Detroit City FC’s Tyrone Mondi has become a sideshow, but only to ensure his teammates bathe in the bright lights and glamor.
The mercurial South African forward has piled up nine assists to go along with two goals this season.
Shawn Lawson (9 goals) has been the main beneficiary of Mondi’s precision passes from the flank.
“When he gets the ball, they usually send two or three guys over there, but he finds the open guys whether it's off the dribble to create space or off the pass or off the cross,” Detroit City coach Ben Pirmann said. “He's been very elusive out there in dominating from his wing position.”
No. 4-seed DCFC meets No. 2-Duluth FC in the National Premier Soccer League Midwest Region semifinals Friday. Mondi’s arrival has helped pave Le Rouge’s path to the postseason.
He joined Le Rouge three games into the regular campaign when the side was winless at 0-1-2.
His impact was immediate, assisting on a goal and earning Man of the Match honors in a 3-1 home victory over Grand Rapids FC June 2. DCFC proceeded to go on a nine-match winning streak in NPSL play before conceding to first place in the NPSL Great Conference to AFC Ann Arbor.
Mondi was simply itching to play.
Last fall, he had to sit his freshman season at the University of Northwestern Ohio due to an eligibility issue.
“I even told my mom and dad, ‘I need to start playing. I need to start playing,’ said Mondi, who played club soccer in his native Bloemfontein, South Africa. He’s had tryouts with Dutch Eredivisie side Feyenoord and English Championship outfit Bolton Wanderers.
“When I came out here, it was just the right environment for me to start playing and they welcomed me well. I've been flying ever since. I have been happy to play, to get minutes in. It’s just phenomenal to get time on the ball again.”
DCFC technical director Klaas de Boer put the ball in motion to bring Mondi here.
De Boer, whose coaching background includes working as an assistant with the North American Soccer League’s Detroit Express, heard about Mondi through a former player Godfrey Tenoff in South Africa.
Tenoff, who coaches at a university in South Africa, used to play for de Boer when he coached the Detroit Dynamite in the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues. De Boer contacted Mondi at Northwestern Ohio where he was finishing up his first academic year.
“When he first stepped on the field at his first training session with us, I could see he was a special player,” de Boer said. “He is blessed with great speed and quickness.
Couple that with excellent technique and tactical awareness, and you have yourself a great player.”
De Boer had Mondi and another player visited his home in Holland, Mich., during the Fourth of July weekend. He showed him a windmill that was imported from the Netherlands and they had lunch at de Boer brother’s bakery.
Mondi speaks Afrikaans and de Boer Dutch, and there are some universal phrases.
“There is a common expression in Afrikaans: ‘Alles sal reg kom,’ which translated means, everything will turn out all right,” de Boer said. “We use this quite often between us, and everything is turning out well with him.”
During his prolific summer, Mondi drew attention from Coastal Carolina, which offered him a full-ride scholarship. He’s majoring in accounting but hasn’t ruled out some day pursuing in medicine.
Mondi, 20, has been taken aback by the size and fervor of the Keyworth Stadium crowds, which range from 5,000 to 7,000 a match. The most he’s played in front of before is about 1,000 people, he said.
His parents Paul and Sylvia Mondi watch video replays since DCFC matches usually take place at 3 a.m. South Africa time.
“The atmosphere is just amazing,” he said. “It gets you focused. It makes you realize you need to play for the fans. They spend money to come and watch these games.
“We just need to put it all out there and see what happens Friday.”
NPSL MIDWEST REGION PLAYOFFS
Where: Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck
When: Friday, No. 1 AFC Ann Arbor vs. No. 6 Dayton, 5:15 p.m.
No. 4 Detroit City FC vs. No. 2 Duluth FC, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Friday’s winners, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $10 each day or $15 for a weekend pass for admission to semifinals and final matches. One ticket Friday is good for both semifinal games. For tickets go to tickets.detcityfc.com