2016 Season Wrap

Head Coach: Ben Pirmann
Captain: Dave Edwardson
103rd Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup: Second Round
NPSL Great Lakes West Conference: 5th
NPSL Midwest Regional Playoffs: Did not qualify
Rust Belt Derby: Winner (4th time)
Top Goalscorer (Competitive Matches): Tommy Catalano (5)
Black Arrow Award (Team MVP): Tommy Catalano

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Friendlies

103rd Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup

Regular Season

Great Lakes West Final Standings

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Predictions Revisited

My annual triumphal march/walk of shame. View my 2016 predictions in their original, unaltered state, HERE. Last year’s score: 3.5/5

2016 Great Lakes West

I got this just about bang on with two notable exceptions: overestimating DCFC and underestimating Grand Rapids. Flip those two and the predicted table is nearly identical to the actual finish. I nailed 2-4 and accurately projected Dayton and Kalamazoo to finish near the bottom, though the latter proved to be much more respectable than I expected.

5 Wild Guesses

(1) City will host the Midwest Playoffs.

Verdict: Incorrect. It was a bit of a rough year 🙁

(2) Three City players will score at least 5 goals.

Verdict: Incorrect. Only Tommy Catalano, City’s leading goalscorer, reached that number.

(3) Average home attendance will top 4500 and the 5000 mark will be broken.

Verdict: Correct Average home attendance came in at a robust 5208 and the 5000 mark was broken five times. The high of 7410 came in the home opener against Ann Arbor.

(4) City will not drop any points against Dayton, Grand Rapids, or Kalamazoo.

Verdict: Incorrect. See prediction #1. Dayton proved to be a pushover, but Grand Rapids was the class of the Great Lakes West and Kalamazoo proved to be a legitimate opponent.

(5) The noise at Keyworth will visibly affect an opposing team.

Verdict: Incomplete. This one is subjective so it’s hard to judge. In retrospect I probably should’ve stuck with a black and white prediction like the others. The closest confirmation we got to this had to be the 5-0 win over Dayton, but that result probably had more to do with the fact that Dayton were a really poor team. I’m calling this one a push.

Goals of the Year

#3 Cyrus plays ping-pong against Ann Arbor. (Video: Nick Miko)

#2 Alec Lasinski opens Keyworth. (Video: WDIV ClickOnDetroit)


#1
Brett Nason beats the Bucks. (Not technically a goal, but far and away the best moment of the 2016 season and it would be a crime to omit it)

(Video #1: Ian McCulloch; Video #2: Michael Kitchen)

BIR Player Awards

MVP: Jeff Adkins (LW/RW/Attacking Mid) Tommy Catalano won the Black Arrow Award as the official MVP, but Jeff Adkins was City’s most consistent player and most dangerous attacker throughout the season. His stats didn’t do him justice as he typically dominated each and every fullback that he went up against, often making them look slow and silly. His combination play with Danny Deakin and Cyrus Saydee was the strongest point of City’s attack, and if he returns in 2017 I’d expect him to pick up right where he left off.

Breakout Player: Omar Sinclair (CB) When he was announced as part of the roster, it looked to be the addition of a youngster who could provide depth at multiple positions on the back line and maybe work his way into the lineup with an eye toward 2017. Instead, he appeared in all 12 regular season matches at centerback and led the team in minutes played (903). He also called me out on Twitter for underestimating him. Never again, sir. Never again.

Unsung Hero: Tyler Moorman (ST/Mid/FB) Proved to be a crucial piece to the roster with his ability to play virtually any position on the field. His signature performance came away to Ann Arbor when he started at right back, helping to keep Dario Suarez, arguably the best player in the NPSL Midwest, mostly in check. He then moved up to forward late in the match and scored the winning goal in the 80th minute.

