Association football is the greatest sport humans have invented, and it’s largely down to how much chaos lies in its heart. A graph of control over the ball, once the hands and arms are ruled out, flattens out asymptotic to a line well below ‘total.’ Every match contains enough weirdness to stuff a book of short stories – the guy going shoulder-to-shoulder with your Irish centerback* may have once been one of the more-heralded 13-year-olds playing football in America, for example – so the goal of the best teams, at every level, is to reduce the weirdness to a manageable level, and profit as much as possible when it shows itself.
Detroit City Football Club entered the final 10 minutes of tonight’s game at FC Columbus playing rope-a-dope against all the weirdness this chaotic game could throw at them. Trailing 1-0 since Youssef Naciri’s delicate chip ended a flowing Columbus move in the 15th minute, Le Rouge had, through a series of substitutions and tactical changes, gradually tightened the screw on the hosts, but a breakthrough still seemed difficult to imagine, such was Columbus’ proficiency at standing up play just outside the area. Then the weird shifted, flowing hard in City’s favor in the final minutes, and the Boys in Rouge rode the wave expertly, Danny Deakin finding Stephen Carroll’s near-post run amidst a thicket of City heads on a corner kick in the 86th to give the game its final score: 1-1.
The game was something like a direct sequel to the two sides’ first meeting. As in the earlier game, Detroit City came out to control play, but lacked the incisiveness necessary to make the domination more than a matter of spacing and intention. Columbus seemed content to try to create the better chances on the break against a retreating defense, and it was exactly that situation that produced their goal.
A turnover in midfield gave Charles Renken a chance to fizz in a back-spinning through ball on the wet artificial turf that found Alusine Bangura in stride in the left channel. The rangy Sierra Leonean held off City’s Cory Miller long enough to cut the ball back to Naciri at the top of the area. Naciri had just a moment before Le Rouge keeper Fernando Piña would snuff the chance, and he gathered himself beautifully, getting off an arcing chip that landed just inside the goal line: 1-0, FC Columbus.
City responded as if they’d been struck, furious and hungry for vengeance, which leads us to the 86th minute, and Detroit’s rescuing of this desperate situation.
In the 86th minute, Detroit City has thrown men forward, then subbed more attacking versions, then thrown more guys forward, then subbed even more attacking versions. They’re playing something like a 2-5-3 except there’s all these times Carroll bombs forward and in those moments it’s a 1-5-4 with Cory Miller playing ollie-ollie-oxen-free and Piña at sweeper. Columbus would receive two yellow cards for time wasting.
Deakin had gone close a few times during the match, sizzling shots just wide or over the frame, although it was Adan Garcia who won Closest Call, curling a beautiful free kick off the left post. Whatever went on in the area as Deakin’s sharply-struck corner arced toward the near post, it resulted in a small congregation of City players in attendance, with Carroll the most decisive, steering the pacy ball to the back post. Columbus celebrated the goal by receiving not one, but two ejections for second yellow cards.
As if in confirmation of football’s essentially chaotic nature, tonight’s result is identical to that obtained by Great Lakes rivals AFC Ann Arbor, who let a stoppage-time goal slip to draw at home against Milwaukee. Sunday’s game against Ann Arbor kicks off 5:00 pm at Keyworth Stadium (http://tickets.detcity.com) and will essentially determine whether the Boys in Rouge can control their fate over the season’s second half.
*Referring here to Charles Renken, a St. Louis kid signed to the Hoffenheim academy before a horrifying series of injuries
Contributor: Sean Spence/Detroit City FC
Photo Credit: DCFC