Friday, July 1st, 2016 – Detroit City FC 0 Grand Rapids FC 0
Sunday, July 3rd, 2016 – Detroit City FC 3 AFC Ann Arbor 1
After Evan Louro’s heroics and Brett Nason’s successful penalty kick gave Detroit City its most significant victory in club history, the sky seemed the limit for 2016. Little by little, though, frustrating draws and humbling losses started piling up, dragging that initial elation all the way back down to earth, and giving even the most positive supporters a sinking feeling that chances for a playoff appearance had probably slipped away.
This season’s been, for lack of a better term, a slog. Every draw, except perhaps the home opener against Ann Arbor, has felt like a loss. City’s been bleeding points away while trying to keep pace with first and second-year upstarts shooting past them up the table.
One of the most frustrating things has been that while positive results have been difficult to come by, City’s played some of its best, most attractive soccer ever. The teams that played at Cass were mostly generic 4-4-2 long ball-launching outfits, necessitated by the narrow field and greatly aided by a string of strikers (Knox Cameron, Zach Myers, Will Mellors-Blair) who were adept at finishing their chances.
This year’s edition has evolved past that, featuring much more quick, short passing and a greater emphasis on maintaining possession. More specifically, much of the interchanging and combination play between Jeff Adkins, Danny Deakin, Cyrus Saydee, and Tommy Catalano has been beautiful to watch. And despite not having a true go-to striker, City has scored the most goals in its conference by a healthy margin.
In Friday’s rematch with Grand Rapids, they played with passion and resolve – the second half was arguably their best 45 minutes of the year – and it was baffling as to how they didn’t score a goal. The match was City’s 2016 in microcosm: high hopes, missed opportunities, unfulfilled promise.
After that result, weeks and weeks of “must-wins” gave way to a real, actual “MUST-WIN!!!”
A little more than midway through the match at Ann Arbor, Detroit City’s 2016 season died. The time of death was 56 minutes and the cause was Willie Bayemi, his goal the result of heavy pressure and a misplay from Seb Harris deep in his own end.
Here’s a look at the goal by Willie Bayemi to put The Mighty Oak 1-0 pic.twitter.com/n6fJBfCn6A
— AFC Ann Arbor (@AFCAnnArbor) July 3, 2016
It felt just like all the others. Like the Stars’ equalizer, like Ann Arbor’s PK at the home opener, like Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids and Lansing all over again. Blow after blow after blow, and this one had done us in for good. To top it off, right in front of the family and friends of the deceased, someone came to dance around the body while it was still warm.
As the minutes ticked away and the gravity of the situation began to set in, the smallest man on the field picked up the defibrillator paddles and zapped life back into his club:
Like many of his teammates, Cyrus Saydee’s had a bit of an up-and-down season. He looked a little rusty at the beginning of the year, has elevated his play recently, but experienced a low point when his penalty kick against Grand Rapids was saved. To his credit, though, he fought through that setback and turned in a masterful performance on Sunday. His second goal, one of the more bizarre ones I’ve ever seen…
…sent the away support into absolute hysterics. The outburst of emotion wasn’t just the result of that particular set of events, but a release of all the frustration and angst that had slowly built up since City blew a 2-0 halftime lead at Michigan Stars on the opening night of the regular season.
A year ago, after the road win in Cincinnati, I wrote this:
So far this year, those moments of ecstasy have been few and far between, but Sunday gave us a hint that there still may be more to come.
(1) Saydee was the man of the match, but Cody Lang made at least two or three incredibly difficult saves to keep City in the game. Tyler Moorman started at right back and went head-to-head with Ann Arbor’s top player – Dario Suarez – and held him mostly in check. After a substitution, Moorman then moved up to striker and scored the winning goal off of a corner:
(2) With Danny Deakin headed back to South Carolina, Spiro Pliakos will play a major role down the stretch. He came on for an injured Jeff Adkins at Ann Arbor and filled in well. If Adkins isn’t healthy by Sunday, he should get the start.
(3) Speaking of Sunday, injuries and departures are beginning to take their toll on the roster. Along with Deakin and Adkins, Dave Edwardson will miss the Lansing match due to yellow card accumulation. Center midfield has become a thin spot, so it will be interesting to see who starts next to Troy Watson. If George Chomakov is able to go, he’s the logical choice.
(4) Playoff Scenarios: get a detailed breakdown HERE. The short version: win out, root for Grand Rapids to beat Ann Arbor.