Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Detroit City FC continue dream run at the top of the table with win over FC Indiana

You can find the full photo gallery from Tuesday's match by clicking this sentence.

Full disclosure, I haven't been active in covering either Detroit City FC or AFC Ann Arbor for about three weeks because of a death in the family and the proceedings that follow that sort of life event.

That being said, For the Love of Futbol returned on Tuesday to cover Detroit City FC defeating FC Indiana, 2-0, at Keyworth Stadium in front of 4,000 fans. With the victory, The Boys in Rouge moved within two points of Great Lakes Conference leaders AFC Ann Arbor, despite starting the season at the bottom of the table.

Head coach Ben Pirmann has led an impressive season turnaround, pushing his squad to a seven game winning streak, including three of those wins in a span of an exhausting five days.

"We preached mental focus last night, because the approach has to be the same as if we're playing AFC Ann Arbor or FC Indiana," Pirmann said. "They may be the lowest team in the division but they beat Kalamazoo, who we just squeaked by.

"The biggest thing was the mental approach and it wasn't there. We were poor in the first half, but it's not like we didn't work hard. We played three games in five days, some guys are tired and some guys are injured, but we need to play better and more focused."

Playing against a team like FC Indiana, who currently sit at the bottom of the league standings with a mere four points, has its challenges. And Tuesday night's challenge for Le Rouge was playing against a physically strong and fearless team that weren't weary of committing a foul or fifty.

DCFC controlled the flow of the match from onset, and even though the slightly rotated squad looked tired, the intensity and passion that flows through a Detroit City squad was as clear as ever in front of their supporters.

The inclusion of new-boy Elijah Rice has fueled the spark that has ignited the team's offense with his ability to chase down balls with pace and elusiveness to get in behind the defense. Rice has immediately formed a flow of chemistry with fellow forward Roddy Green and midfielder Cyrus Saydee that has improved the offensive supply.

But Pirmann wasn't completely impressed with his team's performance. 

"Tonight was not a good performance but that's a sign of a good club, that when you don't play well, and that first half was atrocious, but it's a good sign that we come out with a shutout and three points," Pirmann said.

Le Rouge had a handful of chances moving forward into the attacking third throughout the opening twenty minutes, but deflections or saves from Indiana goalkeeper Kyle Bugay kept Le Rouge at-bay, until the 22nd minute when Green forced a header towards goal, finding Rice in the box to easily put the ball through Bugay's legs and into the goal, giving his team a 1-0 lead on the evening.

Twelve minutes later, Indiana saw its only quality chance on goal after a rare Saydee foul was committed inside his own box, earning the midfielder a yellow card and Indiana a penalty kick.

DCFC 'keeper Fernando Pina, making his debut for the club, made his own mark on City goalkeeper folklore with a very impressive save on the spot kick, keeping Detroit City ahead by one.

After the goal, City's game plan was to keep feeding Rice, to take advantage of his pace. The strategy paid off in stoppage time, when a red card was issued to Bugay for a challenge right outside of the box.

Rice, chasing down a ball that was played over the top, was hit with a body-to-body challenge from the goalkeeper. Bugay was obviously not making an attempt to play the ball, warranting an immediate removal from the match.

The ensuing free kick was saved, and the half finished with Detroit City in the lead, 1-0.

Spencer Glass opened his Detroit City goal tally with a powerful, one-touch strike that easily beat substitute 'keeper Eduardo Orozco at the far post, to give Detroit City a two-goal lead.

The rest of the match went un-touched when it came to scoring, and the two goal lead allowed Pirmann to further rotate his squad and get some of his first-team guys out of the match and into some much needed rest.

Bench players Seb Harris, Troy Watson, Shawn Lawson, Jeff Adkins and Tyler Moorman entered the match in positions outside of their conventional spots on the pitch, which showed the lack of depth Detroit City were forced into due to a tight packed schedule and injuries.

Harris took up the right back position rather than center back, Watson held down the central midfield in a defensive role, Moorman played on the right wing (although not foreign to the attacking player) and Lawson played in an advanced midfield, forward role.

Pirmann confirmed to FTLOF that both Max Todd and Louis Dargent have seen the end of their seasons due to injury, and will not be available for playoffs if DCFC are to qualify. (Edit: After this story was posted, it was announced that Spencer Glass will also be out for the season.)

Detroit City FC closed out the match with a 2-0 win, effectively knocking Kalamazoo FC and Michigan Stars FC out of playoff contention. Milwaukee Torrent and FC Indiana were taken out of contention earlier in the season.

"Early in the season (after the slow start) I sat the team down and I told them that they needed to trust the process because you win the league or make the playoffs in fourteen games," Pirmann said. "We compared our slow start last summer, we didn't have as many quality players to get through that, this year it's different.

"It's the same 25 guys in training every day. It's making sure we drill, communicate, do treatments, eating healthy, sleeping or whatever it may be; it's flowing better than last year.

"If you're playing better then it forces competition, and with that we really just have to trust the process."

Only AFC Ann Arbor, Detroit City FC, Lansing United and Grand Rapids FC are eligible for playoff berths, and only two can qualify.

But Pirmann isn't worried about who is making the playoffs, but rather how his team performs up to their season goals.

"I don't worry about the end of the season because we're not at the end of the season, right now I'm thinking about the Stars match and that's the end of 'Stage Two' in our three stage process," Pirmann said. "We'll worry about Ann Arbor and Lansing after Friday night.

"All they (Stars players) care about is a Friday night, 90 minute game in front of 6,000 fans and they're going to be jacked up to be here. We get everyone's best competition, we get everyone's best game and we'll see it again Friday night."

DCFC will look to potentially take over the top spot in the conference on Friday against Michigan Stars FC. Join us for coverage of that match on Twitter (@FTLOFutbol), as well as coverage of AFC Ann Arbor vs. Lansing United on Saturday evening, which will prove to be a season altering meeting for all clubs still in contention.

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