Stephen Carroll scored off a corner kick in the 86th minute, giving Detroit City FC a 1-1 draw against host FC Columbus Friday in a National Premier Soccer League match at Grandview High School.
The late equalizer snatched a point on the road for third-place Le Rouge (3-1-1, 10 points) and sets up Sunday's Great Lakes Conference Division showdown with first-place AFC Ann Arbor, which also settled for a 1-1 draw in its contest with the Milwaukee Torrent on Friday. Kickoff is 5 p.m. at Keyworth Stadium.
Serge Gamwanya scored on a free kick in the 85th minute for Ann Arbor (5-0-2, 17 points) before Milwaukee's Aleksandar Stojanovski grabbed a goal in the 90th minute to tie it.
In DCFC's match against Columbus, Youssef Naciri opened the scoring in the 15th minute. A breakdown on an interchange between DCFC defender Cory Miller and midfielder Adan Garcia contributed to the opening goal.
Le Rouge continued to press for the equalizer, coming close within a five-minute span in the second half when Garcia rattled one off the post in the 61st minute followed by a shot on goal that required a save by Columbus goalkeeper Brennon Davis.
Carroll then converted on a header off a corner from Danny Deakin. The goal was Carroll's third in NPSL play this season.
"It's kind of been the theme of our team, not playing well early and then having to respond," coach Ben Pirmann said. "Adan had a better second half, had some chances, hit the post, and had some good passes.
"I think we have to get more out of that attacking group right now. There's too many good players going through the motions."
Aside from two blowout wins over FC Indiana by a combined score of 19-0, first-half performances continue to dog DCFC. Pirmann complained about the lackluster effort in the first 45 minutes in the team's 1-0 defeat at Ann Arbor May 13, which was decided by Martieon Watson's strike in the 90th minute.
The fact Le Rouge has home-field advantage Sunday and two matches in hand is scant consolation in the divisional race, especially if the poor starts continue.
"Ann Arbor knows how to win games," Pirmann said. "They are masters at getting results. They play tough and they are very organized."
Ann Arbor coach Eric Rudland was dissatisfied with his team's 1-1 result at Skyline High School, especially since the Mighty Oak defeated the Torrent, 4-0, in Milwaukee May 5. Rudland was without forward Yuri Farkas and defender Matt Braem, who are in London representing Cascadia in the CONIFA World Cup.
Rudland also rested players ahead of Sunday's clash. Forward Kyle Breitmeyer, midfielder Marc Ybarra and defender Marlon Freitas were not in the lineup Friday.
Former DCFC player Alec Lasinski — who scored the match-winner for Ann Arbor in last year's regular-season encounter at Keyworth Stadium — saw of action against Milwaukee as did goalkeeper Mike Novotny, who has been a revelation in the Ann Arbor net. The former Portland Timbers 2 trialist stepped in after TJ Tomasso (wrist) and Nick Barry (broken finger) were felled by injuries.
Ann Arbor did not surrender a goal in its first five NPSL matches, outscoring foes 13-0.
"The key for us Sunday is sticking to our game plan," said Rudland, who also carries the title of sporting director. "Obviously, we have faith in our players.
"When you play in an exciting match-day environment, both teams feed off that. I wouldn't say that there is a home-field advantage. The energy, the excitement, the environment breathes into that and both teams are a part of that."
AFC Ann Arbor at Detroit City FC
Kickoff: 5 p.m. Sunday, Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck
Tickets: $10 general admission