Note: I typically include an updated DCFC All-Time Best XI at the end of these season wrap posts. I’m saving this year’s update for a feature early next year. Stay tuned…

A Response to MGoBlog

As a longtime Michigan Football fan, I’ve been a reader of MGoBlog for over a decade. I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated the in-depth, intelligent, nuanced content produced by Brian Cook and his team. In my opinion it’s by far the best team-specific sports blog on the Internet, and was one of my main sources of inspiration when I started BIR three years ago. In many ways what I’ve been aiming for is to be the “MGoBlog” of Detroit City FC.

So I was taken aback when I read Brian’s utter contempt for City and its supporters in this recent post:

 Nothing is more annoying about DCFC than this. Detroit is a name frequently proposed for MLS expansion because it makes a ton of sense. It’s an excellent sports town and it’s smack dab in the middle of the Toronto-Chicago-Columbus triangle. But Detroit City is vehemently opposed:

…for this team and its passionate supporters, being included would have also presented another conundrum: DCFC’s identity is homegrown and supporters say it would disintegrate under MLS’ sanitized fan control policies.

For them, the only way to keep growing soccer in Detroit, the only way they saw the sport as having a real future here, was to keep it community and supporter-focused. The Detroit sports landscape, Wright said, was too treacherous for any team to turn their back on that model.

That is absurdly self-important and aloof. Many MLS environments are excellent and homegrown because the league was able to establish a détente with existing fans. The league has done a terrific job of crossing over from Family Fun to actually fun environments in Toronto, Seattle, and Portland.

The same can happen in Detroit, because the DCFC hardcore are not 1) particularly numerous and 2) the only soccer fans in the city. If DCFC wants to finish out of the playoff slots in the NPSL because MLS would frown on them saying “fuck” 300 times in a 90 minute match, that’s their prerogative. It should have no impact on MLS’s decision to come to Detroit or not. There’s no reason the two teams can’t coexist since they serve different markets. One will draw the interest of soccer fans; the other will draw the interest of people who like to act tough and watch colored smoke instead of soccer.

The argument that City supporters don’t care about soccer and only go to matches to get drunk and cosplay as European ultras is brought up by our detractors over and over, and each time it gets more tiresome. There may be some supporters for whom this is absolutely true, but for the core of NGS, the dress, smoke and tifo displays, etc. are simply expressions of our love for the club and the ways in which we choose to support it. We create the atmosphere in celebration of what happens on the field, not independent of it. If drawing attention to ourselves in turn makes more people aware of City, we’ve accomplished what we set out to do from the very beginning.

If I didn’t like the game of soccer, I never would’ve gone to a City match in the first place, but there are many people I know who were drawn in by the buzz created by NGS and became die-hard soccer lovers in the process. And if there are some non-soccer people who choose to go only for the event, so what? Similarly, I doubt every person who attends an MLS match knows about Matthias Sindelar, Rinus Michels, and the impact that Joao Havelange had on the modern game. (Have I passed the True Soccer Fan purity test?)

Supporter freedom of expression is important to us, but it’s not the main reason I and many fellow supporters are wary of MLS coming to town. I’d like DCFC to continue building with an eye toward eventually becoming Detroit’s pro soccer team, and a Gilbert-Gores MLS creation would likely put an end to those aspirations, as well as serve to put a ceiling on City’s potential future growth.

But isn’t that selfish? Aren’t our actions depriving innocent pro-MLS people of the team they desire?

Admittedly, our numbers are modest, so when it comes to blocking MLS expansion or HOLDING DETROIT SOCCER HOSTAGE!!!, our power in these matters is extremely limited.

As far as selfishness goes, I guess I’m guilty in that I’ve found something that I love and through which I’ve made most of my friends, and I’d like to see that thing continue to exist and grow rather than be stomped out or at the very least severely hindered.

I’m a believer in free and open competition, so Gilbert/Gores/Garber have every right to come in and create an expansion team if that’s what they want. That doesn’t mean I have to greet them with open arms, and it doesn’t mean I have to support the use of taxpayer money to build a new stadium in a cash-strapped city when the billionaires in charge of the project are perfectly capable of footing the bill themselves.

