It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t need to be.
If Detroit City Football Club goes on to great things in 2018, it’s possible - maybe even likely - that the names on the backs of the City kits won’t be those we saw Saturday evening in Chattanooga. The spirit, though, will remain consistent - fighting hard for every ball despite the friendly nature of the contest, an early-season Detroit City roster filled out with trialists survived a first-half battering then rode goals from Roddy Green and Shawn Lawson to a gritty 2-1 victory over Chattanooga FC in front of 5,248 souls.
“We’re going to have to play a lot better than that,” Detroit City FC manager Ben Pirmann said. “A lot better.”
On a picture-perfect evening, Le Rouge won the game with two sparkling counterattacks after nearly an hour of control by the hosts. In the 63rd minute, City wing forward Roddy Green found himself isolated on the left side after a wayward Chattanooga pass. Surging toward goal with Jeff Adkins offering a back-post run, Green called his own number, following his own saved shot with a delicate chip over the already-prone keeper for a lead Detroit would never relinquish. Lawson added the second in the 79th minute, taking advantage of an overextended ‘Nooga defense pressing for an equalizer to roast CFC centerback Sean Rutter and finish cleanly to the back post from 17 yards.
“It was a fast break,” Lawson said. “We were really pinned down for a minute there, and the ball popped out to me. I found myself one-on-one with the last defender, made a little move inside then back outside, then I just hit the ball.
“It’s a move I work on at practice, going inside then outside then hitting it.”
The game could’ve been decided in favor of the hosts in the first quarter-hour. CFC, playing a compact possession game focused on creating chances on the wings, simply blowtorched a City defense struggling with spacing. The team’s creative axis, striker Joao Vitor Costa and trequartista Juan Hernandez, flourished in the channels between Detroit’s fullback and the central defense, creating chance after chance - but City keeper Nate Steinwascher, in sparkling form, was equal to every challenge.
“We could’ve had a couple goals there early, maybe more, but [Steinwascher] just stood on his head,” Chattanooga manager Bill Elliott said. “He gave them a chance to turn it around.”
To the credit of Le Rouge, their obvious disorganization did not lead to discouragement, despite giving up something like 20 chances in the first half. The central defensive pairing of Cory Miller and Joe Censori gradually came into the game, stemming the flood-tide of chances and giving City a chance to regain its footing after halftime.
“The first half, we got exposed a few times,” Miller said. “It’s the first game, we’ve had hardly any practice, and it takes some time - but by the second half we had a lot better feeling, much more organized. And, you know, it starts from the back, so that’s important.”
Detroit City FC and Chattanooga FC play the reverse fixture in this home-and-home friendly series next Saturday, April 28 at Keyworth Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. and tickets are on sale at tickets.detcityfc.com.