October 2, 2020
2020 NISA Fall Tournament Final
Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, MI
Detroit City FC 2, Oakland Roots 1
Attendance: 1 (Smokey the Bot)
OAK Johnny Rodriguez (Nelson Blanco) 27′
DCFC Shaun Claud Lawson 65′
DCFC Ryan Peterson 84′
Cyrus Saydee (DCFC) 16′
Daniel Navarro (Roots) 77′
Tarn Weir (Roots) 80′
Niall Irwin (Roots) 89′
The two-week marathon of the tournament was ninety or more minutes away from completion. Detroit had already earned the right to host the NISA 2021 Spring Tournament by virtue of the Oakland Roots departure from the league after this match. But we’re Detroit, and the goal is to win the tournament to earn that future benefit and add another trophy to the shelf.
During the drive to the stadium I was experiencing mixed feelings. It was a championship match, with the promise and potential of being one of those memories that becomes legacy. As exciting as that was, I was also feeling sadness. The empty stadium, neutralized for the tournament, triggered feelings of loneliness. The joyous voices and faces of the Northern Guard would be missing.
Damn the COVID.
But I felt a warmth in my heart when I pulled into the parking lot and saw the return of flags, fence-banners, and Smokey the Bot, and the NGS crew who were setting things up. Okay, yes, I teared up a little.
Oakland and Detroit met in the second match of the Group A round. City had suffered a tough loss in the first match, and needed a win, which they earned, to stay in the competition. It was the first of three straight for them walking into the final match.
Oakland’s only loss to this point was the City victory, so there was the added incentive for them to win by beating Detroit and leave the league with a piece of silverware.
Oakland made three line-up changes from the team that started in the semi-final match against Chattanooga FC. Daniel Navarro, Nelson Blanco, and Diego Casielles started in place of Nana Attakora, Angel Heredia, and Niall Irwin.
Christian Herrera – Keeper
Daniel Navarro – Defender
Tarn Weir – Defender
David Abidor – Defender
Nelson Blanco – Midfielder
Peter Pearson – Midfielder
Diego Casielles – Midfielder
Ariel Mbumba – Midfielder
Yohannes Harish – Midfielder
Matthew Fondy – Forward
Johnny Rodriguez – Forward
For Detroit, two changes were made to the starting line-up that defeated the Los Angeles Force in the semi-final. Cyrus Saydee and Ibrahim Conte replaced Connor Rutz and Sebastian Capozucchi. This was the same starting eleven that lined up against Oakland in their earlier victory against them.
Detroit City FC
Jean Antoine – Keeper
Steve Carroll – Defender
Tendai Jirira – Defender
Michael Kafari – Defender
Kevin Venegas – Midfielder
Jimmy Filerman – Midfielder
Bakie Goodman – Midfielder
Cyrus Saydee – Midfielder
Ibrahim Conteh – Midfielder
Max Todd – Forward
Yazeed Matthews – Forward
Johnny Rodriguez put Oakland ahead in the 27th minute, redirecting a cross from Nelson Blanco to give the Roots a 1-0 lead.
Just like the previous match, Oakland went into halftime with a 1-0 lead. They almost made it 2-0 just before stoppage time, however it was ruled offside.
During halftime, City regrouped, just as they had in the previous match against the Roots.
In the 62nd minute, City pulled a double substitution, relieving Yazeed Matthews and Kevin Venegas for Shawn Claud Lawson and Sebastian Capozucchi. It only took Shawn three minutes to sneak into the Roots zone, steal a clearing pass by Diego Casillas, then bury it past Christian Herrera to level the match.
In the 68th minute, Niall Irwin subbed in for Ariel Mbumba for the Roots. In the 75th minute, Max Todd and Ibrahim Conteh made way for Ryan Peterson and Connor Rutz. Oakland countered when Jack McInerney subbed in for Nelson Blanco in the 79th minute.
City broke the deadlock in the 84th minute. A long clearance from a free kick given due to an offside, the ball bounced into the Roots zone. As it continued its bounce toward the box, Ryan Peterson out-hustled the Roots defender then chipped the ball well over the head of Christian Herrera, which dropped into the back of the net.
With six minutes remaining, plus five minutes added time, the Roots threw everything at City. In the 88th minute, Angel Heredia and Manny Gonzalez subbed in for Tarn Weir and Peter Pearson. Two minutes into stoppage time, Evans Frimpong, who subbed in for Cyrus Saydee as stoppage time began, blocked a shot on the line labeled for the corner. A minute later, Jean Antoine snatched the ball out of the air as a long pass was aimed for the head of a Roots player. Five minutes in, Connor Rutz headed a Roots shot away that was on its way to the goal. Back-to-back corner kicks in the final seconds were repelled. The final whistle blew, and Detroit City FC was crowned the NISA 2020 Fall Tournament Champions!
NISA Commissioner John Prutch presented the trophies.
The Golden Ball trophy for MVP of the tournament was presented to City captain, Stephen Carroll!
And the tournament trophy to Detroit City FC.
NISA’s All-Tournament Team identified these twelve players:
Yazeed Matthews – Detroit City FC
Alec Redington – Chattanooga FC
Christian Theirjung – Cal United Strikers
Darwin Lom – Chattanooga FC
Omar Nuno – Cal United Strikers
Max Todd – Detroit City FC
Tatenda Mkuruva – Michigan Stars
Cristian Gordillo – Los Angeles Force
Shawn Claud Lawson – Detroit City FC
Seo In Kim – Oakland Roots
Hugo Gomez – Los Angeles Force
Matt Fondy – Oakland Roots
Not your traditional eleven-man line-up. Were I to choose my starting eleven from the tournament, it would look like this.
Keeper: Hugo Gomez – Los Angeles Force
Defender: Tendai Jirira – Detroit City FC
Defender: Stephen Carroll – Detroit City FC
Defender: Nick Spielman – Chattanooga FC
Midfielder: Christian Theirjung – Cal United Strikers
Midfielder: Cristian Gordillo Moreno – Los Angeles Force
Midfielder: Bakie Goodman – Detroit City FC
Midfielder: Daniel Vicente – New Amsterdam FC
Forward: Shawn Claud Lawson – Detroit City FC
Forward: Matt Fondy – Oakland Roots
Forward: Yazeed Matthews – Detroit City FC
Honorable Mention: Omar Nuno: Cal United Strikers
There were so many good players in the tournament, selecting eleven was difficult. And it was hard not to list all Detroit City FC players because of my bias.
Watching every match of this tournament, and seeing the caliber of play and teams, along with the commitment to community that all but one team brings, NISA is going to be an awesome league for the supporters and the communities they come from, especially once COVID is gone, and the supporter atmosphere returns.