Detroit City FC 3 – Milwaukee Torrent 3
Michigan Stars 2 – Detroit City FC 2
This feeling – this galling, fractious, maddening sensation of affront, this sense that one’s hope is a precious resource (and, like all resources in our fallen world, ripe for the plunder) – this is what supporting feels like.
We fortunate few in Northern Guard have had the privilege to fall face-first into supporting the most authentic club in American soccer. We have moved from strength to strength; our images are passed around the globe: “This is America?” We’ve watched our team win, and win, just never quite get over the hump. We’ve dumped our money into salvaging an ancient ballyard, and those images went viral, too.
Somewhere in there, we got this idea that our kittens would never become cats, that the sun-kissed bliss of our purest joy was the natural state of the Guard. We’ve grown used to getting credit, even outsized credit, for doing what we love. We are summer children, panicked at the first cold wind. This weekend, two draws that may have knee-capped our postseason aspirations before they begin, has delivered the winter’s wisdom: Hold on tighter.
This is what supporting is: Exasperating, infuriating, as exhilarating as the seconds between the steering giving way and the crash. We have a long way to go, and we’ve only just started.
About the actual football
In each game this weekend, City played a frenetic, high-pressing style, seeking to leverage the Rouge & Gold’s superior depth and pace to create quick chances on the break. In each game this weekend – as in the final friendly match against Dayton – the press worked very well early on, producing a host of half-chances and allowing City to take a lead into the locker room. In each game this weekend, the team sagged noticeably after halftime, as fatigue and injuries piled up, forcing substitutions, surrendering initiative, and dropping points.
Very direct: It’s early, but this group does not seem to have broken City’s persistent habit of ‘hasta el gol siempre.’ Perhaps it’s part of a counter-pressing tactic, or perhaps it’s just an ingrained habit left over from Cass Tech’s lumpy turf, but our boys try to get the ball forward immediately, either skipping midfield entirely or relying on low-percentage through-balls.
Very demanding style: The reliance on low-percentage, lightning-quick transitions means that, in practical terms, we’re always defending, and we’re not talking about dropping back into two banks of four and practicing the connected mindfulness that makes that arrangement so suffocating – quite the opposite. City are playing a proactive zone press that requires constant, aggressive engagement and an awful lot of hard running. It’s a big ask, physically, and it’s showing up early as the guys are ‘dropping like flies.’
Managing the game: It is impossible to watch City play and fault the effort – the guys are trying, running their legs into stumps trying to get this season off to a flying start. Sometimes, it looks like the team is trying too hard. The constant hard running, the balls straight forward to the attack when up a goal (or two), and the like make the team look naive, and their seeming surprise that the opposition has moments of ascendancy – a simple fact of the game that most players understand implicitly – underlines that impression.
If it stays broke, fix it: The Boys in Rouge have run aground on a tactical reef in the last couple years, and it’s at least partly down to their position as the lead dog in the mangy pack that is Michigan club football. There’s no shame playing defense against the big club; that’s true every league, everywhere. The book on us is pretty simple – play in a low block, hang on for dear life until we get a little tired, then run hard at our tiring defenders for the last half-hour. It produces games like … y’know … every game against a team at our level this season. Dominating performances that vanish like dawn mist right around the hour mark. The pattern isn’t new. Something different is required to resolve this impasse.