Detroit City FC explores attacking options amid loss of second-leading scorer Max Todd

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News
Marcello Borges celebrates with DCFC teammates Seb Harris and James Vaughan after scoring the opening goal in his team's 2-1 victory over Chattanooga FC last Saturday.

When Detroit City FC boards the plane for its first West Coast trip to Napa, California, the team will find itself checking in 11 fewer goals at the baggage counter.

That’s because Max Todd, Le Rouge’s second-leading scorer during the National Premier Soccer League regular season, announced before last Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Chattanooga FC that he would be playing in his final match.

DCFC (1-0) continues NPSL Members Cup play Saturday against Napa Valley 1839 FC (0-1) at Justin-Siena High School. Kickoff is 10 p.m.

The Scotsman departed after two separate tenures with the club to finish up school in Chicago where he starred at UIC for four years, earning offensive player of the year honors in 2018 for his 12 goals and 12 assists.

Todd joined leading goal-getter Shawn Lawson (18 in all competitions) to form one of the most potent alliances in DCFC’s eight-year history during this summer’s NPSL Great Lakes Division Championship campaign.

To replace Todd’s production, coach Trevor James said he’s still “juggling” a few things.

The English coach perhaps offered a preview in last weekend’s Members Cup curtain raiser, deploying shifty midfielder Danny Deakin up front when Lawson exited in the 27th minute with a hamstring injury.

Lawson practiced Thursday, but his status remained unclear for Saturday’s match.

“We'll see” said James after practice at Keyworth Stadium. “We're still a day or two out, but hopefully he'll be involved.”  

Deakin scored what turned up to be the winner, slotting the ball between the Chattanooga FC netminder's legs in the 60th minute.  

Deakin’s sublime finish capped off a textbook buildup, which featured a beautiful left-footed cross from forward Ryan Peterson to send the Sheffield, England native bearing down on goal.

“I think he likes it (playing in an attacking role),” James said. “Again, Danny is similar to Max in that he will come underneath and try to get (the ball) at feet a lot more. He's not a threat beyond. Max was not the threat beyond (the 18-yard box), so he is similar.

“We may feature some of that this weekend if we have to juggle things around a bit."

Peterson, a former Rutgers standout, is one in a pair of possible aces up the coach’s sleeve. Another is midfielder Marcello Borges, who scored DCFC’s opening goal last Saturday.

Peterson’s calling card is blistering speed and an insatiable pursuit of the net.

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At Flanders, New Jersey’s Mount Olive High, the 5-foot-11 forward shattered numerous school records with 61 goals and 40 assists. He led the Scarlet Knights with four goals and an assist in his senior year in 2017 and registered two assists as a junior after transferring to Rutgers from N.C. State.

Peterson also played for Morristown, New Jersey-based FC Motown, which advanced to the 2018 NPSL National Final before losing to Miami FC. DCFC’s Bakie Goodman and Stephen Carroll share the same agent, Brian Krahling of The Krahling Sports Agency, recommending the speedy player to James.

The coincidence of going from one Motown to another isn’t lost on Peterson.

“It is funny to think about, but life takes you where you need to go at specific moments,” said Peterson, who came on as a second-half sub against Chattanooga. “I believe this is where I need to be and help this team as much as I can.”

His addition gives DCFC’s attack a certain menace, James said.

“He's always threatening to get behind the defenders where Max or Danny's first thought will always be to get at feet and try to create,” James said. “His view is like, 'Send me because I want to go and score.'

"It's a little bit more of aggressive attacking-wise. It gives us something a little bit different."

Peterson is unequivocal, if not unapologetic, for his goal appetite.

“Over the years, I've honed in on it: 'That's what I do. I get in and I finish,'” Peterson said. “The biggest part of it is you have to be clinical. 

“In the final third, you have to be clinical and composed, and over the years I’ve really practiced that and that has really helped me. That is what you really need as a striker.”

Borges, a four-year starter at Michigan, joined DCFC after failing to stick with the Rapids.

The MLS experience left him “a little bit” disillusioned. However, the New York Red Bulls Academy product who represented the U.S. at U18 and U20 levels still wanted to play while finishing his bachelor’s degree at Michigan in economics.

The Kearny, New Jersey midfielder professes to be fullback or a better left back, but will shift into the attacking third in a heartbeat, said James, who has no issues with such forays as long as things are tidy at the back.

The biggest move Borges, a two-time All-Big Ten selection at Michigan and 28th pick overall by Colorado in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, made was toward the supporter’s section after scoring his first goal Saturday. Borges was overwhelmed.

"It was an amazing feeling,” said Borges, who also has Portuguese and Brazilian citizenship through his grandparents and parents. "I don't think even at the pro level they get crazy fans like we do, so it's a great experience."

Members Cup

Detroit City FC vs. Napa Valley 1839 FC

When: 10 p.m. Saturday, Justin-Siena High School, Napa, Calif.

Outlook: DCFC defeated Chattanooga FC 2-1 on goals by Marcello Borges and Danny Deakin in its Members Cup opener. Napa Valley fell to the Milwaukee Torrent, 2-0, on Aug. 10.

Twitter: @larryo1961