A couple weeks ago I wrote about how an improved midfield was helping correct the course of Detroit City’s season after a disappointing start. Since then the other position groups have shown similar growth and City has now gone an entire month without losing or drawing a match. This is a much different team than the one that was handled by Ann Arbor on May 21st, and what began as a couple of promising results has developed into a definite trend. A playoff berth now looks like a very real possibility and in my mind there are three clear reasons why.
Defensive Cohesion The biggest problem with last year’s team (and the current one up until late May) was the shaky defense. During the current 4-match league winning streak, City has allowed just 2 goals. The main cause of this lockdown has to be the emergence of an undisputed first-choice back four: Spencer Glass – Zach Bock – Stephen Carroll – Omar Sinclair. In dramatically slashing the number of goals allowed and consistently limiting the opposition to around two or three quality chances per match, this group is reminiscent of the 2013 lineup of Zach Schewee – Josh Rogers – Nick Lewin – Zeke Harris that helped bring the club its greatest playoff success.
Not to be lost in the shuffle, having a #1, every-match-starter at goalkeeper in Colin Miller has also had a massive positive effect on the team’s defensive play. His communication and command of his area are underrated aspects of his game and have undoubtedly helped the defenders in front of him. Having a quality backup hasn’t hurt, either.
Emergence of a Go-To Striker The other sore spot for City until this recent streak was the lack of timely goals from the striker position. Shawn Lawson has addressed those concerns.
He’s not a “hold your breath every time he touches the ball”-type player a la Will Mellors-Blair, but he’s a quality finisher with the knack for popping up in the right place at the right time – something City’s lacked ever since the departure of WMB.
Overall Team Unity This probably goes without saying but, in general, the more a team plays together, the better individual players understand their roles as well as those of their teammates. After the initial “sorting-out” phase of the season and as the lineups have become more consistent in terms of personnel and rotation, it should be no surprise that City’s passing has become shorter, quicker, and more accurate. And on the whole, they appear to be pressing, attacking, and defending as a unit rather than on their own.
In the spirit of seizing each and every opportunity to toot my own horn, each of these three points was raised in my 2016 post-mortem in which I tried to figure out what went wrong with the season and how to fix it. It’s nice to know that my analysis wasn’t complete off-base, but it’s even more satisfying to see the team’s success come as all of these issues have been addressed.
The second half of the season now begins and it’s going to come with much bigger challenges than the first. Starting on Friday, City will play 4 matches in 8 days. The depth of the squad and Ben Pirmann’s creativity with rotating players will be put to the test, but under the circumstances, this is about as good of a draw as they can get: three of the matches are at home, and none of them are against Ann Arbor or Lansing – currently #1 and #2 in the table. Showdowns against those two will come in the final two weeks of the season, and the weekend after the Fourth of July (7/7 vs. AA, 7/9 @ Lan. Utd.) may determine which two teams will earn playoff spots in the Midwest tournament.