If the NFL tried to plop a team down in Ann Arbor, I’d expect Michigan fans to have a similarly skeptical response. The two situations are not perfectly analogous, but after the Dave Brandon debacle, you’d think one would be a little more understanding of our concerns surrounding the over-corporatization of sports and the treating of fans as ATMs rather than valued members of a community.

This may not change anyone’s mind or convince them of anything, but I hope it at least helped to better explain my position which also happens to be one that many of my fellow supporters hold. If nothing else, at least we can all agree that Ohio is a terrible, terrible place and no one should ever go there, except to support your team.

2017 NPSL Midwest Divisions

I am alive. I haven’t written anything in four months mainly for two reasons: (1) This season burned me out and I just didn’t friggin feel like doing anything for a while, and (2) Unlike 2015, this fall was utterly devoid of any real news pertaining to City.

Things have perked up over the last few weeks, however, and now there are a few items worthy of discussion. I planned on covering the NASL/USL/MLS expansion drama and what it has to do with City, but I’ve decided to save that for my annual State of the Club post which will be up sometime in January. Maybe by then the NASL will have kicked the bucket and will make my analysis that much easier, but for now I’d like to focus on the latest annual reshuffling of the NPSL’s Midwest divisions.

Sidenote: I’m going to call them “divisions” even though the league bizarrely insists on calling them “conferences.” In every major sport in North America, the nomenclature goes: League – Conference – Division, with a descending number of teams in each. NPSL for some reason goes: League – Region – Conference. Everyone I know uses the word “division” to describe the group of teams that City plays in the regular season, and it just sounds better, so that’s what I’m going with.

Anyway,  the formats of the past two years (single 12-team table in 2015, east & west divisions in 2016) seemed to provide good balance and worked well – i.e. the teams that truly deserved to make the playoffs made it and the ones that didn’t deserve it didn’t.

With the rebooting of the old Central Division, now known as the North, the Midwest Region is returning to the unbalanced, poorly structured format of 2014, in which Detroit City finished one point behind Lansing United for most overall points, but failed to qualify for the 4-team playoff because it didn’t win its division and had a lower points-per-game average than the wildcard qualifier.

Not to dwell on the past, but just look how stupid this is:

The North Division has not been fully announced, but it at least appears that it will consist of a full complement of clubs:

Via Soccer Midwest

Unfortunately, two of those clubs are veritable dumpster fires that will likely provide the five or six clubs above them with 6 free points apiece. Detroit City supporters may remember the Minnesota TwinStars from the 2015 season in which they did this:

Meanwhile, Eau Claire has built a remarkable legacy of ineptitude, documented below in full gory detail. I’ve taken the liberty of adding in last year’s stats to give a full picture of what we’re dealing with here.

It’s truly incredible they’ve lasted so long. You have to wonder what they’re actually trying to accomplish as a club.

Meanwhile, the Great Lakes and East divisions will line up as such:

The Great Lakes loses Dayton, but gains FC Indiana, which was about just as bad in 2016.

Also joining the division are Milwaukee Torrent. The Torrent went 6-0-0 in 2016, playing in the Midwest’s provisional Central division. Four of those wins came against the aforementioned TwinStars and Eau Claire, so it’s unclear how good they really are. As the westernmost and most isolated club in the division, travel will be one of their biggest concerns.

Overview

The playoff format has not yet been announced, but if it consists of three division winners + one wildcard team determined by points-per-match, as in 2014, the second place team in the North will probably have a leg up due to an easier schedule, which would cause justifiable frustration for at least one club in the Great Lakes or East. Adding in the fact that the number of matches played will not be consistent across the divisions, it further complicates the math as the teams that play more will have a little more margin for error.

All that aside, the yearly lesson remains: The only real way to avoid the mess is to stay above it by winning your division and not leaving anything to chance.

Update: On Minneapolis City’s website, they include this bit of information:

That would mean that the North, just as the Great Lakes, would consist of eight teams. If two teams from each conference/division qualify for the playoffs, the format would likely include first-round byes for the top two overall seeds.