Every team has moments that define it. They are moments that embody the traits that make the team what they are. They are moments that one can point to when asked to explain the results on the field.
The game on Sunday between Lansing United and Michigan Stars featured one such moment. It may not be a moment remembered by many, since there were so few people at Star International Academy on Sunday night to see a game that kicked off at 10pm, but it’s one of those moments that can define a season.
With the game in stoppage time a Stars cross came into the United box from the wing. United GK Ian McDonald-Wilkins came off his line in an attempt to win the ball in the air, and missed. Instead the ball was met by the head of a Stars player who sent it on a looping arc towards the now open United goal. Lansing’s 1-0 lead was about to be erased. Then, just before the ball crossed the line for a goal, United defender Cody Archibald rose to meet the flight of the ball, heading it back off the line and preserving both the lead and the win.
Not only did Archibald’s header preserve the win and keep United in control of its own destiny in the race for the Great Lakes West Conference Championship, it demonstrated one of the things that has made United successful, and a joy to watch, this season. For me, Archilbald’s effort in that moment showed desire, commitment, and an awareness of what the team needed.
When the game was on the line and his GK was beaten, this defender stepped up and made the play. It would have been easy to forgive if he hadn’t made the play. The game was in stoppage time and United had been on the back foot for most of the 2nd half, defending, sometimes desperately. To win that ball, in that moment, required an effort that some players don’t have the gas for at the end of 90 minutes. To be in position to even make that play required knowing exactly where he needed to be on the field. Had Archibald not been aware of the play McDonald-Wilkins was attempting to make, he probably wouldn’t have been near the line to clear the ball.
We’ve seen these attributes from United all season long. It’s one of the things that makes them so easy to love. When you see the effort they put in for 90+ minutes every game, how can you not stand and sing for them, letting them you know you’ve got their back?
Playing with different lineups almost every game can’t be easy. Yet the guys show an awareness of knowing where to be on the field, and how they fit into the system the team is playing. When one guy goes down with an injury another steps in and knows exactly what his team needs from him.
There have been other defining moments this season, but in my mind this one will stand out. By securing the win United ensured that with 2 games to play in the NPSL regular season, the team controls its own destiny. If United beats Indiana on Friday and Detroit on Sunday, both home games, we win the Great Lakes West. If Archibald hadn’t made that play, United would have to rely on other teams results. Thanks to that header, we’re still in control.