COLUMBUS PROVES TO BE TOO MUCH FOR LE ROUGE 2 - 1.
In a break from National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) action, Detroit City FC hosted the Columbus Crew Super 20s in a midseason friendly on Tuesday. The Crew proved to be too much for DCFC though, as Le Rouge fell 2-1 to one of the best junior teams in the country.
Head coach Ben Pirmann decided to give most of his usual starters a rest in the midst of a brutal stretch that sees City playing five games in 10 days. But the 1,073 supporters in attendance were able to see the few unfamiliar faces perform admirably in their first appearance in a DCFC kit this season.
“My goal at the beginning of the season was to get everybody who’s going to put the time, effort and energy into this season a game in front of these fans,” Pirmann said. “We’ve got the best fans in the country. I wanted guys to play in front of them because it’s a special thing to play in front of these animals.”
To that end, Pirmann started a different lineup in each half. The first half saw him start Knox Cameron (Michigan/Columbus Crew), Austin Oldham (Butler), Jeff Adkins (Butler), Karter Sell (Duquesne), Raphael Reynolds (Oakland), Akeel Tariq (Brown), Matt Ybarra (Detroit), Josh Rogers (Michigan St.), Nick Schroeder (Evansville), Chase Jabbori (Akron) and Jeremy Clark (Michigan St).
The match began with Detroit City pressuring the Crew’s defense with plenty of odd-man rushes, but play soon leveled out when Columbus got on the board first. A ball down the left sideline landed at Conner Klekota’s feet as he entered the 18-yard box. Challenged by Clark, Klekota took a shot that Clark was unable to corral as Klekota eventually knocked the ball home for an early Crew lead.
Columbus’s impressive ball control and passing ability early in the half were enough to counter Le Rouge’s typical possession-laden style with both teams exchanging chances throughout the remainder of the first 45 minutes. The best of those chances for Detroit City came in the 24th minute when Oldham whistled a shot just inches over the bar from 20 yards out.
Shortly after Oldham’s stellar effort on goal, Columbus regained control of the midfield en route to several true scoring chances. One Crew goal was called back for being offside, while other opportunities required remarkable efforts from Rogers and the rest of the defense to keep the deficit at one heading into halftime. Le Rouge was outshot 8-2 in the first half, and the uncharacteristically scarce possession in the final third plagued any chance of a City equalizer.
“We had a mix of some new forwards and new midfielders playing together,” Pirmann said. “I thought we created a ton of chances, but where it was worse for us was our defensive transition. They would pick it up in their own third and they would advance it 90 yards and have a chance on goal.”
And to counter that shortcoming in the first half was an almost entirely new lineup for DCFC in the second stanza, as Pirmann continued to balance playing time between all players that dressed Tuesday. New faces rolling out for the second half were TJ VanSlooten (Michigan), Lachlan Savage (Saginaw Valley St.), Shawn Lawson (Oakland), Jon Evans (Oakland), Nick Lewin (Michigan), Ugochukwu Uche (New Hampshire), David Dwaihy (Kalamazoo College), Brendan Finnerty (Wheaton, IL.), Marco Bernadini (Spring Arbor) and Bret Mollon (Temple).
Despite the turnover in players, the narrative of the friendly continued to play out the same way with the Crew leading the way offensively.
Le Rouge continued to send balls over the top of the defense to the speedsters, Lawson and Adkins, but Columbus’s back line remained solidified as it denied City any noteworthy scoring chances. And in the 59th minute, the Crew extended the lead to two off a cross from Christopher Davis, which was eventually finished by Raymond Olavarria for a 2-0 advantage.
A late surge by Detroit City nearly earned it a draw, but the lackluster first half ended up being too much to overcome. In the 79th minute, Lawson exploded down the right sideline and sent a cross to the near post that Oldham one-timed into the far side of the net to cut Columbus’s lead to one. It was Oldham’s second goal in as many games, and Lawson’s first points of the season.
“I was just trying to run in behind the defense as much as I could until finally we got a good ball in,” Oldham said. “I got on the end of it and was lucky enough to get a touch on it and put it in.”
In the 85th minute, it was Lawson sprinting down the left sideline this time on a near breakaway. As he entered the 18-yard box, he lost control of the ball as the Columbus defender fell on the ball in what looked like a handball inside the penalty area. Unfortunately for Le Rouge, the referee decided otherwise as the minutes ticked down until the first loss of City’s season became a reality.
But the good news for Le Rouge is that unblemished record in the NPSL still remains intact. With two divisional games looming against AFC Cleveland and FC Buffalo, Le Rouge will have to get back on track with its usual lineup in order to stay on pace for the divisional title. DCFC will visit Cleveland Friday and return to Cass Technical High School for the final NPSL home match of the season against FC Buffalo on Sunday.