Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern junior – Soccer
The junior goalkeeper had eight saves – a number of them “brilliant” according to a Grand Rapids Press report – to lead the Division 2 top-ranked Huskies to a 1-0 win over No. 2 Grand Rapids Christian on Sept. 17, earning Kliewer the Michigan Army National Guard Performance of the Week. The win also avenged last season’s Regional Semifinal loss to the Eagles, while providing a confidence boost as Forest Hills Northern pursues its first MHSAA championship in boys soccer.
The Huskies are 13-0-1 with 11 shutouts this season, and Kliewer has nine of those shutouts in goal while playing in the field for the other two. Heading into Thursday’s 2-2 tie against Grand Rapids Northview, he’d saved 93.8 percent of shots he’d faced in goal this season with a 0.27 goals-against average; FHN has outscored its opponents by a combined 57-5. Kliewer was the varsity backup as a freshman and then split starts last fall with Carter Clark. The keepers agreed early last season that whoever had better statistics would receive the team’s all-state push, and Carter ended up with a slight edge and all-state honorable mention – although FHN coach Daniel Siminski said both keepers performed at that elite level. They were set to split starts again this fall, at least during the regular season, but Clark was injured in August and Kliewer has taken over fulltime.
After playing in a summer tournament in Spain, Kliewer received an invitation to join the academy for the German Bundesliga’s Werder Bremen, but he elected to return to the U.S. and finish high school. He’s grown nearly six inches since freshman year and is pushing 6-foot-4, and more soccer opportunities surely are on the way. He also carries a 3.8-4.0 weighted grade-point average and is interested in studying chemical engineering or business after high school. Those decisions will be made later; in the meantime, he's hoping to help FHN to a historic finish.
Coach Daniel Siminski said: “Jon is a very tall and athletic goalie. He is a vocal leader out of the backfield that owns the box even in heavy traffic. This year, he has improved exponentially by also showing up in fantastic shape, which has helped with agility and range. He has shed the baby pudge and now looks like a chiseled statue back there. Overall, he does not have a lot of holes in his game, and he has been a fantastic last line of defense when things break down defensively. Between his stellar play, and the great play of our defense, we’ve only given up three goals on the season.”
Performance Point: “What I think was probably the best part was how the team came together,” Kliewer said of the Grand Rapids Christian win. “It was obviously a close game, and we knew that Grand Rapids Christian was really good. But we knew that we were better, and we came out and performed super well. … I was pretty pumped up because they kicked us out of Regionals last year. A lot of people probably don’t think playing them midseason is a big deal, but I think it was a big deal for our team, just to prove to ourselves that we can win state championships this year if we put our hearts into it. I think it’s going to really matter if we play them in Regionals this year; we can reflect back on that win and say we beat them that time, so we can beat them again.”
Last line of defense: “It’s been tough, but also a challenge that I really want to step up (and meet). It’s a lot of fun playing for the team, but when it comes to games there’s a lot of pressure to perform well. I deal well with that pressure, but I also need to work to get better. It’s a challenge I like.”
Prepared to play: “I came in (this fall) and I really wanted the starting position. I thought to myself, I don’t want to give Coach any reason to tell me I’m not good enough – so I’m going to get in shape, do everything as good or better than the field players running-wise and getting in shape. And then I also did some special training over the summer with a goalkeeper coach out in Detroit, just to get back into the routine of playing goalie.”
Standing tall: “I grew a lot since my freshman year, over my sophomore year, and just getting used to my new body. Getting up off the ground is a lot harder. It’s a lot more distance to cover. But (being taller) also helps in the air because I can come out and grab a lot of stuff faster, and I’m taller so I can come out and punch the ball, stuff like that.”
Trophy time: “(Winning the Division 2 title) would just mean the world to me right now. We’ve really bonded with the seniors, and they really want to win it. Coach really wants to win it – he’s gotten super close multiple times. We really have a good team this year, and that’s pretty much all we’ve been talking about. It would just mean a lot to us, honestly, as a whole team.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Past 2018-19 honorees
PHOTOS: (Top) Forest Hills Northern's Jonathan Kliewer dives to make a stop. (Middle) Kliewer goes high as opposing strikers converge on the net. (Photos courtesy of the Forest Hills Northern soccer program.)
For Sebi Roy, there’s definitely been no place like home.
Just as last season started, Roy moved back to his hometown of Clarkston to play high school soccer after spending roughly 1½ years training with Major League Soccer’s Cincinnati FC as part of the MLS Next program.
Going from training with a professional organization to high school soccer might seem like a major downgrade to the average soccer follower, but it hasn’t been the case at all for Roy.
“It’s great to go from a super high skill ceiling where every touch matters, to something a little bit more free,” he said. “I know a lot more people and it’s a great way to get confidence. I didn’t get a whole lot of training in Cincy, and back here I get so much more individual training in general. Getting the touches and getting development was crucial.”
Ever since Roy came back to Clarkston last year, opponents have certainly wished he stayed in Cincinnati.
It’s especially been the case this year, as Roy, a center forward, has been just about unstoppable.
The 6-foot-3 Roy entered Thursday with 15 goals and five assists over 11 games despite being the constant focal point of opposing defenses and playing in arguably the state’s toughest league, the Oakland Activities Association Red.
Against 2022 Division 1 champion Rochester Adams, Roy scored five goals in a 7-3 win.
Clarkston head coach Ian Jones said he hadn’t even met Roy before last year, then heard rumors from others on that team he was coming back in town.
Still, Roy showed up after tryouts had ended, so Jones had Roy go through a personal two-day tryout.
It obviously didn’t take long for Jones to realize Roy was too good to not have on the team, and that was reinforced during the first game last year when he scored a goal on his first touch of the game. Roy went on to make the Division 1 all-state first team as Clarkston finished 16-5-2 and reached the Regional Finals.
Jones, who has professional experience playing in England and has coached for more than 20 years in the United States, said Roy definitely has the tools to be a professional player.
“I’ve never seen anything like him,” he said. “He’s got unbelievable touch. He’s left-footed and right-footed. He’s got vision and strength. It’s fun to watch him, forget coaching him. You find yourself watching him in games because he’s so good.”
Roy’s father is Travis Roy, who in 1991 won the state's Mr. Soccer Award playing for Livonia Stevenson before going on to play in college at Wisconsin.
Also on the Clarkston team this year is Roy’s brother, Fagan, who is a freshman.
Sebi Roy said his dad started him in soccer “as soon as he could walk,” and he has loved it so much that he hasn’t dabbled in any other sport.
Despite already getting a small taste of what professional soccer would be like, Roy said he prefers to play in college and is still in the process of determining the best spot.
Asked if there’s any top professional player he likes to emulate, the answer was a hard no.
“I want to be my own person,” he said.
Thanks to Roy’s production and a core of other talented players who could be playing at the next level, Clarkston earlier this month achieved a program first – the No. 1 ranking in Division 1.
Clarkston (9-1-1) is down to No. 4 this week after losing its first game last Thursday, a 2-1 decision at now-No. 2 Oxford.
There could soon be a rematch, as Clarkston and Oxford are in the same District in the upcoming Division 1 tournament.
If the teams meet again, Oxford will know the main player to stop – and Clarkston will know the main player to ride as it pursues what would be a first state title in boys soccer. (The Wolves were Division 1 runners-up in 2007).
“He’s the most dangerous player we’ve seen by far,” Oxford coach Adam Bican said. “His size, his athleticism, and his IQ is off the chart. He’s so dangerous, and he has one of the better shots I’ve seen. He’s a pure finisher.”
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
(Photos by Keith Dunlap.)