Detroit City FC booked passage to the National Premier Soccer League Midwest Region final for the second time in three years, defeating Minneapolis City SC, 2-0, in a semifinal Friday before 4,460 spectators at Keyworth Stadium.
Shawn Lawson and Max Todd (penalty kick) supplied the goals for No. 2 seed DCFC (11-1-3), which plays top-seeded Cleveland SC in the final on Sunday. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Keyworth.
The winner of Sunday's final advances to the NPSL national final four.
DCFC, which ran its unbeaten streak to 13 games in league play (10-0-3), maintained a breakneck pace in the opening 45 minutes despite the sultry conditions. Kickoff was pushed back an hour due to a weather delay and extra time in the Cleveland SC-Rochester semifinal.
As one of the top two seeds, Le Rouge received a bye and hadn't played since July 13 when they beat Kalamazoo FC, 3-1.
"We talked about that at halftime," DCFC coach Trevor James said. "We tried to slow it down a little bit, to keep the ball for longer and basically use the natural stoppages to get a breather.
"We tried to manage the clock a little better that way, not to waste time because we were obviously only one-nill up, but I wanted them to get a little time to get a breather."
Lawson struck with usual aplomb, deftly redirecting the feed from Bakie Goodman while stationed near the six-yard box to give DCFC a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute.
The play developed on an intricate give-and-go between Goodman and midfielder Danny Deakin. The goal was Lawson's team-leading 13th this season.
Todd converted a penalty kick in the 79th minute, calmly chipping Minneapolis keeper Troy Louwagie down the middle. The referee pointed to the spot after a Minneapolis defender handled Todd's cross from the left flank in the 18-yard box.
Goalkeeper Hunter Morse prevented Minneapolis City SC from equalizing in first-half stoppage time, swatting a ball off the goal line. The Michigan State keeper also came up big again, stopping Minneapolis' Juan Louis on a diving save with 13 minutes left in regulation.
Goodman nearly added to Le Rouge's one-goal lead five minutes into the second half, knocking a ball out of the air and slamming it into the side of the goal.
Midfielder Tendai Jirira continued to excel since taking over for injured Kervin Ken (hamstring) in the 3-1 victory over AFC Ann Arbor. The native of Zimbabwe tracked back defensively and frequently won balls in one-on-one battles.
"He's very alert. He anticipates and reacts very quickly," said James of Jirira, who played with the USL League Two Dayton Dutch Lions this season before joining DCFC. "Whether he's trying to win the ball or he's trying to run with the ball, he does it very quickly. He's very engaged in the game."
Jirira's robust style will be needed Sunday against Cleveland (9-2), which erased a two-goal deficit to defeat Rochester, 6-4, in its semifinal. Vinny Bell scored four goals to lead Cleveland.
James also has to wait on the status on midfielder Abdoulaye Diop, who left limping in the 58th minute after a crunching tackle from Minneapolis' Nick Hutton, which drew a yellow card.
"(Cleveland) looks like an experienced team, a physically aggressive and strong team," James said. "So I think that is something we will have to try and match up with. It's not our strong point. We do try and play a bit, we try and play a little too much.
"But we do need to be a little bit more physically stronger...because that is probably the battle we are probably going to get on Sunday."
NPSL Midwest Region Playoffs
Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck
Cleveland 6, Rochester 4
Detroit City FC 2, Minneapolis City SC 0
Detroit City FC vs. Cleveland, 1 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $15 at the gate