Tuesday, June 27th, 2017 – Detroit City FC 2 FC Indiana 0
Friday, June 29th, 2017 – Detroit City FC 3 Michigan Stars 1
The most compelling stories are those in which the characters grow and develop, ending up as different people than when you first encountered them. In years past, Detroit City’s play was fairly constant from the beginning of the season to the end. For example, in 2013 they started off hot and stayed that way until an abrupt playoff exit, and in 2016 they were never really able to shake off a sluggish start, finishing with a 1-1-2 record in the month of July.
That 2016 season began with six matches over the course of twelve days, two of them 120 minute + penalty affairs in the U.S. Open Cup. By winning just one of their four league matches in that stretch, City wound up in a hole from which they were unable to dig themselves out.
Fast-forwarding to the present, four matches in eight days is a similarly brutal gauntlet, no matter who the competition is. In anaylzing this part of the schedule at the beginning of the season, 8 or 9 points seemed like a good outcome, but taking all 12 is a fantastic result. Ben Pirmann’s roster management and rotation was flawless, especially taking into account the injuries and departures of key players such as Louis Dargent, Aaron Franco, and Spencer Glass.
2017 has been a tumultuous season, but clearly one of improvement. Early on City looked confused and unsure of themselves and at the end of May they were looking up at nearly everyone:
Beginning with the Glentoran friendly, though, the team seemed to come together and good things started happening. They now look hungry, determined, and unflappable. Goals conceded are no longer confidence-shattering disasters but opportunities to re-focus and respond with renewed intensity. The emergence of the lethal Lawson/Rice/Mondi/Saydee attack may get the most attention, but it’s the scrappy ball-winning in midfield and the dogged defense that have really turned the season around. By fighting and clawing their way to an undefeated June, City has pulled itself from 13 points back from 1st place to just 2.
Dynamic characters can be memorable, but they don’t become truly legendary in a vacuum; they must first overcome an antagonist. And who better to play that role than the only club to have beaten City this year, AFC Ann Arbor? Friday will be the biggest league match since Lansing came to Cass in 2015, hopefully with a similar result. Fittingly, a home-and-home with United looms to complete the arc.
We often criticize the NPSL schedule makers for weird start times or cramming too many fixtures into too small a window (Exhibit A: This past week), but here they’ve done a great job. Wittingly or not, the final two weeks will be laden with drama. A thrilling season now reaches its climax.
(1) Goalkeeper Colin Miller has returned home for the summer. Fortunately, his replacement looks like he’s gonna work out just fine.
That would be Fernando Pina, the starting GK for the United States in the 2011 U-17 World Cup and very highly touted recruit coming out of high school. He began his college career at Akron, transferred to Coastal Carolina (seriously, what a pipeline) and has recently been with Houston Dynamo’s U-23 squad. Picking up a player like him at this stage of the season is a huge get by Ben Pirmann and staff.
(2) Also departing – due to injury – is Spencer Glass. He was basically Alex Isaevski this season and should have an outstanding college career at Indiana. If City jumps to a pro league next year, Glass will be an automatic starter on any team in the NPSL Midwest. Kervin Kenton is now the starting left back, but Zach Schewee’s imminent return will bolster the depth there.
(3) Troy Watson is now healthy and started at right back on Friday night. I wasn’t sure if I liked him in that spot at the beginning of the season, but against the Stars he played really well and I no longer have any doubts. Whether he or Omar Sinclair starts there, both are rock-solid options.
(4) Miscellaneous Luke Hauswirth looked good in the defensive midfield role previously occupied by Aaron Franco. He and Bakie Goodman are the likely center-mid pairing moving forward. In addition to Schewee, Ben Pirmann also mentioned that Max Todd should be back this week.