Midfielder Dave Edwardson has seen all of 34 minutes of action in Detroit City FC’s regular-season run, which has the National Premier Soccer League club hosting the Midwest Region finals as the No. 2 seed.
That’s doesn’t mean the 6-foot-2 stalwart hasn’t had a say in the proceedings.
While Edwardson has seen his playing time severely curtailed, the full-throated team captain hasn't relinquished his leadership responsibilities.
First-year coach Trevor James replenished the midfield with Abdoulaye Diop, Kervin Kenton and Bakie Goodman while the club undergoes a transition to a full-time professional outfit, which takes the next step in August with the Founders Cup.
“The hardest part is that I think I am still good enough to play, but clearly it is different now because I am getting older,” said Edwardson, 30. “So it sucks sometimes when I really want to get in there and play and I am not playing at all. That's fine. It's coach's decision. I cannot change that.
“Coach Trevor has been brilliant for the guys. The team has been doing great. When we've been doing great, I can't really say why I should be playing. For me it's just about being a leader in the locker room.”
Edwardson is from Newcastle, England, whose natives — called Geordies — are known for their spirited outgoing nature.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when it was Edwardson running along the sideline cloaked in a substitute’s bib as Tienda Jiriri burst through midfield before feeding Shawn Lawson, who finished off AFC Ann Arbor with his third goal in the rivals’ July 7 encounter. The 3-1 result clinched first place for DCFC.
“l love you Shawn,” yelled Edwardson repeatedly while punching the air repeatedly.
Such exuberance extends to small-sided games in training. When Hunter Morse made a crucial save to extend the length of the competition, Edwardson loudly proclaimed his undying devotion to the Michigan State keeper.
"It's no joke because every time he's not around at training due to work or something like that, it's a different kind of atmosphere. It's quieter," said defender Stephen Carroll, who's been Edwardson's teammate for three years. "It's less fun without Dave around."
After last season’s lackluster 5-4-3 run, Edwardson wasn’t sure he’d back for a sixth season.
He’s planning to marry Ashley Krotkiewicz, whom he met while attending Jackson Community College. Edwardson also played at Spring Arbor University and Madonna University. A post-soccer career beckoned.
A talk with James changed his mind, though.
"I was skeptical a little bit but then I was like 'why not?'” he said. “I still love playing football. I get the joy of playing in front of 7,000 people at home at Keyworth, so you can't ever say no to that.
“But really it was having a meeting with Trevor and it was all about me coming back here and still playing football and I was just like I have an opportunity to play, I will come back and do it. I haven't played as much, but I still love every minute of it.”
Edwardson’s commitment has not waned, James said. When and if he’s needed on the field, the coach said he knows the veteran will give it his all.
“He’s pretty positive and, being from Newcastle, he’s pretty loud,” James said. “He gives you a voice and being a younger group and a lot of them are quiet. So he leads in that way in giving them advice, telling them in how they can do better.
“He knows the players and some of them he’s played with a lot longer and he knows how to push their buttons in ways that I don’t.”
The locker-room cutup or class clown caricature does not apply in Edwardson's case.
"One minute he can be laughing and joking but when it has to be serious, he's serious and everyone knows he is serious," Carroll said. "He has a very competitive streak in him that stands out when he needs to be competitive. Everyone knows not to mess around in that situation.
"He has a pretty loud voice when he gets angry. He knows the line between having the fun and just messying around and taking stuff serious, and everyone knows when he's taking stuff serious."
NPSL Midwest Region Playoffs
Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck
Cleveland vs. Rochester, 4:30 p.m.
Detroit City FC vs. Minneapolis City SC, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Tickets: $15 at the gate