Slipping and Sliding
After an unbeaten July, Detroit City FC slid into August by ending their five match undefeated streak with a 1-0 loss in Tampa last weekend. July, even without a loss, could have gone better. Two wins and three draws meant that City gave up fourth spot in the USL Championship Eastern Conference to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Those six points dropped in the ties are just three of the eight draws the team has had this year. Those ties have been costly.
One of the key reasons City isn’t claiming more wins is the lack of offensive punch. Only once since late May have City scored more than once in a game. They have been creating chances and half chances, but not converting them. They haven’t found a way to make their set pieces count either. With no finishing power and little threat from restarts, Le Rouge has become an easy team to defend. There doesn’t look to be any saviors coming in to lift the team before the end of the season either. The team’s budget is more limited than many of their competitors, so bringing in a striker before looks unlikely. New signing Cy Goddard, who joins from Australia’s Central Coast Mariners, isn’t available yet. He’s a 25 year old winger who started in the Tottenham Hotspurs academy before going on a global jaunt that will bring him to Detroit soon.
At least City still has a ten point lead and a game in hand on eighth placed Tulsa. To qualify for the playoffs, City must finish in seventh place or higher. Unless they start winning games soon, they will slip another spot in the table. Miami FC is just one point behind them. Last weekend turned into a bigger loss than just the game in Tampa. All five teams ahead of DCFC, including Tampa, won over the weekend. Le Rouge now trail Pittsburgh by six points. First place Louisville, whom DCFC still has to play twice, has 49 points to City’s 35.
Trevor James will have a more complete roster this weekend for the visit of the Oakland Roots. Utility man Michael Bryant will be available again after serving a one match suspension. Bryant accosted the referee crew in the parking lot after the 2-2 home draw against New Mexico, a major no-no. The league wasn’t amused. Captain Stephen Carroll came through the Tampa game after missing time with a hamstring problem, so he should be able to keep his place on Saturday. Even without Devon Amoo-Mensah, out for the season with a serious knee injury, the defense and goalkeeper Nate Steinwascher continue to keep the team in games. Loanee Karl Ouimette has filled in admirably for Amoo-Mensah, Matt Lewis, and Carroll at various times this season. The club might have to look into a permanent transfer for the former Canadian international.
The Oakland Roots come into Saturday’s game at Keyworth leading the league in ties with 11 and out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Sadly, DCFC’s 8 draws are tied for second place in that dubious category, making a tie the most likely outcome. That is an outcome that City just can’t afford anymore. James has to start going for wins to hold on to the playoff spot. A home playoff game might not be in the offing unless the team goes on a tremendous run over the last twelve games.