The Middle Way

Photo by Dion Degennaro

Friday, June 2nd, 2017 – Detroit City FC 3 Grand Rapids FC 1
Sunday, June 4th, 2017 – FC Indiana 1 Detroit City FC 3

Photo by Dion Degennaro

Just two weeks ago, Detroit City was reeling after a humbling 2-0 loss to Ann Arbor. The 0-2-1 (W-D-L) start obviously wasn’t fun, but what made it even worse was that the performances simply felt like a continuation of last season’s lackluster play – one disappointing season bleeding over into another. While there appeared to be plenty of talent on the roster, it took until this past weekend for it to finally start shining through. There’s been noticeable improvement in several areas, but what’s stood out most is the revamped midfield. Three players in particular have caught my eye, all of whom have just recently made their debuts.

Tyrone Mondi

Degennaro

In this year’s season preview I wrote the following about 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.

Early returns point toward helicopter – an attack helicopter with twin .50-cals and laser-guided rockets. Aside from his deceptive speed and skill on the ball, what’s most impressive is how in sync with his teammates he looks after after such a short time. He recorded an assist in each of his first two starts this weekend and combined well with Cyrus Saydee and Spencer Glass in the final third to consistently create chances. In spite of his newness to the team and the number of other quality players at the winger position he looks to have carved out a starting role for himself. He should remain there as City moves into the middle part of league play.

Louis Dargent

Photo by Robert Sherman

When Louis Dargent was added to the roster just before the season, I incorrectly assumed he’d be a depth player – someone to fill in as needed and see time as a defensive specialist due to his height and heading ability. I was clearly wrong in this regard* and I’m perfectly happy to admit it.

He’s turned out to be a revelation at center midfield. In addition to his aforementioned aerial ability, he’s surprisingly technical and good with the ball at his feet for someone his size (6’4”). Not only is he defensively sound and good at winning the ball, he’s shown that he’s also an asset going forward:

Like Mondi, Dargent has cemented his place as a key player and automatic starter. I don’t know what the story is with Coastal Carolina, but in supplying City with both Dargent and Kervin Kenton, it’s proven itself as a gold mine for under-the-radar talent.

*In my defense there’s next to nothing about him on the Internet, other than his college bio and a Top Drawer Soccer page.

Aaron Franco

Sherman

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a City player become a team leader in such a short time as Aaron Franco. Case in point, when Dave Edwardson was subbed out on Sunday against Indiana, it was none other than Franco who received the captain’s armband. That’s quite an accomplishment for someone who was playing in just his second league match with the club and third overall.

He may not stand out as much as the playmaker Mondi or the towering redhead Dargent, but what Franco does is just as important to the team’s success. By sitting in the spot between the centerbacks and the rest of the midfield, he’s able to gather the ball and distribute it forward, greatly aiding City’s ability to play out of the back. It was subtle but noticeable that the team was less reliant on long balls this weekend, and a lot of that had to do with his style of play.

Oh, and by the way, Cyrus Saydee, Bakie Goodman, Jeff Adkins, and Dave Edwardson (among others) are still here too. This has the makings of the best midfield in club history, and whatever success City experiences this summer will be due in no small way to this group.

BIR Bullets

(1) A striker emerges? The search for a go-to finisher has dragged on for over a year now, but there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. Shawn Lawson scored in each match this weekend and is now the only player on the team with multiple goals. It’ll take more time to know for certain if this question has been answered, but Lawson’s play has been encouraging.

(2) The defense, while not yet perfect, is improved. Five matches into the season and they’ve yet to keep a clean sheet, but allowing one goal per match this weekend is much better than the start in which they gave up 7 over the course of 3. Spencer Glass looks to have taken charge at left back, and while Omar Sinclair played Sunday in the center, I really really like him on the right after his performances there against Glentoran and Grand Rapids. Kervin Kenton and Stephen Carroll have separated themselves as the first-choice centerbacks in my mind, with Zach Bock a very close third.

(3) The red card on Grand Rapids goalkeeper Noah Fazekas was about as cut-and-dry as they come.

Photo by Konrad Maziarz

Surely it was just an unfortunate occurrence that he feels the utmost remorse for…

Yeah dude, there was no boot to the knee because you nearly put it in his stomach. Other than a couple moments against Lansing that come to mind, that’s the dirtiest play I’ve seen involving City or an opponent. While the match stream did show Mondi look up for a second then do a little extra rolling around, I doubt that influenced the referee’s decision in any way since it was such a dangerous challenge. No suspension decision has been made, but I think it would be more satisfying to beat GR on the road June 17th with him in the lineup anyway.

(4) General Shenanigans In other Grand Rapids silliness, one of their fans shoved a security guard and had to be removed from the stadium. I was told this was the same guy who tried to start a fight with Ann Arbor fans at a match last year but I haven’t been able to confirm that. [UPDATE: I’ve since learned that the individual who caused trouble at AA in 2015 has not traveled with The Grand Army since that incident.] On a lighter note, I giggled when I saw that The Grand Army had a banner lionizing their owner Matt Roberts, who’s rumored to be shopping the club around to potential buyers when he’s not busy running people out of the front office. But, as the kids say, that’s none of my business. 🐸☕️

I wasn’t able to make the Indiana match, so I’ve been living vicariously through the stories of others. From what I’ve gathered, it sounds like it was a hoot. Indiana’s toothless (literally) owner, who somehow was completely unaware of the Northern Guard and the standard operating procedure of City supporters, threatened to call the police on them for… reasons, and subsequently called someone a “jagoff” over the stadium’s PA system. He then apparently tried to have the referees throw City supporters out of the match, to which they kindly responded “that’s not our problem.”

For all of its failings, the NPSL has gifted us with endless entertainment over the years, from the angry mom at Fort Pitt, to the firetrucks in Cincy, to the Dirty Elizabeths in Pontiac. If and when City moves up to the pro level, I’m gonna miss this ridiculous little league of ours.

(5) Your Moment of Zen


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