Detroit City FC falls to USL Championship Indy Eleven ahead of NPSL Members Cup kickoff
Detroit City FC mixed and matched players while facing a team two levels above it in the professional soccer pyramid Tuesday.
Eugene Starikov scored in the 71th minute to hand USL Championship Indy Eleven a 1-0 victory before 4,350 fans in a friendly at Keyworth Stadium.
The exhibition was the final tune-up before DCFC opens National Premier Soccer League Members Cup play Saturday versus independent soccer kindred spirit Chattanooga FC at Keyworth. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
"I thought overall they were a good team and gave us a really good game," said Indy Eleven coach Martin Rennie, whose team is fourth in the USL Eastern Conference (12-4-4, 40 points). "For us, we have a break between our last game and our next game, so we wanted to try and stay in rhythm by having a competitive game with a crowd and referee and everything.
"So we really got that and more. So we are really happy with the game and I think we also showed that we are a good team. We had the ball a lot and moved the ball well and hopefully gave Detroit City a good game, which will set them up for their Members Cup game."
Though a friendly, the Indianapolis-based second-tier club is in the heat of the USL regular season, which was reflected in the straight red card to Macauley King for leg-high challenge on LeRouge's Cyrus Saydee in the 47th minute. Saydee returned to action after receiving medical attention.
Since it was a friendly, Indy Eleven did not play down a man despite the ejection.
Indy's Ilija Ilic also received a yellow card in the 30th minute for his tackle on DCFC newcomer Marcello Borges, who played collegiately at Michigan and was a second-round pick by the Colorado Rapids in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.
DCFC's Tendai Jirira was lucky to escape a caution for his hard ball-stripping tackle on Indy's Brazilian defender Lucas Farias later in the half.
DCFC's best chances came in the 45 minutes.
Max Todd volleyed a bending cross from Borges, which Indy goalkeeper Jordan Farr scrambled to parry away in the 28th minute.
Saydee, who'd only come on a minute earlier for midfielder Danny Deakin, found himself alone with the ball inside the 18-yard area in the 38th minute. The former Michigan State star skied his shot over the net.
DCFC leading scorer Shawn Lawson, who has 18 goals in all competitions, had two attempts on net within a three-minute span as the first half drew to a close.
On the first one, Lawson took a pass from Borges and bore down on the right side before unleashing a right-footed shot that hit the side netting. A few minutes later, the former Oakland University standout cut inside and drove a low shot from 20 yards out that Farr collected.
Goalkeeper Nate Steinwascher, who likely will inherit the starting job as the Members Cup kicks off, was called upon on numerous times. His biggest save came in the 61st minute when he dove to his left to stop a goal-bound shot.
On Indy's winning goal, which started as a two-on-none breakaway, Steinwascher made the initial save before Starikov converted on the rebound.
With it being an exhibition, both teams could substitute freely. DCFC coach Trevor James continued to audition players for the upcoming Members Cup campaign.
Midfielder James Vaughan, who previously played for AFC Ann Arbor, appears to have a roster spot sewn up.
"It's definitely a good experience for me," said Vaughan, who also played at Northwood University. "To step onto the next level is a dream of mine. So to be able to do that is a great achievement.
"Now I have to be ready to kick on with the season."