Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
UNITED States of America-based Zimbabwean goalie Tatenda Mkuruva captained his Michigan Stars club to their first National Independent Soccer Association league title.
Michigan Stars edged Albion San Diego 1-0 in the playoffs final to lift the title. The NISA league is the third tier of American soccer and was established in 2019.
A first half goal by Anthony Bowie gave Michigan Stars their first NISA title. It was also the first for Mkuruva, who had last won silverware during his days at Harare giants Dynamos eight years back.
The former national team and Dynamos shot stopper, who kept 14 clean sheets during the 2022 campaign, played 22 out of the 26 matches for his side.
Michigan Stars had one of the best backlines in the league, with Mkuruva quoted by the NISA media on Sunday that teamwork was behind their success.
“What we have mastered is that defence starts from the striker. So if you are building a defence, and everybody has to get behind the ball, it has to be the striker first getting behind the ball and the other guys building in from the back.
“Also communication starts from me as the goalkeeper, to the backline and the midfielders and to the strikers. So it’s all about teamwork, just putting everybody together in the right places at the right time. I think that helped us a lot,” said Mkuruva.
Winning the NISA league title was a perfect present for Michigan Stars who celebrated their 40th anniversary this year.
Michigan Stars finished their season in third place after the regular league season fixtures and this was good enough to earn them a play-off berth in the last eight.
In the quarter-finals of the playoffs, Mkuruva’s side beat Syracuse Pulse 2-0 to book a date with Chattanooga FC in the last four. Michigan Stars went on to win 1-0 over Chattanooga on their way to their maiden playoff final.
Mkuruva, the club’s captain finished the playoffs without conceding a goal after his team got the better of Albion San Diego in the final.
With the season over, it is not clear if the 26-year-old former DeMbare star will move up the tier for the next season.
Having proved his worth for Michigan Stars, Mkuruva will hope that teams in the upper tiers bid for his services. — @ZililoR