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Detroit City FC blanks Cleveland SC in spectator-less home opener

Nolan Bianchi
Special to The Detroit News

Hamtramck — It didn’t sound like Keyworth Stadium. It didn’t look like Keyworth Stadium. 

But even without the Northern Guard — Detroit City FC’s notorious supporter group — in attendance, there was still an array of smoke at kickoff. And once the ball got rolling in Le Rouge’s home opener against Cleveland SC, the pitch, at least, looked normal for a Friday night in July.

DCFC picked up a 3-0 victory over Cleveland on goals from Ryan Peterson, Connor Rutz and Shawn Lawson, as Le Rouge kicked off its season in style, the first of two NISA Independent Cup matches at Keyworth this weekend.

Detroit City FC's Tendai Jirira does up with Cleveland SC's Vinny Bell in the first half at Keyworth Stadium in Detroit, Michigan on July 31, 2020.

Fans were not permitted to attend, due to the state’s executive order regarding public gatherings. 

Peterson broke a scoreless tie for Le Rouge in the 42nd minute on a dazzling goal. Roderic Green centered a ball that was put in the back of the net with a diving header by Peterson to go up 1-0. 

Rutz put DCFC up 2-0 in the 51st minute on a free kick from 19 yards outside the cage, blasting the ball past Cleveland goaltender Alex Imanov and into the upper left corner of the net. 

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Thirteen minutes later, it was Rutz creating for DCFC once again. He took advantage of an odd-man rush and centered the ball to Lawson for an easy tap in as Le Rouge took a commanding 3-0 lead.

Both teams took a knee for the first 30 seconds of the match, a show of unity against social injustice.

"Smokey the Bot," DCFC’s automated smoke machine, forced a stoppage in play just over two minutes in after doing its job a little too well and covering the field with black fog.

DCFC swarmed over Cleveland’s defense early on. Its first opportunity came in the 11th minute. Rutz received a pass while cutting near the top of the box and fired a shot that was saved by Imanov's hand. 

Cleveland defender Paolo Tremine was served a yellow card for a hard tackle in the 21st minute.  Moments later, Le Rouge’s Stephen Carroll centered a corner kick back across the goalmouth that was sent up and over the crossbar by Evans Frimpong. 

Green received a yellow card in the 44th minute, just minutes after his assist, and exited the game at halftime. Peterson was handed a yellow card in the 48th minute.

Cleveland SC controlled the action to close the first half, but despite a handful of opportunities from all over the box, went into the locker room without registering a shot on goal.

After a strong effort to close out the first half, Cleveland struggled mightily to muster any offense in the second. Le Rouge easily cleared a Cleveland corner in the 67th minute, one of its best chances of the half.

Le Rouge forward Yazeed Matthews didn’t show up on the scoresheet but was in on a handful of good looks in the game’s final 20 minutes, including a shot from up close that went right of the cage in the 82nd minute. 

DCFC will take on FC Buffalo at Keyworth on Sunday (3 p.m.).

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer