The Anatomy of a Turnaround

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Photo by Dion Degennaro
Photo by Dion Degennaro

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.

Continue reading “The Anatomy of a Turnaround”

To Live Forever

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Photo by Dion Degennaro

Sunday, June 11th, 2017 – Kalamazoo FC 0 Detroit City FC 1

Photo by Dion Degennaro

On Sunday afternoon I played a rec-league soccer game in surface-of-Venus-esque heat. It went very poorly, both for me individually and my team collectively. After the final whistle, coated in a wonderful mixture of sweat, sunscreen, and dirt, I immediately hopped in my car and drove to Kalamazoo, making it there just prior to kickoff.

I don’t tell you this to show off my purity and virtue as a supporter (okay, maybe just a teeny bit), but to paint a picture of my peculiar mental state. I’m slightly obsessed with soccer, and though I wish I could say it’s a completely healthy obsession, the fact that I risked potential dehydration, heat illness, and wicked sunburn says otherwise.

So why did I do it? Why do any of us go to such lengths for this club? Is it because soccer fans are freakin’ nuts? Partially. Is it because City supporters have become sort of an extended family centered around something that gives us pride in our community? That’s a big reason, but I think there’s another – something more fundamental that we’re not fully aware of until we stop to consider it.

In a piece earlier this year, Sean Spence wrote the following, a message from supporters to players:

All we ask is everything you’ve got… All we offer is adulation and a certain kind of immortality.

At a base, subconscious level, I believe we follow City home and away to bear witness to the moments that result in immortalization – the things we talk about years after the fact, those little details that become pieces of lore. We’re junkies for the extraordinary and the absurd.

While the win over Kalamazoo didn’t produce a Firetruck or Lansing-breaking moment, it provided further evidence of a team that is coming together and looking ever more dangerous. Scoring a highlight-reel goal or faking out a local municipal service are both legitimate ways to be remembered, but so is working your tail off for the full match in rec-player-wilting conditions – the proverbial 90’ in 90°.

String a few more of those together and your name just may go down in history.

Continue reading “To Live Forever”

NISA: Initial Thoughts

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For those who haven’t heard, there’s a new pro league on the block. The National Independent Soccer Association – NISA – will begin play in the spring of 2018 with an initial number of 8-10 teams. Although it’s not yet confirmed, there’s the very strong possibility that Detroit City will be one of them. We won’t know for sure until after this season, but operating under the assumption that City will be making the jump, here are my first takes:

(1) I think choosing the NISA over USL or NASL is the best-case-scenario for the club. The fee to join will be much lower and, as a charter member, they’ll have a hand in shaping the league from the ground-up, rather than having to navigate the established rules and regulations of the second division leagues.

(2) Since the goal is for the NISA to be fully compliant with USSF’s D-3 standards, the requirement for D-3 clubs to have an owner with a net worth of at least $10 million who controls at least 35% of the club must be considered. While City ownership is undoubtedly working on this (and may have it sorted out behind the scenes for all we know), it’s just one more thing to think about.

(3) One thing I haven’t seen much about is how the current players and coaches will be affected. Obviously, those with college eligibility remaining would not be on the roster next season unless they left school early. As for the post-college and soon-to-be post-college players, the rest of this season could take on another level of significance as a sort of extended tryout for next year. The same can also be said for any of the coaching staff who have aspirations beyond college soccer. In any case, a high amount of turnover is likely this fall and winter as tough decisions will be made all around.

(4) No details on a salary cap or player movement rules yet, but I’ll be watching very closely for any news. From what I’ve read, I’m hopeful the structure will be similar to NASL – no cap, players owned by the clubs rather than the league (as in MLS), true free agency, etc. It will also be interesting to see if the NPSL side will be maintained as a de facto reserve/youth team.

The Middle Way

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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.

Continue reading “The Middle Way”