Detroit City FC won their NPSL season opener Saturday 3-2 at Cass Tech against AFC Cleveland.
This game also tallies points for DCFC towards the Rust Belt Derby that has been an ongoing supporter-sponsored competition between the two teams as well as FC Buffalo since 2012. DCFC won in 2013 and are the reigning 2014 champions.
Both teams came out looking as though they were getting to know each other and see where they could edge their way in towards the net. In the 19th minute, Detroit’s Colin McAtee was the first to break the seal when he slotted it into the net from a pass by Javier Bautista. McAtee went straight at the goalie with a defender on him and his speed and footwork were no match for either.
Just minutes afterwards, he split two defenders and looked to be having déjà vu going towards Cleveland’s Keeper but to no avail. Cleveland continued to hammer the ball in as well trying to find the right crease to score, but DCFC goalkeeper Bret Mollon stepped up time and time again to thwart any attempt.
The right touch came from Cleveland’s Sergio Manesio when with a brilliant touch, sailed it into the far corner post past Mollon to tie the game up 1-1 in the 35th minute.
Right after Cleveland’s free kick attempt was saved by the DCFC keeper, Will Mellors-Blair, with an assist by Tommy Catalano, struck gold when the powerhouse attacker scored to give Detroit the 2-1 lead just before half.
It did not take long for AFC Cleveland to make things even again when Tom Beck scored in the 46th minute creating the 2-2 draw that would take the fans through a chippy and intense rest of the second half while wondering if this game would end without another notch on the scoreboard.
That’s when Cyrus Saydee takes a corner kick and sets up Seb Harris who heads the ball into the net in exciting fashion to break the tie. Without hesitation, the team, as well as a few fans, ran straight to the Northern Guard supporters to celebrate in the brightly colored smoke filled air as the players slid across the field and piled onto each other in joy.
This was a welcome exuberance for Detroit, a team coming off a 3-0 loss to the PDL’s Michigan Bucks in the first round of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday at Ultimate Soccer Arenas. DCFC Head Coach Ben Pirmann agreed.
“I think the biggest thing is that we actually showed up to play tonight. The energy and the spirit and passion was there so I’ve said any team that I coach we are going to outwork the other team and we definitely didn’t do that on Wednesday. We did it tonight. Forty-eight hours later, some guys had fresh legs and some guys didn’t and we made eight changes. Moving forward, we just got to use this as a building block and as our minimum standard moving forward because this is a tough week. Buffalo is going to be really good this year and moving forward from there we’ve got to make sure that we show up and out play teams and out work them. That will give us a chance to win and if we don’t we are not going to be in any game.”
Another source of excitement was the new live streaming that Detroit City FC is now offering with the help of Detroit Public TV and commentator Neal Ruhl along with former DCFC player Zeke Harris calling the play-by-play. Now fans around the world can join in on the action from their homes or, as one person commented online tonight, from his airplane.
Despite the upbeat mode from the win, it was clear that Detroit subbed unusually often tonight. Coach Pirmann said that it was not originally planned.
“I knew we were going to have changes from Wednesday to tonight because you can’t play, I mean we only got three subs on Wednesday. Javi getting dinged up there in the first half wasn’t planned and Josh coming out early in the second half wasn’t as planned, but our guys worked their tails off. I told them that if they worked their tail off and put your hands up then I’ll get a sub for you. That’s what you do, that’s what this game is about. We get the allotted subs and we used them. Moving forward we just have to make sure fitness level is improved and make sure we train well so we don’t need to sub as much moving forward.”
This was AFC Cleveland’s first game of the 2015 season as well and Head Coach Carter Poe felt their performance “was decent overall.”
“I think the first half we were getting outworked a little bit and that was one of the big things we talked about at halftime and being strong and winning the 50/50s and we did that so there were a lot of positives for us,” Poe added. “It was our first game and first time with that group together so there are a lot of things to build on and some small details to fix, but overall it was a positive performance.”
Cleveland moves on to play another Michigan NPSL team on Sunday, the Michigan Stars in their season home opener at the newly renovated Wisner Stadium in Pontiac.
“Sunday is going to be tough,” explained Coach Poe. “It’s tough to come to Michigan, go home and then come back. They gave us a really good game last year so we have got to be ready to bounce back mentally and physically and come out hard on Sunday.”
Detroit’s Coach Pirmann felt they knew what they were getting into with Cleveland as “we had a good scout on them and knew that they were very good attacking.”
“With Manfut and then Vinny came off the bench and Sergio is a top player,” explained Pirmann as to the dynamics of what he knew about the AFC Cleveland squad. Manesio was also named Man of the Match by AFC Cleveland.
“They have five or six guys that are going to be tough players in this league,” continued Pirmann about Cleveland. “I think they are also in the same boat as we are trying to get their defensive shape and structure going but for us, I give credit to Cleveland, they came in here and they played well, played tough but moving forward, we have to make sure that we are significantly better defensively.”
Tonight’s Man of the Match for Detroit City FC was Seb Harris. When asked about his performance, Coach Pirmann was all smiles.
“Sebby was good. He played a couple positions and got the winner there on the set piece. He is good in the air, he is good playing balls forward, and I think on a field like this, it’s tough to play out the back and he was pretty smooth on the ball. So we got to make sure that moving forward both at home and on the road that we make sure we keep working on better possession and guys like Sebby are going to help us do that.”
The next matchup for DCFC will be away at FC Buffalo on Saturday, May 23rd and will be a true test to their defense and stamina as well as another chance for points towards the Rust Belt championship.