PART I: Reclamation
Note 1: All position previews address the roster as it currently exists.
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).
Will Mellors-Blair’s performance in 2015 was arguably the best single season from a Detroit City player ever, and it’s highly unlikely that his production will be duplicated by any one player on this year’s roster. That may not be as much of a problem as it seems since Ben Pirmann has collected a good number of quality options to share the attacking responsibilities.
Tyler Channell saw a healthy amount of playing time in his first season with City, and after his monster college season – 19 goals, 14 assists, D-II Midwest Player of the Year – he’s primed to play a much larger role in 2016. At 6’2”, he’s one of the tallest players on the roster and a perfect complement to the smaller, speedier strikers.
One of those is Javi Bautista, who missed all but the very beginning and very end of the 2015 season with an injury. When healthy, he flashed a tantalizing combination of speed and finishing, and I believe he could’ve cut into WMB’s playing time if he’d been 100% all year.
— Kelly Zirwes-Haapala (@KellyHaapala) July 20, 2015
With some big-name newcomers, Javi seems like a bit of a forgotten man, but I expect him to be a major factor in City’s attack.
Unquestionably the biggest acquisition of the offseason was South Carolina’s Danny Deakin, formerly of Erie:
Okay, moving right along… Deakin is ranked as the #41 college player in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer and is a product of the Sheffield United youth academy.
He can play anywhere in the midfield or up top, but I’ve listed him as a forward because I project him to play mainly as an attacker in the hole behind the main striker and the center midfield.
Wherever he winds up, he’s an automatic starter from day one and a massive coup for the club.
Jordan Kalk, Tyler Channell’s strike partner at Saginaw Valley St., is another quality addition – his 20 goals led the Cardinals in 2015.
He had surgery at the beginning of April with a six week recovery time, so he’ll likely miss the early part of the season. When he returns, his nose for goal will only add to the wealth of available options.
Rounding out the position are Wade Allan and UDM teammates Spiro Pliakos and Tyler Moorman. Allan is one of three remaining players from City’s inaugural 2012 roster, a team leader who bleeds rouge and gold and will do whatever’s asked of him, be it starting, coming off the bench, or simply putting in work at practice. He’s also recently off the market. Ladies, please look elsewhere.
Pliakos is an intriguing prospect; as a UDM Titan, he was named Horizon League Freshman of the Year in 2014 and made all-conference first team this past season. He’s also ranked as the sixth-best player in the league by TDS. His high school recruiting highlights show that he’s a talented dribbler with deceptive speed. At 5’8”, his skillset appears similar to that of Bautista and Kalk, so he’ll probably face an uphill battle for playing time, especially early on. On the other hand…
…if he can do stuff like this on a semi-regular basis he might leapfrog some folks.
Tyler Moorman is the tallest forward at 6’3”. He was also part of the all-conference first team and led UDM with 7 goals. His size makes him a nice weapon to have coming off the bench; he can be an extra aerial threat if the team needs a goal late, or he can help hold the ball up and kill clock when they need to preserve a lead.
As is obvious to anyone who follows DCFC, Will Mellors-Blair will not be replaced by any single player. What Ben Pirmann has done is build a group of forwards that has, at first glance, more overall skill and depth than in the past couple seasons. I expect Channell, Bautista, and Deakin to get most of the playing time at the beginning of the season, but Kalk should make a real push once healthy. Pliakos and Moorman may have to wait their turn, but both possess the attributes to make them contributors as the season progresses.
One Reason to Be Excited 😀
The variety of options. WMB had a great year in 2015, but too much of City’s attack was focused on him. Not having a true #1 guy (at least at this point) should allow for a more balanced and varied approach and keep opposing defenders from keying on any one particular individual.
One Reason to Worry 😕
Kalk is currently recovering from surgery and Javi missed the bulk of 2015 with an injury. If there are lingering effects with one or both of them, this position suddenly looks a little thin. That could have a serious impact, especially on those two-game Friday/Sunday weekends.
Player to Watch
Deakin – for all the reasons listed above. Not to put too much pressure on him, but a player of his ability is one that could elevate a team from good to great. The only thing to do is figure out where he fits best into the lineup and let him go to work.