Detroit City FC's historic U.S. Open Cup run ends in shootout loss to Louisville

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Hamtramck — Darkness had towered over Keyworth Stadium for some time. Thirty minutes of extra time wasn't enough.

And the Round of 32 U.S. Open Cup match between Detroit City FC and Louisville City FC? Well, it still needed a hero.

But on this night, amidst a run where late-game heroics always seemed to favor DCFC, that player was not wearing rouge and gold.

Goalkeeper Kyle Morton stopped DCFC's Rhys Williams in the second round to give his team the edge and Louisville went a perfect 4-for-4 to seal a 1-1 victory via penalty kicks (4-2).

DCFC's Rhys Williams and Louisville's Jorge Gonzalez battle for the ball in the first half of Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup match at Keyworth Stadium.

"Phenomenal effort from the players," DCFC manager Trevor James said. "I'm just disappointed for them that they didn't cross the line in the end, but you can't find fault in their performance at all."

DCFC's last chance, a shot from team captain Stephen Carroll, sailed over the net. Thus ended a historic run in the USOC that saw Detroit City reach the Round of 32 for the first time in club history and featured a win over Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew.

With some key starters battling injuries and others missing the match completely, Carroll said he was proud of the effort Tuesday and the run by DCFC (7-2-3 across all competitions).

"Obviously beating the Columbus Crew in the last round was massive. No one in soccer expected us to do that," Carroll said. "It's the magic of the Cup, like they always say. It's not a cliché, it does work in that sense. The result is what it is. We felt like we deserved more of it, but that's football for you."

James added that it was tough to prepare for the match without knowing which players would be available.

Antoine Hoppenot, Maxi Rodriguez and Pato Botello Faz all made their first appearances since suffering injuries sustained in an April 30 match against New York Red Bulls II.

"After the game on Saturday, we weren't really sure where we would be tonight. In the last day or so, we've had to piece it together," James said. "I thought all three of them did great tonight."

DCFC was without Matt Lewis, a crucial member of its back line. Lewis suffered an undisclosed injury at Tulsa and had a major role in shutting down Columbus in DCFC's last USOC match.

Louisville (9-0-3) stands atop the USL Championship's Eastern Conference table and has yet to be defeated in any match this season. 

"It obviously fills us with some bit of confidence, but in Cup games, anything can happen," Carroll said. "League play is a lot different, so we just have to see when the games come, how we are at that point in the league and in the season.

"I don't see why we can't push them to their limits."

Detroit City FC took a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute. Francis Atuahene was fouled in the box, giving DCFC a penalty kick. Rodriguez, who won the game for DCFC in its last USOC match against Columbus, fired his shot into the bottom right corner to put Le Rouge up early. 

Louisville got a free kick just outside the box in the 17th minute. A bending strike look destined for the upper left corner, but a diving Nate Steinwascher got over just in time to keep the game scoreless and rile up the crowd even more.

Moments later, however, Louisville would find the equalizer. Wilson Harris scored from inside the box to even it at 1 in the 24th minute.

The match started with five minutes of silent protest from DCFC's supporter group, the Northern Guard. NGS was protesting recent crackdowns on profane apparel and chants at Keyworth Stadium.

This season’s USOC marks the first time that DCFC has entered via the professional side. In its previous four entries, Le Rouge entered as an amateur side, most recently in 2018. 

James said his team could feel that it put a buzz into the city of Detroit with its run.

"It's been great. (The players) are aware of it. They've obviously done more media in the last three or four weeks than they've done in all their lifetime," James said. "They're aware of that what it means to the city, and the interest in the city. It'll hit them and they'll be disappointed, because they wanted to take it on again."

Atuahene nearly grabbed the momentum right back for DCFC two minutes after Louisville pulled even, receiving a through ball that put him all alone with the keeper at a tight angle. His shot was stopped.

Steinwascher made sure that Louisville's chances down the stretch were limited. He was extremely effective in stopping lobs and crosses coming through the box, keeping the score knotted at 1.

Steinwascher's biggest save of the game came in extra time. Enoch Mushagalusa had a chance from just a few feet off the goal line, but Steinwascher was able to kick it away. He finished with two saves; Louisville's Morton finished with four.

Atuahene received a yellow card (44') for DCFC. Corben Bone (42') and Wilson (52') received yellow cards for Louisville.

Botello Faz was subbed into the match during extra time for Connor Rutz. Botello Faz nearly delivered the winner in the 13th minute of extra time. He received a cross from Billy Forbes that he then volleyed to himself before firing a shot that was saved by a diving Morton.

Devon Amoo-Mensah saved the day for DCFC in the second half of extra time, sprawling out to block a point-blank shot with Steinwascher scrambling.

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.