Detroit City FC’s run ends in penalty-kicks thriller

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News
Detroit City FC forward Roddy Green hangs his head dejectedly after Le Rouge lost to Midland-Odessa FC 4-2 on penalty kicks in the NPSL national semifinal  Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017, at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck.

Hamtramck — Detroit City FC saw its championship run come to an abrupt halt in the cruelest fashion — 4-2 on penalty kicks — after battling Midland-Odessa to a 0-0 draw in a National Premier Soccer League national semifinal Saturday before a record crowd of 7,533 at Keyworth Stadium.

Roddy Green and Mauricio Castorino saw their spot kicks saved by Midland-Odessa goalkeeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz. Shawn Lawson and Stephen Carroll converted their spot kicks.

Alvaro Rubio, Andrew Moullin, Isaac Sanchez and Elliott Bentley made their penalty kicks for Midland-Odessa, which advances to play Elm City Express in the NPSL National Final Aug. 12. Jamie O’Grady missed his attempt.

The defeat was disappointing for Detroit City FC in that it carried the play during extra time.

"To be fair. I thought it was a decent game," DCFC captain David Edwardson said. "Everyone wants it, so it was a back-and-forth type of thing. I think we started the first half slow and we came out in the second half ready to go. I thought in the second half we really pushed on, but it just wasn't to be."

During the first 15-minute overtime, Edwardson rang a shot off the chest of a Midland-Odessa defender only for the rebound to find its way to midfielder Cyrus Saydee, who saw his attempt on goal cleared off the line.

In the second 15-minute session, a DCFC chance by defender Greg Janicki rattled off the crossbar in the 117th minute.

“It was really a microcosm of the second half and overtime,” DCFC coach Ben Pirmann said. “In the last 75 minutes we really took it to them.

“I'm really proud of our group, not just the players, the staff, the owners, but our supporters, and the people who follow us. … Everybody has really become a family.

“This community and this club is very big. We do a lot more than soccer. It's a disappointing end to a real good season but hopefully it's just a stepping stone to what this club has ahead for itself.”

During regulation, it became a question of how much Midland-Odessa pressure DCFC could absorb.

DCFC goalkeeper Fernando Pina made a crucial save in the 63rd minute, diving to his left to paw away a goal-bound header by Darius Strambler. The Midland-Odessa midfielder was set up outside the goal box with an incisive cross from Sanchez.

Pina also turned back Alex VonHolle’s left-footed shot from point-blank range 11 minutes later.

Detroit City FC tried to stretch the Midland-Odessa back line, sending ponderous long balls for forwards Jordan Tyler, Green and Lawson to hopefully connect on.

They often didn’t.

Tyler won a one-on-one battle with Midland-Odessa defender Antone Jarvis but sent a cross wide of goal. DCFC's Sinclair drew a foul, earning a free kick about 30 yards out only to see Carroll hammered it over the bar.

Midland-Odessa had the better chances in regulation.

Pina made a save on Andrew Mendoza in the 23rd minute, four minutes after Ricardo Palomino created havoc in front of goal that was only extinguished when Sinclair cleared the ball to safety.

Mendoza also missed a clear chance in front of goal in the 33rd minute when his left-footed shot sailed high over the bar.

Midland-Odessa continued to shoot aimlessly from outside the penalty area.

“It was an interesting match because I thought we were clearly the better team in regulation,” Midland-Odessa coach Matt Barnes said. “We weren't sweating much. We created a lot. Our game plan was really solid. I just thought we should have put the ball in early in the first half.

“In overtime, I thought they were better than us. We dodged a couple of bullets in overtime.”

Pirmann didn’t use the loss of Division I college players as a crutch.

DCFC could have used the speed and playmaking of forward Tyrone Mondi, who left for Coastal Carolina last week.

“We knew if we were in the national semifinal Aug. 5, we would be short some players,” he said. “That's just the way it is. We had zero Division I players on our roster today, but that's the way it is. Everyone has to deal with that stuff.”

Pirmann’s counterpart was wondering who he’d have left by next Saturday's final.

Midland-Odessa’s team, which is solely comprised of college players, was already down 14 members from the start of the season, Barnes said.

The NCAA might not let the remaining collegiate players take part in the NPSL final, he added.

“We have to figure out that out with the league in a couple of days,” he said. @larryo1961