Matt Lewis scores twice as Detroit City FC advances past Michigan Stars in U.S. Open Cup

Nolan Bianchi
Special to The Detroit News

Detroit City FC looked like it was enjoying Tuesday night's domination of longtime rival Michigan Stars FC with a 3-0 victory in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck.

But surely, nobody was having more fun than Matt Lewis.

Lewis, a defender who started the game at centre-back, exited the game as DCFC's leading scorer across all competitions this season after scoring in both the first and second half.

DCFC's Michael Bryant works the ball upfield in the first half.

"For us, Open Cup's vital," Lewis said. "This is a chance for Detroit City as a club, as a team, as players to prove ourselves to whatever level we can make it. It's huge for us. We take that super seriously and the match preparation has been very diligent."

DCFC advanced to the U.S. Open Cup's third round for the first time in team history. DCFC's third-round matchup is to be determined, but it's presumed they will face off with an MLS squad. A draw will take place later this week. 

Lewis helped pick up momentum before halftime with the second of two corner kicks turned into header goals that would give DCFC a 2-0 lead in first-half injury time. Connor Rutz scored the first and later added an assist. Maxi Rodriguez assisted on both first-half goals.

"Scoring the two goals just before halftime made a massive difference for us," DCFC manager Trevor James said. "It enabled us to relax a little bit and we were able to try out some things that we wanted to. Great feeling to get off and get a win, and get our names in the hat for the next round."

More: Detroit City FC gives stronger 90-minute performance but draws with Memphis

Michigan Stars goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva was replaced in the 29th minute after being seen telling teammates, "I can't see."

DCFC took a total of seven corner kicks in the first half, and it finally paid dividends in injury time when Rutz and Lewis converted in injury time. Rutz said that his goal was "straight from the training room."

DCFC’s Francis Atuahene is tripped up by Stars’ Iakov Shmelev in the first half.

"I thought the first 40 (minutes) was a little scrappy," Rutz said. "I thought we had the upper-hand, but once we got the goal in, the momentum was flying."

DCFC converted off another set piece on Lewis' second goal. Michael Bryant corralled a centering pass, sent it back toward the middle, where Rutz was waiting on the far side to feed Lewis with a header that he booted home.

The Stars failed to land a shot on goal during the game. DCFC finished with six shots on target and dominated time of possession (68 percent).

More: Detroit City FC's Maxi Rodriguez named to USL Championship Team of the Week

This marks DCFC's fifth appearance in the U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer's national championship that meshes competition from both the professional and amateur sides of U.S. Soccer. DCFC's appearance in this year's tournament is its first time entering from the professional side, and first appearance overall since 2018.

Extra time

... DCFC defender Rhys Williams on Tuesday was named as an honorable mention on the USL Championship's Team of the Week. Williams assisted on Pato Botello-Faz's tying goal in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Memphis.

... Technical staff member Javi Bautista has left the club, DCFC announced Tuesday. Bautista served as both an assistant coach and player during his time with DCFC. Michigan Soccer Central reported that Bautista is joining the Michigan Hawks youth soccer club.

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.

DCFC’s Connor Rutz battle with Stars’ Jonathan Firmino in the first half.