Sunday, June 5, 2016

FC Buffalo fails to steal the Rust Belt Trophy from Detroit City FC in 0-0 draw, 2-1 aggregate

Heading into Sunday’s Rust Belt Derby second leg against FC Buffalo with a 2-1 advantage after 90 minutes, Detroit City FC left the state of New York in possession of the Rust Belt Trophy after a 0-0 draw to its pre-conferencing foe. 

Goals from Jeff Adkins and Tommy Catalano in the first leg at Keyworth Stadium provided Le Rouge with a one goal advantage, on aggregate, heading into Buffalo.

Sunday's match was the complete antithesis to its reverse fixture on Friday. In Detroit's stadium, the game was lively and entertaining, but at FC Buffalo's home field, Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium, the game became flat, as evidenced by its scoreline. 

"When you have these kinds of friendlies, the goal is to try and get everyone some minutes and time on the field, so obviously it worked out today but it was shaky in terms of communication," assistant coach Colby Cunningham, standing in for newlywed Ben Pirmann, said. "The most important thing is walking away with, not a win, but the trophy for the fans and a happy bus ride home."
Whether the staleness of the play on the pitch was the fault of weather, too much rest, lack of motivation or some other factors; it didn't change that the game was all but dead until the last ten minutes. 

There were a few, seemingly out of nowhere, chances in the first half, most being in favor of FC Buffalo. In the 13th minute, DCFC goalkeeper Robbie Beckwell found himself one on one with Buffalo forward Romario Guscott, but came out the victor in the battle with a kick save to keep the game even. 

Whenever Detroit City FC seemingly had a plan to move forward, the actions were interrupted by either a heavy pass, defensive intervention or a misplaced cross that would leave the offense stuttering. 

"Our rotation of our forwards with Danny [Deakin], Ali [Al-Gashamy], Javi and Alec [Lasinski] kind of changed it up by going forward and giving their [FC Buffalo] backline a headache," said Cunningham. "All of that speed is somethi
ng that we try to explore, and we did that on Friday, and we see what happens,"

Le Rouge forward Javi Bautista was substituted onto the field late in the first half, but immediately began kickstarted the DCFC offense when the midfield started playing balls into his feet. Right before the half, Bautista was able to hold possession of the ball and draw defenders towards him before dishing to Lasinski, and the shot was put into the FCB goalkeeper Steven Casey's hands. 

After the half, Bautista was at it again. This time, making space for himself after a pass into the offensive third from Dave Edwardson, Bautista elected to have a go-on-goal himself, powering the ball off of the cross bar and out of play. 

The match then quieted down on the pitch, but foul after foul was clearly bringing tempers out of players on both sides of the pitch, but anger was mostly aimed at the officiating crew for the time being. 

In the 75th minute, City forward Jordan Kalk used his speed to get past the last FC Buffalo defender en route to the 18-yard box, but before he could take advantage of his pace, the ball fluttered at his feet and Kalk was forced to rush a shot that sputtered wide of goal. 

The last ten minutes of the match was split in domination from both Great Lakes clubs, with Detroit trying to add the insurance goal to its aggregate lead, culminating in an Edwardson shot from 25 yards out that looked like it was going to curl in, but Casey tipped it over the net for a save. 

The final five minutes were in the hands of FC Buffalo, putting Le Rouge on its heels and forcing three saves out of 'keeper Joe Smith, who came in earlier for presumably injured Beckwell. 

Smith was forced to lunge to his left to stop a shot that was bound for the bottom corner of the net that could have tied the aggregate score, but the keeper palmed the ball away before being kicked in the head by a Buffalo player. 

The scrum that ensued after the play resulted in a red card being issued to Buffalo's Sam Byles in the 89th minute. 

Buffalo held a last gasp opportunity in stoppage time, but once again Smith came up clutch, barely getting his fingertips on the shot, allowing him to handle the rebound as the whistle blew for full time. 

"Overall, the goal for this weekend was to get two positive results. Obviously we would like to get a win, but we did that on Friday and got a tie to lead into two league games leading into the rest of the season," said Cunningham.

Detroit City FC now heads into the upcoming weekend with a full slate of must win matches. Despite having only played four games in the NPSL Midwest Great Lakes-West conference, Le Rouge has fallen to sixth place, only ahead of the struggling Dayton Dynamo for the last place spot. 

That being said, DCFC has played more competitive matches than its six counterparts in its conference, having played two U.S. Open Cup matches against the Michigan Bucks and Louisville City FC. 

Click for full match gallery
But from here until the end of the season, City has no distractions that should hinder them in the second half of the league schedule. Which is important because its final eight games have become "must-win" with a talented and in-form AFC Ann Arbor sitting at the top of the table. 

"Every team in the league this year is good, there isn't a team that is below and everyone is kind of fighting for those spots," Cunningham told FTLOF. "But it's special to win this trophy not only for the fans and for the crest, and I think we use that as motivation throughout the entire season. 

"We play for the supporters, they are the backing of everything that is Detroit City FC. We go to Buffalo and theres 50 people who travel seven hours to see the guys play, so everything we do is to give back to them. 

"We'll continue to use the Rust Belt Trophy as our momentum going into a big next weekend."

Detroit City FC travels to Grand Rapids FC on Friday before hosting conference rival, Lansing United, on Sunday afternoon.

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