The entire DCFC bench was in utter shock at what had happened in its inaugural U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday at Livonia Stevenson High School.
The players on the sidelines, and even those on the field, placed their hands on their heads and looked up to the night sky. In the final seconds of regulation, AWB Adria forward Vlad Baciu had just found the ball in a scrum and hammered it into the back of the net to tie the game at two to send the match to extra time, where Le Rouge would eventually fall in penalty kicks.
The 2-2 (3-1 Penalty Kicks) loss hardly matched the expectations for a squad that earned their U.S. Open Cup bid with an 11-1-1 record last season, but the experience was invaluable in priming Le Rouge for another successful campaign.
“Anybody who watched the game would have seen a great soccer game, and a really good brand of soccer,” said head coach Ben Pirmann. “We didn’t finish chances. But I’m excited to get the regular season rolling and getting back to this tournament next year.”
Detroit City FC was able to come back from a slow start that resulted in an early 1-0 deficit after Baciu scored in the 21st minute the same way he netted his late equalizer — off a scrum in the box where Baciu finished a loose ball just in front of the goal line. DCFC wouldn’t take the lead without an abundance of patience and plenty of frustration, though, as many half-chances just wouldn’t hit the back of the net throughout the majority of the match.
“I think after the first 15 minutes, after getting used to the field and the wetness and the style of play of our opponent, we got comfortable and we played our game,” Pirmann said. “We could have had three or four goals.”
Those goals would eventually come, though. It was in the 71st minute when Tyler Arnone (Michigan)scored his first-career goal in a Le Rouge kit to help DCFC break its scoring drought. Arnone received a ball from Zach Myers at the penalty spot, where he fired a shot into the back of the net for the equalizer that City was desperately searching for.
“I was looking forward to joining the organization and seeing how the atmosphere was and it lived up to my expectations,” said Tyler Arnone. “I just played with my heart on my sleeve, because that’s what you get with these fans.”
Just minutes later, riding a wave of momentum, Le Rouge earned a corner kick that Ryan Thelen (Michigan State) would step up and execute perfectly. His cross found the head of Kevin Taylor inside the six-yard box where Taylor easily redirected the ball over the goal line for a late 2-1 lead. Taylor rushed over to the Northern Guard to celebrate, and was serenaded accordingly by the hundreds of supporters hovering over the pitch.
As the final minutes ticked up to the 90th, the feeling that Detroit City FC would capture its first U.S. Open Cup victory on its first try seemed increasingly more realistic. In stoppage time, the sentiment kept growing into almost a sure thing. Each minute past the 90th was grueling, and with clearance after clearance DCFC kept waiting to hear the final whistle. Instead, they heard silence apart from the handful of RWB Adria supporters that made the trip from Chicago.
The unthinkable had happened.
A date with the Michigan Bucks next week was everything except a done deal. All DCFC could do was stroll back to the center circle. The moment play resumed, the whistle that would end regulation finally came. But all the whistle meant was that 30 minutes of extra was looming, and a lead which seemed so stable was shattered in a matter of seconds.
Extra time held its fair share of chippiness and missed scoring chances for both sides. Zeke Harris and a RWB player were both shown red cards for a brief scuffle after another Adria midfielder was ejected for a dangerous tackle on Arnone.
In the midst of all the chaos in extra time, there did happen to be some thrilling action at both ends of the pitch. In the 93rd minute, David Edwardson pushed a shot just inches wide of the left post before Myers hammered a shot over the bar from the penalty spot in the 105th minute.
“We had plenty of opportunities to score, and unfortunately we didn’t,” Arnone said.
It was just that simple. Missed opportunities from both sides would keep the score level through both extra time sessions, even after a glorious chance by RWB Adria that rang a shot off the right post in the 106th minute refused to cross the goal line. Heading into penalty kicks, the Northern Guard made its way to field level in order to provide a boost to the home side.
However, the supporters could only do more than watch the first three DCFC shooters struggle to find back of the net during the shootout. When Arnone finally tallied a goal as the fourth shooter, it was too late and RWB Adria would eventually win the shootout 3-1 to advance to the next round of the U.S. Open Cup.
LE ROUGE RETURNS HOME
Just three days later, Detroit City FC needed to regroup quickly for its National Premier Soccer League opener against the Cincinnati Saints. In hopes to defend its regular-season NPSL title, Le Rouge came out flying in Saturday’s match, coasting to a 1-0 victory.
After a slow start plagued Le Rouge in Wednesday’s loss, City was the club laying all the pressure on its opponent in Saturday’s early stages. DCFC’s persistent attack and high possession in the final third created numerous scoring opportunities, all while stymying the Saints build up. Cincinnati failed to record a shot on goal until the 15th minute.
“We really imposed ourselves in that first half,” Pirmann said. “I think Wednesday really left a sour taste in some guys’ mouth. We made some changes to the lineup, six new players, some new stuff. We got after it a little bit. Three points is the minimum standard, and we’ve got to continue to get better from here.”
After a flurry of chances from the likes of Colin McAtee (Michigan), William Mellors-Blair (Michigan), and Myers in the first half, Myers was finally able to break the scoreless draw in the 37th minute. He received a pass from McAtee at the 6-yard box, where Myers finished in front of a Cincinnati defender.
“We knew it was coming at some point,” Myers said. “Colin was able to get around a guy, I saw him pick his head up and he played a great ball across, right in on the six there, and I was able to get around and get a toe on it.”
The second half picked up where the first left off with Le Rouge garnering the majority of the possession in the offensive third. More crafty passing and a flurry of shots tested Cincinnati goalkeeper Ben Dorn, but to no avail.
“We really overwhelemed them with possession,” Pirmann said. “We created a load of chances, and maybe they’re used to scoring a lot of those chances. And that’s part of getting the new guys in together with a little bit of chemistry.”
The possession-laden style of Detroit City FC surely could have produced several more goals, but all it would need to secure its first NPSL victory of the year was Myers initial tally. Pirmann coined a lack of sharpness as the result of failing to finish some of the chances on Wednesday, and that trend seemingly carried over to Saturday’s match.
In the winding moments of the match, Cincinnati refused to let City easily rack up a ‘W’ in the win column. The Saints biggest threat came after the 80th minute with two set plays near the DCFC goal.
A free kick in the 82nd minute ended up being ill timed and was cleared immediately by the Le Rouge defensive corps before another free kick produced a tricky play for goalkeeper Bret Mollon. He was able to knock it left of the goal to preserve the lead, though, marking one of his five saves in his first-ever shutout in a Le Rouge kit.
“Something we pride ourselves in is coming out to Cass with the fans and everybody and getting that three points, so that’s the way we want to start the year,” Myers said. “Obviously, we’re taking it one game at a time and building on it, but this is a good start for us.”
With one win already in the books, City looks primed to build off of last season’s remarkable success. The next stepping-stone will be this Friday’s match when DCFC welcomes the Michigan Stars (formerly FC Sparta) to Cass Tech for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Saturday's starting lineup
GK Bret Mollon
D Seb Harris
D Josh Rogers
D Nick Lewin
MF Cyrus Saydee
MF Tyler Arnone
MF Latif Alashe
MF David Edwardson
MF Colin McAtee
F William Mellors-Blair
F Zach Myers
MF Jeff Adkins
F Wade Allen
MF Colin Helmrich
MF TJ Van Slooten
MF Zach Vasold
- Jeremy Summitt / DCFC Staff Writer