Detroit City FC has outscored foes 29-0 during a fabulous nine-game unbeaten run, which has included four straight wins.
Coincidentally, two teams that DCFC hasn’t nicked for goals during that unblemished trek, Grand Rapids FC and AFC Ann Arbor, just happened to be two opponents the club faces during a crucial weekend as the National Premier Soccer League regular season winds down.
At stake are two playoff spots in the NPSL postseason with three regular-season matches left.
Le Rouge (8-1-2), who is first in the Great Lakes Conference Division, hosts third-place Grand Rapids (7-3-1) on Friday in a vital contest at Keyworth Stadium with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The two clubs battled to a 0-0 draw at Houseman Field on June 9 with Le Rouge goalkeeper Hunter Morse preserving a clean sheet with a penalty kick save in his DCFC regular-season debut.
On Sunday, DCFC travels to Ann Arbor to face second-place Mighty Oak (7-1-3), who are enjoying a resurgence of late. Eric Rudland’s squad snatched all three points in a vital 2-0 victory at Grand Rapids June 30.
In the last DCFC-AFCAA encounter May 23, Shawn Lawson hit the goalpost with a penalty kick while defender Jalen Crisler nodded away a sure goal-bound shot to prevent Ann Arbor from taking the win.
That was then, this is now, Le Rouge players and their coach say.
“I think if we take some more chances we'll definitely win,” DCFC midfielder David Edwardson said. "Against the Grand Rapids team, if we can score early one, it can open the floodgates a bit. So, I just think we score on them early and go from there really.”
Max Todd’s goal-scoring exploits of late make that tactical approach more likely to occur.
The Edinburgh, Scotland, native has seized the No. 2 striker role in coach Trevor James’ heralded 3-5-2 formation due to a prolific run, which seen him score six goals in the last four matches.
Todd, who played collegiately at the University of Illinois-Chicago where he finished with 12 goals as a senior, struck for three in DCFC’s 6-0 pummeling of Toledo Villa last Sunday. He accounted for both Le Rouge's goals in 2-0 victory over the Michigan Stars June 14 after coming on as sub in the 58th minute.
“I came off a good year in college and I was given offensive player of the year,” said Todd, whose grandfather Bobby Kinloch converted a penalty for Hibernian to knock Spanish giants Barcelona out of the 1961 European Fairs Cup. Todd also played for his hometown Scottish club as an academy player. “I think with Trevor and the team is a very good standard.
“It’s just given me the opportunity to get in the position to put the ball into the net.”
Against the Toledo, Todd was cashing in but Bakie Goodman was supplying the quarters. The midfielder selflessly laid off passes for two of Todd’s goals while strike partner Lawson acutely delivered a pinpoint cross from the right flank that the Scotsman headed home for another.
James, who took over for Ben Pirmann this season, implemented the 3-5-2 formation — opposed to the traditional 4-4-2 — to provide more width in the midfield so playmakers could not only feed passes to ravenous forwards but also share in the defensive responsibilities.
“Max fits in well with that because he is a good partner with Shawn,” said James, who auditioned others in the No. 2 forward role before inserting Todd. “Shawn is more of a threat beyond defenders. Max links up well because he tends to like to get the ball played at (his) feet. He plays an important part of the system because he plays a part in the build-up.”
Todd often "triggers" a build-up in the attack, DCFC coach said.
Defenders will often seek out Todd, whose first touch and strength decrease the likelihood of him being dispossessed of the ball, James said. After he passes to a teammate who’s moved forward, Todd rejoins the flow and is often rewarded with a scoring chance on his final touch.
Todd, who played with DCFC during the team’s national title run in 2017, decided to come back after James was hired. The Hibs academy product was coached by England international Terry Butcher, whom James knows through his time at Ipswich Town. Le Rouge's well-traveled coach has a lot contacts, Todd said.
The forward, who recently received Canadian citizenship due to his mother being born there, is weighing his future.
He was somewhat dismayed playing with UIC in the Horizon League didn’t generate more interest from pro scouts, particularly those in Major League Soccer. The Horizon , which includes Oakland University and Detroit Mercy, tends to get overlooked for soccer talent, Todd said.
A Canadian passport opens a wealth of opportunities, not the least of which is the new seven-team Canadian Premier League.
The future starts with Friday’s showdown against Grand Rapids, though. On that front, "They’ll be on the backfoot for a large part of the game,” he said.
Detroit City FC vs. Grand Rapids FC
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck
Tickets: $15 at the gate
Detroit City FC at AFC Ann Arbor
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Concordia University, Ann Arbor
Tickets: $10 adults, $7 youth