Season Preview 2017: Team Overview

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Photo by Dion Degennaro

PART I: Delirium   PART II: Forwards   PART III: Attacking Mids & Wingers   PART IV: Center Midfielders   PART V: Fullbacks   PART VI: Centerbacks   PART VII: Goalkeepers

Photo by Dion Degennaro


Detroit City has typically maintained a deep and talented roster from year-to-year. 2016 was an aberration, though. Partly because of player departures and partly because of injuries, the team limped to last season’s finish with several practice squad players seeing significant minutes. This isn’t meant as a criticism of those players, who earned their spots fair and square, but to seriously challenge for a conference title and beyond, you need to put out strong lineups each and every match.

The 2017 roster is a massive improvement from 2016, not just in depth but in overall quality.

A quick rundown of opening day numbers:

Jordan Kalk and Danny Dragoi were also announced as being on the 2016 roster but, except for one friendly appearance by Kalk, neither played with the team. If we take that into account and project that 2 or 3 players on the current roster may never actually appear, that still leaves the total number at 31 or 32, a substantial increase from last year, and one that was absolutely necessary.

Though I’ve mentioned this before, one more point to consider is the complete absence of players from the University of Michigan. While the school has provided City with great talents over the years (Will Mellors-Blair, Latif Alashe, Evan Louro, etc.), the practice of their college coaches pulling them from the team mid-summer was a major obstacle to City’s pursuit of Midwest and National titles.

No Wolverines, plus the word that about 12 out-of-state players are being housed for the summer, as opposed to 3 or 4 in years past, tells me that the coaching staff has built this roster with players who will be with the team from the first match until the very end. Having more players who are full-time commitments should help with team continuity and familiarity, and it’s the strategy that needed to be implemented in order for City to be a serious championship contender. Not only are there more players, most of them are starting-caliber. Ben Pirmann could roll out a starting XI made up solely of backups and I think they would still challenge for a playoff spot.

Starting up top, there are plenty of options at striker. I think Shawn Lawson gets first crack at the job, but he’ll have to fight hard to keep it with half a dozen other guys competing for playing time. The midfield has the chance to be the best City has ever rolled out, with a good mix of veterans and exciting new additions. With Adkins, Catalano, and Saydee orchestrating the attack, the strikers shouldn’t lack for goal scoring opportunities at all.

At the back, there is work to be done to rebound from a disappointing overall performance last season. Luckily, Pirmann has assembled a good group of defenders with which to work. It will take some trial and error to find the right back four, but the process should be made easier by the fact that there will be an elite college goalkeeper (or a very strong, veteran #2) playing behind them.

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Season Preview 2017: Goalkeepers

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Steinwascher, Miller

PART I: Delirium   PART II: Forwards   PART III: Attacking Mids & Wingers   PART IV: Center Midfielders   PART V: Fullbacks   PART VI: Centerbacks


Steinwascher, Miller

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.

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Season Preview 2017: Centerbacks

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PART I: Delirium   PART II: Forwards   PART III: Attacking Mids & Wingers   PART IV: Center Midfielders   PART V: Fullbacks


Harris, Sinclair

From 2012 to 2015, Josh Rogers was the chief organizer of Detroit City’s defense and was instrumental in holding the back four together. In the wake of his retirement, his absence was evident last year. City allowed the second-most goals of any team in their division (21), only ahead of last-place Dayton (27). That may be more of an indictment on the team as a whole rather than any one position in particular, but centerbacks are the heart of the defense and fixing the problem begins with them. Both of last year’s starters return, but they will have to fight off a group of promising new players if they are to keep their jobs.

Now entering his fourth season with City, Seb Harris is a regular starter who’s taken over from Rogers to become de facto leader of the back four. His height (6’3”) and timing make him one of the best headers of the ball in the league, and he has good speed and athleticism for someone his size. This is never more on display than when he makes runs forward while playing out on the right:

Go ahead and pencil him in at one spot for now, but he’ll have to maintain a high level of play throughout the season in order to stay there.

There was much disappointment amongst supporters when the initial round of roster announcements was made and Omar Sinclair was not included. It all worked out in the end, though, as Sinclair is now officially back with the club for his second season. In 2016 he started 10 matches and led the team in minutes played with 903. Though not as large or imposing as Harris, he showed great recovery speed and looked pretty comfortable when playing the ball out of the back.

He did seem a little overmatched at times last year when going up against bigger, more physical strikers, but for someone coming off of his freshman season at Saginaw Valley, he performed admirably. Having another year of growth and development in college should pay dividends this summer. Just like Seb, he will face much more competition than he did last year thanks to the addition of three experienced newcomers.

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Season Preview 2017: Fullbacks

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PART I: Delirium   PART II: Forwards   PART III: Attacking Mids & Wingers   PART IV: Center Midfielders


Schewee, Spinks

The fullback position has undergone an almost complete overhaul from 2016. Alex Isaevski and Tyler Stephens are both off pursuing professional careers overseas – Isaevski in Macedonia, Stephens in New Zealand. Matt Nance, who made 4 starts a year ago, will also not return.

The lone constant is mainstay Zach Schewee, now one of just two City players who have been around since the beginning (the other being Cyrus Saydee). Schewee is a rock-solid two-way player who usually flies under the radar, except for the occasional moment of pure swagger.

He began his City career playing left back opposite of Zeke Harris, then moved over to the right with the emergence of Isaevski. He may be better-suited to that spot, but I think he’ll slide back to the left with the addition of…

Adam Spinks, who has to be the most unique recruit Pirmann has ever brought in. We’ve seen him go get guys from Washington and Iowa, but he truly went off the beaten path to find an English national playing professionally for Europa Point FC of the Gibraltar Premier Division. Thankfully, Spinks isn’t a total mystery since he has a recent, non-grainy highlight video:

He’s a right back all the way and looks really good going forward to join the attack. And while Gibraltar doesn’t exactly have one of the top leagues in the world, it still gave him the valuable experience of playing against paid professionals. Unless something changes, he’s probably the starting right back come May 12th.

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Season Preview 2017: Center Midfielders

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Edwardson, Watson

PART I: Delirium   PART II: Forwards   PART III: Attacking Mids & Wingers


Edwardson, Watson

For most of 2015 and 2016, Detroit City’s predominant center midfield pairing remained constant. As with several other positions, though, there could definitely be a shake-up this year. With the players that have been added, there will be an unprecedented level of competition and the two starting spots are by no means set in stone.

I’ll begin with the incumbents. First and foremost is Dave Edwardson. He’s a box-to-box type of player who’s geared a bit more toward defense and well-known for his crunching tackles.

He’s also capable of the occasional spectacular goal (yes I know I used this video in last year’s preview but c’mon, it’s too awesome not to include again – video taken by Kelly Haapala).

Now firmly entrenched in the captaincy, he’s the unquestioned leader of the team, the beating heart in the middle that makes everything go.

Playing next to Edwardson for the past two seasons has been the recent/soon-to-be Saginaw Valley graduate Troy Watson. He’s a defensive specialist through-and-through, and his greatest skill is breaking up attacks without diving in or fouling. And while he hasn’t shown it much for City due to the role he plays, he can also chip in on the offensive end, as evidenced by his pair of game-winning goals last fall for SVSU. As a rookie in 2015, he started all 12 regular season matches. He played in all 12 again last season, but his number of starts dipped to 7.

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