Great Lakes East Conference
When the reshuffling of the NPSL took place this past offseason, Detroit City was a big winner. In addition to themselves, their new conference (Great Lakes East) consists of four expansion clubs, and the new playoff format makes the road to the national playoffs a bit easier.
I have a working theory that NPSL clubs’ on-field fortunes are directly related to the amount of time and effort put in by their front offices. DCFC’s success is due in large part to owners who truly care about the club, the city, and its people. When it comes to the Zanesvilles and Spartas of the world, on the other hand, it’s legitimate to wonder if anyone was ever actually in charge. I’ve used my theory to help me come up with the following:
2014 GLE Predicted Order of Finish
1. Detroit City FC
2. Lansing United
3. Cincinnati Saints
4. Michigan Stars
5. Westfield Select
All biases aside, this conference is City’s for the taking. The team looks just as strong, if not better, than last year’s one-loss edition, and they play Erie and Cleveland, historically their toughest opponents, just once each.
I see Lansing and Cincy as the main competition in the East, partly because both should have decent talent pools to draw from, and partly because it appears both have functioning ownership groups that are actively engaged in managing the club (which cannot be said for a number NPSL franchises). It’s a tossup between the two for second place, but I’ll give Lansing the nod because Fork Ohio.
The Michigan Stars will not be as bad as FC Sparta. I base this on the fact that the Stars’ website appears to have been designed in the 21st Century and does not wish me a “Merry Christmass.” (Don’t worry, it’s SFW).
Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I’m not totally convinced that Westfield Select actually exists. I can’t find a website, a Facebook page, or a Twitter profile, just some brief articles from months ago announcing them as an expansion club. City is scheduled to play them three times – I would be stunned if less than 9 pointswere earned from those games, and I would be even more stunned if Westfield is around in 2015.
US Open Cup
The change in the USOC format for 2014 also benefitted Detroit. Last year’s combination of travel costs and the tournament starting in March kept the team from being able to compete, but the story is different this year. City will take on RWB Adria in the First Round, with the winner moving on to play the Michigan Bucks in Round #2. (Link to schedule)
The Cup is about testing yourself against teams from all different levels of the pyramid, and the experience of playing in the single-elimination format should benefit City come playoff time. I’ll pick them to beat Adria and the Bucks, and make it to the 3rd Round.
Playoffs and Beyond
To qualify for the Midwest Regional tournament, City must either win its conference or finish with the highest points-per-game of the region’s three second-placed teams. The winner of the four-team bracket will advance to the National Semifinals, along with the winners of the other three regions (Northeast, South, West). To put it in more simple terms, if they make it to the post-season, they have to win four games to be NPSL Champions.
Soccer arguably has the most random results of any sport there is; a team’s true quality usually shines through over the course of a season, but in a knockout competition, anything can happen. It’s hard to make a prediction not knowing very much about any of the teams in the other three regions, but here goes: DCFC is capable of going all the way, but I will pick them to win the Midwest Region and make it as far as the NPSL final four.
5 Wild Guesses
1. Wade Allan will score at least 4 goals – He’s overdue, and should see more playing time with Knox Cameron gone.
2. Pirmann will experiment with a winger at striker – My guess is Jeff Adkins.
3. Josh Rogers will not start every single game – The depth at CB will allow Pirmann to rest him from time to time.
4. Over the course of the regular season, DCFC will score at least 40 goals and give up fewer than 10 – They scored 35 and gave up 8 in 2013, and even though that was in 12 games as opposed to 14, this schedule looks weaker.
5. Average home attendance will be 1750 and the 3000 mark will be topped at least once.
Recap: Predicted Finishes
GLE Conference: 1st
USOC: 3rd Round
NPSL Playoffs: National Semifinals