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'Disappointing way to lose': DCFC falls to Cleveland SC on penalty kicks

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News
Detroit City FC's Stephen Carroll reacts after missing his penalty shot against Cleveland SC.

Hamtramck — Detroit City FC can turn its attention to the National Premier Soccer League inaugural Founders Cup.

Tired legs and a dogged Cleveland SC side proved Le Rouge's undoing in a penalty kick defeat Sunday in the NPSL Midwest Region final before 4,568 fans at Keyworth Stadium.

Cleveland won the shootout 3-2 with DCFC (11-1-4) missing its final two kicks. Moussa Gueye and Max Todd converted spot kicks. Seb Harris, Stephen Carroll and Shawn Lawson missed.

Goalkeeper Hunter Morse saved two Cleveland penalties.

"It is what it is," said Lawson, whose PK went skyward. "You practice a lot. Sometimes it's luck. Someone's gotta win.

"It's a lot. Ninety minutes is a lot. Add 30 minutes and it's a lot more. You have to dig deep and find some strength somewhere. Guys did that and unfortunately we didn't get the result."

Lawson (40th minute) and Todd (45+, penalty kick) scored for DCFC in regulation. Cleveland's goals came from Tom Beck (52') and Antonio Manfut (60').

The teams scrapped to a scoreless draw in 30 minutes of stoppage time. DCFC's Carroll had one of the prime chances, shooting inside the 18-yard box only to seeing his deflected shot saved by the Cleveland keeper Marijo Musa.

Both teams were reduced to 10 players in the 75th minute when DCFC's Will Perkins and Beck each received straight red cards.

Lawson opened DCFC’s account, side-footing an acutely delivered pass from Tienda Jirira and putting it past Musa in the 40th minute. The goal was Lawson’s team-leading 14th in league play this season and capped off a series of Le Rouge assaults on goal in the first 45 minutes.

In the 28th minute, Todd’s sharp header from a Lawson cross forced a diving save from the Cleveland keeper. On the ensuing corner kick Carroll’s half volley sailed over the bar.

Cleveland’s Beck and Manfut continued to give the DCFC backline of Jalen Crisler,  Gueye and Carroll fits.

Morse had to tip a speculative ball from Manfut onto the goalpost in the seventh minute.

"They are the real key to what we do, they supply us width to isolate guys one v. one," said Cleveland coach Ryan Osborne, whose team will play Miami FC in the NPSL national semifinals. "They are both very good dribblers.

"The fullbacks have one or two decisions to make and they are very good there. They bring an X-factor to our team. If there is open space and they are attacking, they are very hard to defend against."

After DCFC struck first, Cleveland — which rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat Rochester, 6-4, in Friday’s semifinal — peppered the Le Rouge goal with Beck’s overhead volley highlighting the spree.

Todd’s spot kick in first-half stoppage quelled the outburst. After working a give-and-go that included a clever backheel by Todd, the Scotsman was brought down in the box.

He slotted his penalty to the right of Cleveland’s Musa to give Detroit a 2-0 lead at intermission. The goal was Todd's 11th this season.

Cleveland struck on the counter attack with two goals coming within an eight-minute span. Beck and Manfut both found passage down the right side and slotted shots past Morse along the ground.

Todd interrupted the interval by hitting the post in the 54th minute.

DCFC's two-goal advantage carried an eerie feeling reminiscent of its regular-season home-opener, which resulted in a 3-2 defeat to Kalamazoo FC on May 19, "and it came back to bite us in the same sort of way," said Le Rouge coach Trevor James. 

The penalty-kick loss brought a crashing halt to Le Rouge's 13-game unbeaten streak. For DCFC's coach, the random nature of spot kicks was particularly hard to swallow.

"You take 10 in training and score everyone, but it's hard to recreate in a game situation where you have to score now," said James, who's been in the game long enough to remember when playoff draws were settled by simply replaying the match in its entirety.

"You tighten up a little bit and take your eyes off the ball ... It's a disappointing way to lose. It's been wonderful to watch them and to sit on the bench and watch them pass it  and win second balls and that sort of thing. It's been a pleasure to watch."

Twitter: @larryo1961