ATTACKING MIDFIELD & WING
The attacking midfield was Detroit City’s strongest area last season, and there’s a chance it could be even better in 2017. In the starting trio of Jeff Adkins – Tommy Catalano – Cyrus Saydee, City has three players who are in the primes of their careers and have played together extensively. Along with the departed Danny Deakin, they were responsible for some of the best soccer the club has ever played in terms of quick, sharp passing, maintaining of possession, and threatening buildup. They will generate plenty of offense; the hope here is that a striker comes to the forefront who can get on the end of those chances and finish them at a regular clip.
Starting off with the reigning Black Arrow Award winner, Tommy Catalano returns for his third season. With the ineffectiveness at forward last year, he was thrust into that spot for several games and ended up the leading the team in goals with 5. Now, with a boatload of strikers arriving to restock the position, he should be able to move back into a more natural attacking midfield role. He’s played out wide at times, but I think he’s at his best playing above the center midfielders and underneath the striker. There he can make the most use of his passing abilities, as well as his skill shooting from distance.
Although Catalano took home the Black Arrow, I thought Jeff Adkins made just as strong a case for the award, if not more so. He was City’s most consistently dangerous attacker over the course of the season, routinely making opposing fullbacks look silly trying to cover him.
His combination of speed, dribbling ability, and finishing make him an irreplaceable piece in the front four. He’s at the top of his game right now and only seems to be getting better.
Cyrus Saydee looked a bit rusty at the beginning of 2016, but he picked it up in the second half of the season, most memorably in the match at Ann Arbor. There he almost singlehandedly flipped a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 victory to keep City’s playoff hopes alive. If you’ve followed this club for any reasonable amount of time you know his M.O. by now – small (5’6”) but an elite dribbler and controller of the ball, not to mention a very good passer. Fun fact: he’s been on the team since the very beginning in 2012 and still only just turned 25.
First off the bench (unless he earns a starting role, which is entirely possible) should be Spiro Pliakos. As a rookie last year, he started the Open Cup match against the Bucks and looked good until a hamstring injury took him down and sidelined him for the bulk of the season. His main strength is his dribbling, and he’s been known to chip in the occasional spectacular goal. He should play early and often.
The final returning player here is Andrew Dalou. In his first two seasons at Saginaw Valley State, he’s started 35 matches, accumulating 10 goals and 10 assists in the process. He saw a little late-season action for City last year, and I was impressed by his… yes… wait for it… dribbling! I pegged him as a potential breakout player for 2017 and I’m interested to see what he can do in a full season of action.
One of the most intriguing new players is South African Tyrone Mondi. Before joining the University of Northwestern Ohio this past fall, Mondi won a scholarship to Bolton Wanderers International Academy in 2013 and camped with the South African U-20 national team. I couldn’t find any video on him, other than this short interview, so he’s a bit of a mystery. His resume is impressive nonetheless.
If the depth at forward is a mineshaft, the depth at attacking midfield and wing looks like the Mariana Trench. In the unfortunate hypothetical event that Adkins, Saydee, and Catalano were driving to Keyworth Stadium together and got stuck in traffic, Ben Pirmann could still roll out a starting three of Pliakos – Mondi – Dalou and that would probably be pretty darn good. In the more likely event of an injury or slump, Pirmann has the luxury of mixing and matching until he finds the right combination that can produce. In any instance, this group should be able to consistently put pressure on opposing defenses and create plenty of scoring chances.
One Reason to Be Excited 🙂
Despite City’s struggle to get results last season, the interplay between Adkins, Saydee, and Catalano was a bright spot. Now with a full year of playing together at Keyworth under their belt, they should truly flourish. The days of long balls on the compact field of Cass Tech are over. They run this team now.
One Reason to Worry 🙁
All I can think of is last season where the attacking mids would do great work to get the ball up the field, beat the defense, and send the ball into the box… only to have nobody there to finish. That’s more a criticism of the forwards, though. This is the best group of attacking mids and wingers I’ve seen City turn out – there’s just nothing to nitpick.
Player to Watch
This could easily go to Adkins, Saydee, or Catalano, but they’re well-known commodities and I can’t help but be intrigued by Tyrone Mondi. He’s kind of like like a mystery box – inside it could turn out to be a cool remote-controlled helicopter, or he could be just a jar of Play-Doh. If he’s closer to the former, it could help elevate City’s attack from good/very good to outstanding.