By Steve Gunn and Andrew Johnson
MUSKEGON – After battling through a tough 3-9 season last winter, the Muskegon Risers indoor soccer club was a team in need of a confidence-builder.
They certainly got that on Saturday, plowing their way to a season-opening 19-8 victory over the Grand Rapids Ankle Breakers in their season opener at L.C. Walker Arena.
The offensive explosion was led by Elmedin Zukic, who piled up five goals and three assists in the victory. Aldony Mendez, TJ Ifaturoti and Bradley Macomber each added three goals in the rout.
It was the type of performance that assured veteran Risers Coach Ben Ritsema that his team has the weapons to compete with any opponent on the 2019-20 schedule.
“We got some goals and we had a lot of offense,” Ritsema said. “It was great. I knew we were going to score goals, but I was more concerned about defense.
“We actually moved the ball really well, and it’s probably the most talented team that we’ve had. You could see the experience of some of our guys who have played multiple years. It’s very obvious that we’re understanding the indoor game better. It’s really good to see.”
The Risers will return to action on Dec. 21 when they visit the Ankle Breakers in a rematch in Grand Rapids. They will return home on Jan. 11 with a game against Oakland County.
The first quarter was odd, with the Risers jumping all over Grand Rapids, scoring four quick goals in the first few minutes with tallies by Mendez, William Guerrero, Flores and Zukic.
But the Ankle Breakers answered with a pair of goals, by Eric Carey and Adrian Diaz, and the Risers clung to a 4-2 lead at the first break.
Muskegon took control by scoring six of the eight goals in the second quarter, with tallies by Macomber, Mendez, Zukic, Ifaturoti, Moses Crawford and Miguel Flores. Grand Rapids got goals from Diaz and Emanuel Belliard and the Risers led 10-4 at halftime.
“When we got that four-goal lead and let them back to 4-2, I wasn’t very happy,” Ritsema said. “We had some stuff to figure out and we did at halftime. I really thought the third quarter was really important and that we came out really strong. That was the quarter that made the difference.”
The rout got ugly in the third quarter when the Risers came out and scored five unanswered goals, and totaled seven. Zukic and Macomber each scored twice while Ifaturoti, Wagenmaker, and Mendez had single tallies.
GR’s lone third quarter goal came from Diaz, and the Risers led 17-5 after three.
Zukic and Ifaturoti each added fourth quarter goals. Daniel Diaz found the net three times for the Ankle Breakers in the fourth, and totaled four in the game.
“I think we played really well together for our first game, which was good,” Zukic said. “We still got work to do, but I’m really happy. I love to play attack, attack, attack, and we did a really good job of it.”