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Detroit City FC women have sights set on the postseason, tie 1-1 in opener

The Detroit City FC women's team kicked off the season with a 1-1 tie against Kalamazoo FC on Saturday night at Keyworth Stadium.

In laying out his team's goals for the summer, though, head coach Sam Piraine was very clear with his team which has 11 more games on the schedule through July 9.

"There's three to four postseason games right after that," Piraine said. "Make sure your calendar is open."

In its third year of existence, DCFC's women's team will play in the newly founded USL W League. And it intends to compete — but with the hopes of eventually moving up to the USL Super League, a professional side, the squad also understands that this season is still about more than 2022.

"We definitely want to root for winning and going to the national championship if we can get there," said Kenna White, who just finished her junior season at Bowling Green and has played in all three seasons with the club. "(But also) just creating the foundation for next year and the years to come, especially if we want to be a pro team as well.

"I think it's just keeping that balance of, it is a summer team, but at the same time, it will hopefully, eventually, be a pro team, so it's a little bit more than just a summer team to me and everyone else."

With White's recruiting skills, one could make an argument for DCFC's nickname to be the Falcons. She's bringing four of her Bowling Green teammates with her: sisters Brynn (forward) and Emilie Gardner (defender), forward Ellie Pool and defender Elisa Baeron.

More: 'They're special people': How Trevor and Tiffany James expedited DCFC's culture

Baeron, a native of Germany who finished her career at Bowling Green in 2018, is returning for a second season with the club after finishing with two goals and an assist in nine games during the 2021 season. The other three, though, are getting their first looks in rouge and gold.

"I'm excited for them," Piraine said. "Speaking to their (Bowling Green) coach, (they're) impact players for them, so there's no reason they shouldn't be impact players for us. They should 100% come in and make a statement."

With DCFC's season starting on the heels of the college season, Piraine said that solidifying the roster and getting the women to mesh is an obstacle ahead of Saturday's opener. It's not a challenge that's unique to his team, though, so he'll simply have to make do.

"This week, the biggest challenge is doing things quickly, but also some team bonding exercises, some things that they get to start familiarizing themselves with," Piraine said. "At the end of the day, you can't go out and perform if you don't really know your teammates. So, that's been the objective for the week."

The team's "leadership group" of returning players, Piraine said, will help move those things along. That cohort includes White, Baeron, defender Madison Duncan (last year's team MVP) and goalkeeper Gabby Shriver.

"Those are kind of the four goals that are our leadership group. Day of a match, one will wear the captain's badge and do the coin toss, and be the leader of the day," Piraine said. "Nonetheless, that doesn't leave the other three not to talk; they're still going to be leaders as well. … I think throwing some responsibility on them is going to help bring that group together."

There's also a newcomer that Piraine thinks can fill a role within that group eventually. Defender Shannon McCarthy, a Brighton native who played at the University of Miami (Fla.), joins the team with a better resume than anybody on DCFC's high-achieving men's side.

After graduating from Miami in 2015, McCarthy played with Japan's FC Charme (2017) and Sweden's Lidkopings FK (2018) before making two runs to the UEFA Women's Champion's League round of 16 over three seasons with Kazakhstan's BIIK Kazygurt (2019-2021).

"Just seeing her training, demeanor, how she trains, you can tell it kind of sets her apart from some, just because of what she's experienced," Piraine said. "She's experienced that professional environment where training is just as important as games.

"She does that at an intensity so high, and she knows that those little things are going to help her prepare for games, which I think (other players) feed off, and now everyone else is at high intensity right off the bat."

That's important for a team with high standards that's still in the early stages of setting a club culture. While there are some veterans like McCarthy and Baeron, a majority of the team's roster makeup is college players. 

And it also helps, of course, to have a fanbase that knows the standard through and through.

"I feel like each year, they get more into it, and there's more people that come," White said. "There's more people that come, and it's not just that they're here for the men's team. You can totally tell that they love the women's team, so that's just great to see now."

DCFC 2022 women's roster

► Forwards

(2) Faith Webber, Utah Valley

(7) Morgan Reitano, Purdue Fort Wayne

(9) Brynn Gardner, Bowling Green State

(19) Syd Smith, Western Michigan

(24) Kenna White, Bowling Green State

(26) Kayla Addison, Grand Valley State

(32) Ellie Pool, Bowling Green State

(55) Brooke Sleeva, Western Kentucky

► Midfielders

(3) Rachel Philpotts, Wisconsin-Milwaukee

(6) Ally Childers, Michigan State

(11) Kayla Whelchel, Western Michigan

(13) Bella Reitano, Purdue Fort Wayne

(16) Emma Bowman, Ohio Northern

(17) Megan Miles, Detroit City FC

(23) Bella Sabo, Ferris State

► Defenders

(4) Gabby Tremonti, Appalachian State

(5) Emilie Gardner, Bowling Green State

(8) Shannon McCarthy, Lidkopings FK

(14) Madison Duncan, FC Slovacko (Czech)

(15) Margaret Berry, Boston

(22) Grace Philpotts, DePaul

(29) Elisa Baeron, Bowling Green State

(36) Meyah Romeo, Trinidad and Tobago National Team

(40) Alia Fredericks, Eastern Michigan

(66) Acadia Murphy, Ball State

► Goalkeepers

(0) Becca Przyzbylo, Eastern Michigan

(1) Bethany Kopel, Indiana

(30) Gabby Shriver, Michigan State

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.