Following the epic U.S. Open Cup victory over the Michigan Bucks and the NPSL league opener against the Michigan Stars, Detroit City FC headed south of the border to face the Dayton Dynamo. The match in Dayton was the first without standout goalkeeper Evan Louro and the third in the space of five days which led to some important changes in terms of personnel and tactics.
Who’s On First?
Head coach Ben Pirmann fielded his third consecutive different starting XI against the Dynamo. The big question ahead of the match was without question who would start in goal for the departed Louro. Pirmann gave Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (yes, that is a real place) goalkeeper Joe Smith his first ever start for Detroit City FC. In principal, the rest of the team appeared to line up in a modified 4-4-2 formation with a back four consisting of Zach Schewee, Matt Nance, Omar Sinclair, and Seb Harris. In midfield Danny Deakin returned to the first eleven after having been rested against Michigan Stars. Deakin lined up with captain Dave Edwardson, George Chomakov, and Ali Al-Gashamy. Up front it was Tyler Moorman partnering recently unveiled Loyola University Chicago striker Alec Lasinski.
However, once the opening whistle blew, there was a lot of interchanging of positions and, particularly for Danny Deakin, freedom to roam. In attack, Al-Gashamy and Deakin both took up wide positions from the start. Interestingly, Pirmann had the right footed Al-Gashamy deployed on the left and the left-footed Deakin out on the right, indulging both of the creative players’ inclinations to cut into the middle of the pitch onto their stronger foot as they looked to create in the attacking third of the field. However in defense, Pirmann seemed to ask Moorman to tuck in and defend on either the left or right wing. Al-Gashamy covered the opposite wing leaving Alec Lasinski up front to press the Dayton defenders. In these instances, the team shape more closely resembled a 4-2-3-1 with Chomakov and Edwardson covering just in front of the back four.
Another important tactical feature of the team against Dayton was that Pirmann gave full license to the fullbacks, Nance and Schewee, to get forward. The two full backs played very high up the pitch, hugging the touchline and giving the team width. This was highly important considering the theoretical, wide midfielders were taking up more central positions with great regularity.
Detroit City FC started the match somewhat tentatively but then opened fire scoring four goals in just over twelve minutes. The first goal was a direct free kick by Deakin in the 22nd minute. His curling left-footed shot cleared the wall and dipped in to the top left corner. Minutes later, it was Deakin again hitting a swerving direct free kick that the Dayton goalkeeper could only parry and it was an unmarked Lasinski that followed the play in before tapping the ball into an the empty net. Lasinski was on target again on 29 minutes. An excellent sequence of passes saw Chomakov and an overlapping Schewee combining on the edge of the box before Schewee slid the ball out to the right wing for Deakin whose first-time cross found the head of Lasinski who made no mistake.
The final goal came in the 34th minute with Deakin once again in the middle of the action. Dropping deep in to receive the ball from Harris, Deakin turned and spotted Al-Gashamy making a diagonal run in behind the Dayton backline. Deakin dropped the ball in over the top of the Dayton backline, hitting Al-Gashamy in stride who then outpaced the Dayton defenders before coolly nutmegging the goalkeeper. Al-Gashamy doesn’t have world-class speed but the timing and the angle of the run left the Dayton players sure that Al-Gashamy must have been in an offside position. Al-Gashamy started his run from wide on the left and snuck in behind the Dayton left back just as Deakin released the ball. By the time the Dayton defenders picked up on Al-Gashamy’s clever movement, he was already in on goal.
Parking The Bus
With a four goal lead and a second round U.S. Open Cup match in Louisville, the City players understandably took their foot off the gas in the second half. The team played much deeper than in the first half, often getting 8 and 9 players back behind the ball setting up a wall of rouge and gold, ceding possession to Dayton and daring them to find a way through. Pirmann left only Lasinski higher up the pitch and the team looked to play quickly and directly to Lasinski, a willing runner, whenever they won the ball back.
For the most part, Dayton didn’t have the guile or precision to cause too many problems for the City backline. The first goal came from a fluky deflection off of Edwardson as he tried to carry the ball out of the defensive third. The ball ricocheted and fell right into the path of one of Dayton’s Khristian Montoya who broke in on goal before Harris intervened. The referee, rightly so, called a penalty in Dayton’s favor and it was Montoya who stepped up to slot the ball home. Smith went the right way but just couldn’t get a hand to it. Dayton scored a second in the 75th minute from a corner kick. The marking was actually not bad; Tristian Lyle simply out jumped Tyler Moorman to head home. Detroit continued to try and hit Dayton on the counter attack and Lasinski had a third goal disallowed for offsides before the final whistle blew.
Reasons for Concern
- City’s defensive record – After a heroic effort by the entire team defensively, shutting out the Michigan Bucks, Detroit City conceded two goals in consecutive league games. There was a bit of misfortune in the play leading up to the penalty but still four goals conceded through two games is troubling.
- Lack of continuity – Ben Pirmann has had no choice but to rotate the players in this opening stretch of the season. The number of games in such a short period of time has made it essential to use the entire squad. However, with a number of new players in the fold to begin with, the constant changes to the lineup have made it difficult, particularly at the back, to build raport and understanding with one another.
Reasons for Optimism
- Danny Deakin – The first half against Dayton was the Danny Deakin show. One goal and three assists for the University of South Carolina midfielder made him the man of the match. Deakin, who looked isolated on the left wing against the Bucks, was much more involved in the buildup with his free role in midfield and, as was the case against the Bucks, seemed to grow in confidence the more touches he got.
- Alec Lasinski – Following the departure of Will Mellors-Blair, City’s top scored in 2015, everyone wondered – who was going to score the goals? Defenders Andre Morris and T.J. Stephens found the back of the net against the Michigan Stars but against Dayton, Lasinski provided a legitimate threat up front. Lasinski has the pace and the finishing but he also takes up very intelligent positions. His darting runs between the defenders resulted in him finding room inside of the box on numerous occasions, twice resulting in goals. Lasinski looked really sharp against Dayton and will hopefully continue to be a reference point in attack going forward.