The hard truth of football is that nothing is free and nothing is easy – every tiny marginal gain must be scraped out of the cold, grey clay of chaos, bought by effort and will at a price well above asking. All the while one suspects that everyone else is getting a better deal, a simpler transaction … the game has chaos at its core, an irreducible percentage of it is purely random.
Detroit City FC’s 2018 season could be described as the friction between the heady but intractable prospect of control and the fundamental irresistibility of chaos. Blessed with a wealth of talent, City has consistently controlled the stages of play – the building from the back, the patterns that dictate midfield, the flow into the attacking zone – but has found trouble in the chaotic transition periods where the result is often dictated. Tonight at Keyworth, another failure in a chaotic moment cost the Boys in Rouge all three points, as a dominant performance against Kalamazoo FC ended knotted at one.
The chaos made its presence felt early, as the visitors turned their first attacking sequence into a messy goal. In the first minute, Kalamazoo countered after a City corner, winning a corner of their own after a diffident challenge. The resulting set piece became a sort of avatar of footballing chaos, bobbling around the area, hacked at but not cleared, trickling at last to visiting defender Jordan Veilette, whose clipped shot on goal found its way through traffic past a screened Nate Steinwascher and into the City goal.
“It was what? 80 seconds into the game? 75 seconds in?” DCFC manager Ben Pirmann said. “We’ve gone over it all week. This is how teams will try to hurt us.
“But we had a great performance. The bigger picture is that we played a great game.”
So it was that, less than 90 seconds into the match, Detroit City had its challenge clearly laid before it: Overcome not just the other side, but also all the weirdness that chaos can muster. Beat Kalamazoo FC, yes, but also football, and fate, and anyone else who shows up on the other side before the final whistle blows. And they so, so nearly came good.
The first half trickled out to a disappointing end, with Le Rouge’s dominance coming too often in that middle bit of the pitch where nothing decisive can happen. Again and again, City would press deep into Kalamazoo’s zone, slowly sliding players into more advanced positions, looking to create overloads, only for an errant offering or too-eager shot to trigger a break in the other direction. After halftime, though, the Boys in Rouge ratcheted up the pressure to a point that the visitors couldn’t match, resulting in a strong second half that, on any other day, would’ve been enough for the win.
City’s substitutes told a similar story – each one turning the screw just one click further, their quality and freshness making an uneven game a case for domination. In the 66th minute, for example, Shawn Lawson (in for Jake Rudel) created a little bit of space in the right channel, using the half-yard to spray a switching pass to Rafa Mentzingen, who had come in for Adan Garcia 10 minutes prior. Mentzingen darted infield and was dragged down for a free kick. Rafa’s free kick hit the wall, but – after a brief recycle of possession – the Brazilian winger was back into the area, running onto a lobbed ball from Jakub Svelhik for a shot that was blocked out for another corner.
So it continued, City banging away, increasingly overcommitted to attack, pinning Kalamazoo deep in its own zone for long periods – a pattern increasingly familiar from this group: Desperate while dominating.
The equalizer came in the dying minutes, with the visitors clearly hoping to just ride luck and chaos to all three points. Brogan Shrimpton, active and stuck-in throughout, ran onto a Svelhik lobbed ball in the right channel and chipped onrushing Kalamazoo keeper Hasten Biddlecome to tie the game at 1-1 in the 84th minute.
City pressed wildly for the winner, apparently getting it in the 90th minute after a messy uncleared corner – but chaos was not Le Rouge’s friend this evening, as a raised offside flag rendered the entire move moot. Another possible winner hit the crossbar, rolled tantalizing about the area, and was cleared.
“Honestly, this sucks,” Detroit City stalwart Sebastian Harris said. “I think that was one of our better games we’ve had this season. We had a header hit the crossbar.
“It’s one of those things – like, why aren’t things going our way? Like, the other teams would’ve scored that header at the end [that didn’t go in for City]. That’s just how it’s gone.”
The result means that Detroit City FC’s hopes for postseason play are on life support. The Boys in Rouge (4-2-3) travel to Grand Rapids to play GRFC next Friday.
Contributor: By Sean Spence/DCFC
Photo Credit: Jon DeBoer/DCFC