Detroit City FC beats Venezia in playoffs tune-up

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News

Hamtramck — Detroit City FC’s tune-up for the NPSL playoffs turned into a nervy 2-0 victory over Venezia FC in an international soccer friendly Tuesday before 5,418 spectators at Keyworth Stadium.

Roddy Green and Elijah Rice supplied the goals for DCFC, which opens the postseason Saturday at home against Dakota Fusion FC. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

Venezia FC’s Gianni Fabiani tested DCFC goalkeeper Fernando Pina early in the second half, sending a downward header off a looping cross safely into his hands in the 49th minute.

The innocuous play foretold a nervous second half for the home side whose net was peppered, especially after second-half sub Jordan Tyler received a straight red for his scuffle with Venezia’s Simone Bentivoglio in the 65th minute.

Pina stood tall, making several key saves throughout the match. His biggest stop came in the 89th minute when he flung out his left foot to divert a goal-bound shot from Venezia FC’s Nicola Fasan.

Two minutes earlier, Le Rouge’s shot-stopper deflected a dipping free kick from Bentivoglio.

“It was a hard one, it was straight at me kind of,” Pina said.

On the kick save, Pina channeled hockey’s Ken Dryden.

“They were playing a through ball and then he controlled it and came at me and I just tried to stand him up as much as I could and just react,” Pina said.

Mattia Vitale blistered a shot, forcing Pina to make a tough save at the 52nd mark. Venezia FC’s Jan Mlakar broke down the left but shanked his shot wide right in the 63rd.

Mlakar would also see a header sky just left of the left post in the 79th.

Detroit’s back line of Omar Sinclair, Dylan Waugaman, Zach Bock and Greg Janicki withstood the pressure in the latter stages of the match.

“One of my messages to the team before the game was that we wanted to make sure we played very good defense and we were ready to play good defensively,” DCFC coach Ben Pirmann said.

“That was the team message. Fernando made two or three big saves to keep us in it.”

A defensive mishap by Vitale led to Detroit’s first goal.

The defender gave up possession deep inside the DCFC half. Rice centered a pass off the left flank that bounced in the box before Roddy Green nudged it in.

Cyrus Saydee’s deft dribbling skills set up Le Rouge’s second tally.

The Michigan State midfielder darted around Venezia defenders, working his way to the endline where he slotted a perfect pass for Rice to slot home in the 32nd minute.

DCFC had a chance to add to their two-goal lead when Green bore down alone on Venezia FC’s Emil Audero in the 40th. The Juventus loanee got a hand to Green’s initial shot and the Saginaw Valley State forward couldn’t coral the rebound, leading to a Le Rouge corner.

Pina came up big a couple of times as the Italian visitors found their legs in the first half.

The DCFC goalkeeper dove at the feet of Vitale, securing a dangerous through ball in the 12th minute. Fabiani forced a diving save from Pina five minutes, leading to a Venezia corner.

Pina also made a diving save on a left-footed howitzer by Vitale on the counter attack in the 41st minute. The keeper’s got enough of a hand to the shot to push it off the post for a corner.

In the sixth minute, Zach Schwee delivered a perfect cross to Green, who headed past Emil Audero but the assistant referee ruled offside.