Season Preview 2016: Predictions

PART I: Reclamation  PART II: Forwards  PART III: Wingers  PART IV: Center Midfielders
Part V: Fullbacks  PART VI: Centerbacks  PART VII: Goalkeepers  PART VIII: Team Overview

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U.S. Open Cup

Last year’s highly anticipated matchup with the Michigan Bucks went about as poorly as possible, a 3-0 smackdown in which the home team looked superior to Le Rouge in every phase of the game. This year’s rematch will take place at outdoors at Oakland U, which should level the playing field to a certain extent. The memory of last year is still fresh in my mind, though, so I just can’t pull the trigger on a happy prediction. It will be a much closer match, but I’ll pick the Bucks to win 2-1.

Midwest Region – Great Lakes West Conference

Every year when I get to this section I try not to pick City to finish first, but every year the other teams in the division fail to give me enough evidence to choose them instead. This year seems even more cut and dry – Ben Pirmann has upgraded the overall talent on his roster while his team has been placed into a conference made up mostly of expansion and second-year sides. The complete lack of long road trips, which should cut down on player availability issues, is another positive development. Here’s how I see it shaking out (the top two teams make the Midwest Playoffs):

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The stiffest competition should come from AFC Ann Arbor. Eric Rudland – HC of Lansing Utd. in 2014 & 2015 – is a very good coach and will get the most out of his roster. They may not start fast, but I think they’ll surge in the second half of the season to grab the other playoff spot.

They’ll have to beat out a revamped Michigan Stars team that now features a quality, non-felon head coach in Andy Wagstaff, and several former DCFC players such as Shawn Claud Lawson and Michael Lamb. I went back and forth, unable to decide who to pick to finish second, then I remembered this guy and made up my mind. (context)

Lansing will still be a tough matchup, but losing both your best player and head coach is not a good omen. Additionally, their attendance dipped last season, so this will be a crucial year to see if the club will bounce back or continue on a slow decline.

From this point, I see a big drop off. Dayton and Kalamazoo are both brand new clubs, which generally doesn’t bode well for first-year success in the NPSL. Grand Rapids has tremendous fan support, but they were a .500 team in the GLPL last season and there are big questions regarding how much they’ve actually improved their roster. I see them about on par with Dayton, and I’m extremely confident in my pick of Kalamazoo to finish in last place. #SmellsLikeZanesville

Playoffs and Beyond

Ah, the playoffs, every City supporter’s favorite topic of discussion. For whatever reason – unavailable players, long road trips, back-to-back matches – the playoffs have become Detroit City’s bugaboo. This year, as with every year, they have a very good chance to change that narrative. Deep down, though, I have serious concerns about the central defense, and I think it will eventually prove to be their undoing. They’ll make it to the final, but no further. And it will probably be against Cleveland or Erie because of course.

5 Wild Guesses

(1) City will host the Midwest Playoffs. I obviously hope I’m completely wrong about DCFC’s playoff outcome, and the best way to break the bad mojo of years past is to play the matches at home. The teams in the Great Lakes East will beat up on each other enough to allow City to collect the most overall points in the region and host.

(2) Three City players will score at least 5 goals. Believe it or not, this has never happened in a season before. I’ll go with Deakin, Bautista, and Adkins.

(3) Average home attendance will top 4500 and the 5000 mark will be broken. Last year’s average was a shade over 3500, so this is a big jump. With the increased publicity, the success of the Keyworth investment campaign, and the fact that the stadium is in the middle of a residential neighborhood with plenty of potential new fans within earshot, I think an average of 4000 is too conservative. As for the single game mark, the best chance to break 5k has to be the FC United of Manchester friendly.

(4) City will not drop any points against Dayton, Grand Rapids, or Kalamazoo. Six matches, six wins. Mark it down and fight me if I’m wrong. Or be a decent human being and just tease me about making a bad prediction.

(5) The noise at Keyworth will visibly affect an opposing team. This one is a bit tough to prove because it’s not quantitative, but at the Hamtramck H.S. soccer match that a few dozen of the Northern Guard attended back in October, the noise level generated with a mere 100ish total people was incredible. With the re-finished concrete and 4000+ people in the stadium, I fully expect to see at least one team experience communication problems and appear visibly rattled. Hopefully it happens to all of them…

 Recap: Predicted Finishes

USOC: 1st Round

Great Lakes West: 1st

NPSL Playoffs: Midwest Region Runner-up

Hype

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Photos by Dion Degennaro
Photos by Dion Degennaro

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