The most troublesome position for Detroit City in 2016, and the one that most needed to be addressed in the offseason was goalkeeper. Unlike some, I’d argue that last season’s struggles had more to do with player availability issues than lack of quality options.
A Rough Timeline:
Preseason – The basic plan is to have UM’s Evan Louro start the first half of the season and have Cody Lang (Seattle Pacific University) play the second half since he’s not available until classes finish in June.
May – Louro starts the Open Cup match against the Bucks and the regular season opener at Michigan Stars then has to leave the team early due to other commitments. Nate Steinwascher splits time between Oakland County FC and Detroit City, playing well in the Open Cup match at Lousiville. He and Joe Smith rotate for the remainder of May and early June, with mixed results.
June/July – Lang is thrust into the lineup on the road against Grand Rapids (6/10), just hours after a cross-country flight from Washington State. The defense looks discombobulated in a 5-2 defeat. He and Steinwascher rotate for the rest of the season. 8 goals are allowed in the final 7 matches and the defense never truly seems to gel.
The final goalkeeper stats for 2016 look like this:
In past years when City’s been successful, there’s typically been a #1 starter and a solid #2 who’s capable of starting maybe a third of the matches and generally holding his own. Think Clark-Mollon in 2013 or Mollon-Bouillennec in 2015.
This year’s presumed #1 is Providence’s Colin Miller. In his first year as a starter this past fall, Miller had a record of 14 wins to just 1 loss, with 8 clean sheets and an .849 save percentage. He was named Co-Big East Goalkeeper of the Year and is rated as the #5 college keeper (#37 player overall) in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer. Frustratingly, I wasn’t able to find any recent video, so we’ll have to settle for the youth footage below. (Fast-forward to 5:20 for game action)
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but on paper he looks similar in caliber to Louro – both are 6’3”, both were highly-rated by scouting services, and both started early in their college careers. The prospect of having a keeper with that kind of talent around for a full season is really exciting, to say the least. His success will partly be determined by how the back line shapes up, but he has all the physical tools to excel.
Playing the #2 role should be the aforementioned Nate Steinwascher. He was probably City’s most consistent keeper in 2016, and his performance against Louisville City in the Open Cup was downright outstanding:
Despite the defensive struggles in front of him, he was generally good when called upon. He’ll probably get 3-5 starts and should be just fine in that role.
Joe Smith, another second-year returner, is the third keeper on the roster. He struggled early on last season, particularly in the match away to Kalamazoo, but looked a little better in the late-season friendlies he appeared in. He didn’t appear in any games for SIU Edwardsville this past fall, so he’s got plenty of work to do to catch up to Steinwascher and earn meaningful playing time.
This position absolutely had to be bolstered for City to have a bounce-back season, and Ben Pirmann hit a home run by landing Miller, one of the top college keepers in the country. If he’s indeed available for the full season, he has the ability to be a difference-maker. In the event that he’s unavailable/rested/injured, Nate Steinwascher is more than capable of filling in and possibly pushing for the top job himself. This has the potential to be the best 1-2 punch that City’s ever had.
One Reason to Be Excited 🙂
Stability. I felt that one of City’s main problems in 2016 was that the constant rotation of goalkeepers prevented any of them from forming a strong relationship with their defenders and ever becoming truly comfortable. Having a clear-cut #1 who should stick around for the long run should have a noticeable positive effect on the team defending as a whole.
One Reason to Worry 🙁
That said, Miller is still a newcomer to a team that will likely be reshuffling its back line. The talent is there, but expect some early-season hiccups as they all figure each other out.
Player to Watch
No need to be redundant so I’ll keep it short. Colin Miller – for all the reasons listed above.