Note 1: This preview deals with the roster that is currently-known. Any players recently added to the team are not included.
Note 2: Since many players can play multiple positions, I’ve listed them at their primary spot (or at least what I think it is).
Note 3: College soccer rosters usually only list the positions: F, M, D, GK. When I’m not sure if a “D” refers to a right, left, or central defender, for instance, I’ve marked the corresponding player with a “$”.
At the time of this writing, striker is Detroit City’s thinnest position. Consequently, Zach Myers, last season’s team MVP and leading scorer (8) will be relied upon more than any other player. As the main offensive weapon, his consistency and health are both key – any injury to him would be a huge blow to City’s ambitions. His strike partner, Wade Allan, is primarily a hold the ball up/bring others into the game type of player, but if he could chip in a few goals (0 in 2013), it would greatly benefit the team by balancing the attack. Both Myers and Allan played well in the pre-season friendly against Saginaw Valley State, hopefully foreshadowing a strong season to come.
There are only two current bench options, but they do provide different skillsets – speed (Tom Oatley), and size (Nick Schroeder – 6’5”).
On a side note, I was all set to write about how Stefan St. Louis would greatly help the striker depth situation and challenge for a starting role, but apparently he has opted to play for the mutant offspring of the Dearborn Stars and WindsorSpartansFCSpartaMichiganFC. Guess we should ask for that ‘City ‘til I Die’ shirt back since he’s not using it.
Despite playing their home games on a field that is a bit narrow, one of City’s noticeable advantages over most teams is wing play. Miche’le Lipari and Jeff Adkins are out-and-out speedsters, while Cyrus Saydee relies more on his outstanding technical ability and ball control. All three were named to 2013 Great Lakes Conference ‘Best XI’ teams (Adkins & Saydee – 1st team, Lipari – 2nd team). Joining them is newcomer Moustafa Bazzi, formerly of Nejmeh Sporting Club of the Lebanese Premier League. He should bring a little flair and creativity to the table, as well as dramatic pirate music:
Another interesting rookie is William Mellors-Blair, who played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Michigan for 2014. According to his college profile, he is mainly an attacking-mid and winger and spent several years (ages 12-15) in the Manchester United Academy.
Center-mid is easily the deepest position on the entire team. By my count, there are at least half a dozen guys who will be competing for starting spots early on, and that number should go even higher as the new additions settle in. With this glut of talent, a possibility would be to put three on the field at once, but more on that later.
Not all CM’s are created equal, and there is a good deal of variety to this group. Latif Alashe, Spencer Thompson, and fan-favorite Kevin Taylor are strongest in ball-winning, attack-extinguishing roles, while Dave Edwardson, Locky Savage, and TJ VanSlooten are good all-around box-to-box types. After Thompson went down with an injury early in 2013, Alashe, Taylor, Edwardson, and Savage earned the bulk of the playing time, and this familiarity from playing together should serve them well in the early part of 2014.
The best newcomer to the team could very well be Tyler Arnone. Playing at Michigan, he made First-Team All-Big Ten in 2012 and 2013, won Big Ten Midfielder of the Year in 2013, and is currently ranked as one of the top 100 men’s college players by Top Drawer Soccer. His profile suggests he’s an offensive-minded playmaker, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him playing regularly by mid-season.
When watching Detroit City, one doesn’t need to be a professional coach or scout to see that one of the team’s greatest strengths is fullback play. Zeke Harris (RB) and Zach Schewee (LB) are not only good defenders, they also excel in getting forward on a consistent basis to join in the attack. Clubs at all levels of the game struggle to find quality left backs, and for me, Schewee is the most underrated player on the team. He also looks like Leighton Baines:
Adding to the depth at LB will be former Michigan State starter Ryan Thelen, who drew praise from Ben Pirmann for his play in the pre-season friendly vs. SVSU. Also on the roster are another first-year player, Sean Hazen (RB), and familiar face Jon Evans, who can play on either side of the field.
Over the course of Detroit City’s brief existence, captain Josh Rogers has become the face of the club. Consistently strong in defense, and seemingly always in the right position, he is (to steal a line from the great Bob Ufer) the ‘Guts and Glue of the Gold and Rouge.’ His two most frequent central defense partners from 2013, Nick Lewin and Luke Diener, are both back. They face strong competition for their positions, however, with the arrival of Seb Harris and Michael Lamb*. Harris brings size (6’3”) and experience (Michigan Bucks, Northampton Town) to the position, and Lamb was the 2013 GLIAC Defensive POTY (playing for SVSU).
*[Edwardson, Mellors-Blair, and Lamb are all English. Someone get on this.]
After reading the previous 1000+ words, you’ve probably caught on to the theme that DCFC has talented players at each and every position. Goalkeeper is no exception – 2013 co-starter Bret Mollon should begin the season as City’s #1, but Jason Wise (SVSU’s starting GK on their run to the 2013 D-II title game) will likely see significant playing time as well.
Playing in a conference with four first-year clubs, one of the huge advantages that City has is the familiarity many of its players have with each other. Last year’s entire starting XI is back, and the presumed starting back four of Schewee-Rogers-Lewin-Harris has played together since 2012.
The biggest concern is obviously the lack of depth at striker – an injury to either starter could cause real problems. As alluded to above, a possible tactic would be to play a 4-4-1-1 with a single striker and an attacking-mid underneath. The key would be finding someone who could play this “number 10” role – Saydee and Bazzi have the creativity and technical ability; Arnone and Mellors-Blair look like other possible candidates.
On a more positive note, City coaches have a track record of quality mid-season pickups (Knox Cameron, Fabio Pereira), so it’s a good possibility that any thin areas will be strengthened as the summer progresses.
Key Player: Zach Myers (ST): Discussed above; the best (and possibly only) pure goal scorer on the roster.
Unsung Hero: Zach Schewee (LB): Consistently excellent at a position that is notoriously hard to fill.
Breakout Player: Tyler Arnone (CM/CAM): The best midfielder in the Big Ten, and he still has a year of eligibility remaining; has the ability to make an immediate impact.
Projected Starting XI
The lineup will obviously change from game to game, but here’s what I expect to see on opening day: