have been a foul, but I don’t understand why he thought it was in the box. I felt it was a good yard out, but I’m also 40 yards away and he’s 10 yards away.
“He also said ‘play on,’ then the (assistant referee) went up with his flag, so I thought there was some miscommunication with the refs perhaps, too.
Oakland extended its lead to 2-0 in the 36th minute when Azaad Liadi beat Selvius with a low shot to the left side of the goal.
Muskegon finally got on the board in the second half (55th minute) on a corner kick.
The kick went long to Jay Noyola, who headed the ball to the feet of Junior Kazeem deep in the goal box. Kazeem chipped the ball into the top of the net and the Risers trailed 2-1.
The Risers tied it up in the 68th minute when Paris Martins streaked down the left wing, took a great lead pass, and beat the Oakland goalkeeper.
“I thought we could have had three or four goals in the first half, so I told them ‘let’s not change too much,’” Ritsema said about his halftime message to his team. “I felt like we could get one, and eventually number two could get in.
“I really didn’t think we would get two goals so quickly to tie it back up. It really gave us a lot of time to get the third goal, but we made some poor decisions in the back and played with the ball too long.”
The Risers carried the momentum until the 79th minute when they were called for a penalty just outside their box. OCFC was awarded a free kick from the spot of the foul.
Mario Morana was chosen to take the kick, and blasted the long shot just under the Riser crossbar to finish the scoring and give Oakland County the 3-2 victory.
“We committed a foul – we have to be smarter than that,” Ritsema said. “We can’t give them a free kick right at the edge of our box. The guy buried it, it was a good shot.”
RWB Adria visits Kehren Stadium next Saturday at 6 p.m. in a battle for first place in the division.