Atuahene nets first of season to lift Detroit City FC over New York Red Bulls II, 2-0

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Second-half City strikes again.

Detroit City FC on Saturday scored in the 82nd minute and again in injury time to defeat the New York Red Bulls II, 2-0, at Keyworth Stadium.

Rhys Williams played a ball into the scoring area and Francis Atuahene slammed it home for his first goal of the season to break a scoreless tie after all three of Le Rouge's top scoring options had been subbed out of the game.

FILE - Francis Atuahene slammed home his first goal of the season to break a scoreless tie after all three of Le Rouge's top scoring options had been subbed out of the game.

"I think it was massive for (Atuahene)," DCFC manager Trevor James said. "With the run we're on at the moment, he's been sitting on the sidelines, itching for an opportunity. But he fully understands that while the team has been doing so well, results have been going well, it's hard to change it. ... But all credit to him."

In the 90th minute, Atuahene, a former Michigan Wolverine born in Accra, Ghana, sent a cross that resulted in an own goal to seal the victory for DCFC (5-2-1 USL Championship) in front of 6,973 fans in attendance at Keyworth.

"This is home," Atuahene said after the match. "Every time I'm on the field and I see the fans everywhere in Michigan, I see people wearing Go Blue, people screaming my name, it's just phenomenal and just makes me excited. It pushes me leave everything on the field, so the fans are really playing a fundamental role in our success."

Atuahene has been dealing with an undisclosed injury that kept him from finding a consistent role; he's played 25% of his team's available minutes this season.

"It's been a tough road, but it's part of the game," Atuahene said. "We all know sometimes, injuries happen, and when it happens, you just have to take care of your body and get back to fitness ... everything just started to click today, and I just being my best for the club."

DCFC now has outscored opponents 12-1 in the second half across all competitions this season. Atuahene's winner marked the 10th time in James' tenure that DCFC has scored a winning goal in the 75th minute or later.

"I think (the confidence) comes from doing it," James said. "The more we do it, the more we feel that we're going to do it. I don't know if that's a good answer, but we get very confident in scoring late ... confident that we're going to finish strong, confident that we're going to score the winner, whether it be in the 75th minute or the 95th minute."

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With the win, DCFC (17 points) temporarily takes sole possession of second place in USL-Championship's Eastern Conference table.

Louisville City (18 points, first place) plays the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (16 points, third place) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. DCFC will remain in second place with a draw or Louisville win.

Pato Botello-Faz (55' for Atuahene) and Antoine Hoppenot (65' for Michael Bryant) both exited with apparent injuries. Maxi Rodriguez was subbed out for Billy Forbes in the 77th minute.

Botello-Faz grabbed his foot after taking a hard tackle, and Hoppenot came up holding his hamstring after chasing down a ball in the second half. There were no updates to their status following the game.

DCFC got off to another slow start, but came alive a little earlier than usual to make sure that New York (1-1-6) couldn't get a grip on the match.

"I think it was a difficult game, so the message was that we hadn't really started playing yet," James said of his halftime message. "The message was let's see if we can get a little bit more intensity in our game, a little bit more work rate, and I think the extra work rate and stuff would make the difference. Hopefully it did, and that's what happened in the end."

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Prior to their injuries, Hoppenot and Botello-Faz seemed destined to be the ones that carried DCFC to victory. 

Detroit City started to come alive around the 20th minute, when a downfield free kick that landed in front of Hoppenot was headed to Botello-Faz. Moments later, Hoppenot set up Botello-Faz again. Neither chance could be finished, but DCFC found its rhythm and dictated the offensive pace from then on out.

The Hoppenot-to-Botello-Faz connection finally appeared to have broken through during injury time in the first half. Hoppenot sent a ball to the box that was perfect for a header from Botello-Faz that scored. Officials overturned the goal with an offsides call.

DCFC’s next chance came in the opening minute of the second half, when Hoppenot sent a pass to the box that Botello-Faz shot off the side of the goal.

New York had the advantage in both shots (8-6) and shots on target (3-2), but couldn't beat Detroit City FC goalkeeper Nate Steinwascher.

Castilllo nearly got the Red Bulls on the board in the 52nd minute, taking a shot off the crossbar after a corner kick.