Detroit City FC 'refocusing' as playoff push starts; Michael Bryant suspended one game
Detroit City FC has a pep in its step.
Head coach Trevor James said that unlike the team's first bye week, Le Rouge (9-8-4) earlier this week returned from a week-long hiatus looking spry as ever.
"We did this before and gave them the same sort of period off when they had a bye before, and they came back very sluggish the first couple of days," James said. "So, I was probably expecting a little bit of a downturn (this week), but I gotta say, they look fresher and sharper and lively."
The sluggishness that plagued DCFC when returning from its first off-week lasted until its next one. DCFC went from being tied for first place to going 2-5-2 over its next nine games and dropped to sixth place before again getting a week off.
With the final third of the season in front of them, James said the focus at training this week was "refocusing."
"We've done great to be where we are, but obviously our season is going to be judged on the remaining 13 games," James said. "If we don't do well and don't make the playoffs, then we'll be judged on that. If we do well and make the playoffs, we'll be judged on that.
"So it's really making a restart, if you like, to where we were to start the season. We have a 13-game season and we have to focus as much as we can."
The necessity for that refocusing will start this weekend: Le Rouge travels to Tampa, Florida, for a Saturday showdown with the Rowdies, which trail Louisville City by a single point for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Not that DCFC was overlooking its competition after getting off to a hot start in USL Championship, but James thinks his team has gone, and will continue to go through, a learning curve when it comes to winning in USLC.
"I think one thing is that you realize that every game you play, you're playing against players who are playing for their jobs or playing for their contracts," James said. "And I think that's new to use because NISA's not that sort of league, and I never really got that feeling that was happening with teams you played against. They had their own group of players and that was it.
"So that's how serious it is. When you play the games, we always talk about enjoying it, and we want it to be fun and enjoy the games, but we need to realize that ... to win at this level, you've got to be like that. Maybe that's something we haven't experienced and we have to learn again."
Bryant suspended one game
DCFC defender Michael Bryant has been suspended one game and will not be available for Saturday's match against Tampa Bay, a source close to the team told The Detroit News.
According to the source, Bryant crossed paths with game officials following a controversial draw against New Mexico United on July 23 and expressed frustration with how the game was called.
The silver lining for DCFC is that his suspension looks likely to coincide with the return of captain Stephen Carroll, for whom Bryant had subbed in at middle center back for the last three games while Carroll has dealt with a hamstring injury.
James said Carroll "looked good" in training last week and that he's optimistic he'll be in the starting lineup on Saturday.
Without Devon Amoo-Mensah, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Indy Eleven on July 9, and Carroll on the back line for the last few matches, DCFC has gotten mixed results on the defensive side. They grabbed two clean sheets in a row vs. Indy Eleven, which Amoo-Mensah played part of, and again against Monterey Bay, a 0-0 draw.
But Le Rouge got burned in injury time of their last game against New Mexico United, allowing a 2-2 equalizer in the final minutes. Bringing Carroll back this week should be a major benefit to buckling down in crunch time.
"It does bring stability and confidence from the other players, the other lads. When he's there, they're more confident that if they do make a mistake or they get beat or whatever it may be, there's a good chance he'll be in the position to cover and help," James said.
"They'd play better you'd think, because they're more confident. They're not as worried about making errors when Steve's there because they do feel they have another line of defense."
The new guy
It's still unclear when DCFC will get a chance to bring in winger Cy Goddard, who signed with the club on July 26.
"His P1 (visa) has been approved, it's just a matter of getting it, so he needs to have an appointment at the embassy, so they could stamp it," James said. "That could happen any time. It is paperwork. He could get an appointment tomorrow, he could get an appointment in two weeks."
Since James has yet to see Goddard work his way into training, he said he's still not sure how he'll use him in games.
"He's technically very good. He's not very big, he's a smaller player, a quicker and sharper and niftier, that sort of player," James said. "Very creative. He can play in a number of positions, whether he plays an attacking or midfield role, or a wide role, or a false nine, he can play in a lot of different positions."