Detroit City FC salvages draw with late equalizer against Oakland Roots

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Hamtramck — Francis Atuahene's late equalizer wasn't enough to lift the mood at a packed Keyworth Stadium on Saturday night, as Detroit City FC struggled to a 1-1 draw against Oakland Roots.

Atuahene subbed on for Maxi Rodriguez in the 73rd minute and broke through for DCFC (9-9-5) in the 87th minute, salvaging a point in what was otherwise a disappointing return home.

Saturday's draw was DCFC's first home match since a 2-2 draw on July 23, which saw New Mexico United equalize in injury time.

Detroit City FC defender Deklan Wynne prepares for a corner kick in a USL Championship against the Oakland Roots on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.

"We had chances, enough chances to win the game comfortably, and we didn't take them again," DCFC head coach Trevor James said. "So that's yeah, something we work on … every week … It's obviously gonna have to get right for the run into the playoffs and hopefully beyond."

Atuahene received a through ball from Antoine Hoppenot to get in with the keeper all alone, blasting the ball past Oakland keeper Paul Blanchette.

"That's every striker's dream, to always face the goal 1-v-1," Atuahene said. "But I knew the situation we were in and we need to score, so I was just fortunate that Antoine found me right away, and I was able to equalize, so yeah, it was good. The minute I got to that position, I've been working on that every day in practice, so I knew I had to put that ball away."

It was the first official goal of the season for Atuahene, who was initially credited with a goal against New York Red Bulls II on April 30 before officials deemed that it was an own goal. Hoppenot's assist was his fifth of the season.

"We are trying so hard to give the fans what they come here to see, and when I was coming in, (James) just gave me advice, 'Go in there and do your thing,' " Atuahene said. "He always lets us play freely, and he always told me, 'Go in there as a striker, go make the run and put yourself in the scoring position,' and that's exactly what I did."

Detroit and Oakland (6-12-7) played to a scoreless draw in the first half, which saw Le Rouge start to pick up momentum before heading into the locker room.

But an uncharacteristically errant goal kick from Nate Steinwascher early in the second half went right to Oakland forward Charlie Dennis, who blasted the ball home with his left foot to give the Roots a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute.

With the exception of his early second-half gaffe, Steinwascher was brilliant for DCFC. He only was tasked with making two other saves, but they were both big ones.

"Nate, as you said, kept us in it the first half, and on many occasions has kept us in it," James said. "So it was just unfortunate tonight that there was just one he misfired on."

Steinwascher and the DCFC center backs had to come up with a pair of big plays early. Dennis in the ninth minute took a strike from the top of the box that forced Steinwascher to make a diving save; Dariusz Formella had a wide-open net to shoot at for the rebound, but captain Stephen Carroll was able to get his body in front of it for another stop.

Steinwascher made another tough save in the 18th minute, jumping to deflect a ball away.

DCFC found its first big chance on offense in the 19th minute. Hoppenot jumped a back pass and chipped the ball over Blanchette, but the ball rang off the post and went out of bounds.

That would mark the start of a slew of chances for Le Rouge on which the final touch just simply wasn't good enough to get on the board.

"They certainly got a lot of bodies behind the ball, a lot of bodies in the penalty area. They defended within the lines of the six-yard box," James said. "So when you get a lot of bodies in there, it does get a little bit, you know, there's gotta be a little bit of fortunate to find the right person you're aiming for."

In the 30th minute, Hoppenot sent a cross to the far post where it was played by the head of Deklan Wynne for an attempt that went just wide.

A total of seven yellow cards were doled out, with four going to Oakland and three going to DCFC, which entered Saturday with the fewest yellow cards in the league this season. 

Twitter: @nolanbianchi