Hamtramck — The National Premier Soccer League Members Cup competition doesn’t have a final, though Saturday’s Detroit City FC-New York Cosmos B match might as well be one.
The winner of the return leg at Mitchel Athletic Complex will control its destiny in the inaugural six-team tournament.
The first-place Cosmos (6-0-2) hold a one-point advantage over the LeRouge (6-0-1) entering the match at Mitchel Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
After Saturday’s encounter, New York wraps up play Oct. 19 against last-place Napa Valley 1839 FC. Detroit has two matches left after Saturday’s showdown: Wednesday against the Michigan Stars at Pontiac’s Ultimate Soccer Arenas and Oct. 19 versus the Milwaukee Torrent at Keyworth Stadium.
Bottom line: Undefeated DCFC needs a win or at least a draw to keep its cup hopes alive.
“It won't be an easy game for us, we know, but it won't be easy game for them,” DCFC coach Trevor James said. “I'm sure they've spent long periods of time looking at our games. I'm sure they'll be prepared and be ready for what we do.”
The teams drew 1-1 in a drama-filled encounter before 6,297 at Keyworth Stadium, which was highlighted by the sending off of Cosmos forward Isaac Acuna in the 71st minute for knocking down DCFC’s Marcello Borjes in an off-the-ball incident. Defender Stephen Carroll scored Le Rouge’s goal; Darwin Espinal answered for New York with a thundering free kick.
The home side absorbed the New York attack for the opening half and was bailed out by some superlative goalkeeping by Nate Steinwascher, who earned Man of the Match honors.
DCFC was also without a handful of key players, notably midfield conductor Bakie Goodman (ankle) and striker Shawn Lawson (hip flexor) for the encounter against the veteran-laden Cosmos outfit. Goodman and Lawson are expected to be in the lineup Saturday.
Lawson started and played 67 minutes in DCFC’s last match, a 2-0 home victory over the Michigan Stars on Tuesday. The former Oakland University standout has one goal in limited Members Cup action after registering a team-leading 14 in the NPSL regular season. In addition to a hip flexor, Lawson missed time this fall with a hamstring injury.
In the first half Tuesday, Lawson was circling like a shark again. He squibbed a couple of chances that during the regular season would have been sure goals.
He was replaced in the 67th minute by South African forward Yazeed Matthews, who leads DCFC with three goals in cup matches.
“They came to me and I could have finished them, but they didn't sit,” Lawson said. “I got some good opportunities and we played really well in the first half and we have had five or six chances to score but nothing fell in.
“It was one of those games where you are just trying to get your legs again because I just haven't played or started a game in two weeks, so it's a different feeling when you are coming back from injury. I'm just trying to get my mind and my body right so I can get back on track.”
Lawson getting chances is a good sign, James said.
“It's only a matter of time before he scores those goals,” the coach said. “I think he's even more confident right now because he's getting into positions and he knows those chances will come.”
Detroit City FC at New York Cosmos B
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, Mitchel Athletic Complex, Uniondale, N.Y.
Outlook: DCFC is riding a three-game shutout streak with Nate Steinwascher in goal. Ryan Peterson (penalty) and Rich Bryan scored in Le Rouge's latest victory, a 2-0 triumph over the Michigan Stars Tuesday at home. ... Isaac Acuna leads the Cosmos with three goals in Members Cup play. ... Detroit City Clubhouse, 3401 E Lafayette St., will host a watch party.