It’s generally understood that the hardest thing about soaring - which Detroit City Football Club surely was after Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup penalty-kick victory over the Michigan Bucks - is landing. One moment you’re airborne, gliding, the sounds of the mundane world falling away; then suddenly the ground is approaching, falling up to meet you with terrifying speed, its mud and trouble ready to embrace you.
Today in Ann Arbor, Le Rouge landed with a thud. Unable to summon the urgency that characterized Wednesday’s effort, Detroit City dominated the ball but not the chances, falling 1-0 to AFC Ann Arbor on a scrappy Martieon Watson goal in the final seconds of injury time.
“They had three shots in the game, and all three were dangerous,” DCFC manager Ben Pirmann. “But the bigger problem was the lack of urgency in the first half. We’re playing another team in our region, a successful team, and we didn’t show up great in the first half.
“We have to play better. We did not play well enough, especially in the first half.”
The game unwound as a fairly static contest tactically, with Ann Arbor’s compact spacing making it difficult for City to play through the middle and pacy centerback Joseph Okumu making balls over the top unfruitful. City’s best chance came in the 58th minute, when a combination between Shawn Lawson and Cyrus Saydee opened room at the top of the box for Rafa Mentzingen, whose blast from 20 was pushed wide by Ann Arbor keeper Mike Novotny. Danny Deakin’s follow-up to the shot, a wickedly angled cross, was punched out by Novotny, and the chance went begging.
City’s control of the ball meant that the hosts were forced - or perhaps content - to play off the back foot, countering on turnovers. But it was a soft foul in the dying moments of the game that set up one last chance, with Stephen Carroll unlucky to get called for an infraction 30 yards out on the Ann Arbor left wing. Henry Ramirez’s back-post cross was knocked down in the area, whereupon the game devolved into the simplest version of itself, with 20 guys straining everything to be the first to the ball. Watson, excellent all day at left back, won the race, blasted a shot off the crossbar and narrowly into the City goal to capture all the points.
Detroit City FC (0-0-1) travels to Cincinnati to face FC Cincinnati in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Tickets are not available. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.
AFC ANN ARBOR X, DETROIT CITY FC X
AFC Ann Arbor 0 1 - 1
Detroit City FC 0 0 - 0
Goals: AFCAA - Watson 90+2’.
Shots: AFCAA 5, DCFC 6
Shots on goal: AFCAA 4, DCFC 2
Saves: AFCAA 2 (Novotny 2), DCFC 3 (Pina 3)
Corner kicks: AFCAA 2, DCFC 3
Fouls: AFCAA 8, DCFC 6
Offside: AFCAA 1, DCFC 1
Discipline: AFCAA - Caution, Braem 56’.
AFC Ann Arbor (4-3-3): Novotny; Braem, Stapcinskas, Watson, Okumu; Ramirez, Shaikly (Rosen 69), Ybarra; Farkas (Liady 85), Breitmeyer (Odhiambo 60), Rylah (Lasinski 87).
Detroit City FC (4-2-3-1): Pina; Bentley (Williams 67), Fiscus, Carroll, Sinclair (Stephens 83); Centala, Bartel; Gatt (Mentzingen 53), Saydee (Shrimpton 90), Deakin; Lawson (Green 73).