Detroit City thrills in ESPN debut but can't find winner in 1-1 draw with El Paso

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Hamtramck — Detroit City FC wanted desperately to pull through.

In front of a sold-out, regular-season record crowd of 7,267 at Keyworth Stadium while making its ESPN debut, Le Rouge squeezed every chance possible over 90 minutes against El Paso Locomotive on Saturday.

In the end, "it was just one of those days," said forward Pato Botello Faz, as DCFC and El Paso played to a 1-1 draw.

DCFC's Karl Ouimette and Stephen Carroll defend against El Paso's Josue Aaron Gomez in the first half.

The game marked the first regular-season USL Championship match to be played on ESPN. DCFC sold out ahead of matchday for the first time in club history, running out of tickets on Thursday.

"We just weren't lucky enough to get the three points. I felt like we deserved the three points," DCFC captain Stephen Carroll said. "But that's football."

Botello Faz scored the lone goal for DCFC (7-5-3) in the 23rd minute, igniting the Keyworth crowd with an early go-ahead score. Deklan Wynne sent a ball to the middle that was played by a number of different players before landing on the foot of Botello Faz, who sent it home for his fifth goal of the season, tying him for the team lead. 

"Hopefully we keep getting this type of crowd. Hopefully people want to keep coming out. I thought it was an entertaining game," Botello Faz said. "We try to play that type of soccer, entertaining, so people can come out and have fun, you know?"

Following up a disappointing 2-0 loss to Sacramento Republic FC a week ago — DCFC's first home loss of the season — both Carroll and head coach Trevor James said they were happy with how the team responded.

"It was a great day. Obviously, the atmosphere was electric. We gave them a bit of a game, which went end-to-end," James said. "I think there was some who were really looking forward to getting back and trying to make right on their performance from last week."

In the 86th minute, Francis Atuahene — a late sub for Le Rouge — got a breakaway after a pass from Maxi Rodriguez and as El Paso keeper Evan Newton dove out to challenge, Atuahene blasted the shot off his left hand.

That was the last gasp of a second-half push that featured a shot off the crossbar from Antoine Hoppenot, another point-blank look from Hoppenot that was aimed right at Newton, and a textbook cross for Connor Rutz that sailed over the net on a header.

James talked earlier this week about the team's need to be better at finishing, and while the ball found its way into the scoring area a bit more often on Saturday, it wasn't enough to find the winner.

"We created a few half-chances," James said. "I'm pleased that we had more ball and more players in the box against a very good team obviously, so I'm pleased that we're on the right track. We just need to make the chances a little bit more clear-cut so that we can finish."

El Paso tied the game in the 32nd minute. A ball went through the legs of Carroll and right to Ricardo Zacarías, who fed Eric Calvillo for a shot that he ripped into the upper near-side corner from just inside the box.

DCFC was expecting an El Paso team that dominates in possession, and that's exactly what it got. The Locomotive held the ball for 63.5% of the game. Still, Le Rouge was able to remain patient and make sure that its opponent couldn't capitalize too often on drawing the team out of position. DCFC ended with 16 interceptions to El Paso's nine.

"For a team like that, that are very good at moving the ball around, they do that to try to drag people out of position and create holes in the midfield and in the back lane," Carroll said. "So being patient was key to staying in position defensively. … We knew they were going to try to play around. As long as we picked the right moments to go and take it off them, we'd do well. And I feel like we did pretty well today."

The match was physical from jump. DCFC's Devon Amoo-Mensah (18') and Abdoulaye Diop (29') both received yellow cards in the first half. In between those two yellow cards, Rutz was pulled down in the box on a breakaway and Carroll took a hard, late tackle in the 25th minute from Josue Aaron Gomez; both plays went uncalled. 

El Paso's Yuma Monsalvez received a yellow card in the 67th minute.

It was evident throughout the game that Le Rouge was unhappy with the officiating and James said afterward he thought it dictated the game.

"It was frustrating in the first half because we got a couple of questionable decisions from the referee. When you're on top and you're dominating and you're creating chances — we probably should have had a penalty with Connor Rutz. Then we score, then we have one taken back because of a handball situation and other calls like that," James said.

"It's frustrating because you could be two, three up, which makes it a massive difference."

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.