BY DAN STICKRADT
WEB AND CONTENT EDITOR
FLINT – A second meeting in less than two weeks and Flint AFC and Detroit City FC settled nothing on the pitch once again Saturday night.
The two new-found rivals went toe-to-toe before settling for a 2-2 USWL draw at historic Atwood Stadium near downtown Flint.
The two teams posted a 0-0 draw May 13 down in Hamtramck. The atmosphere was much more like a postseason match than like an early-season league game.
“This had some great atmosphere, and it was two good teams that played very hard,” noted Detroit City FC coach David Dwaihy, who earlier in the day led his high school girls soccer team at Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett to a Catholic High School League runner-up finish. “We turned things around in the second half. The first goal gave us a huge boost and we made some substitutions which I felt changed the complexion of the game and gave us a lot of energy. I think the group that started out the game played really well (defensively) and kept us in it. Those other players came in the second half and made the most of their opportunity which led to our two goals. The fresh legs made a difference.
“We made a little change to our structure at halftime,” continued Dwaihy. “I think they did, too. It was kind of a chess match. I think for us we went with a little bit of a different lineup in the second half and we kind of settled into it. When we were down, we kind of chased it and eventually tied the game and (later) took the lead. We had that goal called back, which was unfortunate, and we gave up the late goal which tied it. But it was still a really good game overall.”
The contest had several twists and turns before it ended in a tie – a goal called back, a goal scored off a deflection, a 1-0 FAFC halftime lead, a two-goal outburst by DCFC in the second half and a late game-tying tally by the Flint side to round out the highlights.
Detroit City FC thought it took a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute when Kayla Addison (graduate of Birmingham-Detroit Country Day and Grand Valley State University) deposited a breakaway goal. But the play was called back as Addison was ruled offsides by a hair-length.
Flint AFC, a second-year program that won just two games last year in its inaugural season, finally scored in the 15th minute on a bizarre situation.
Caroming a pass from Justina Gaynor (Pontiac Notre Dame Prep/Vardar/Michigan State), Delaney Caldwell (Saline/Ball State University) was able to get off a pair of shots from around the 18, both stopped by DCFC goalkeeper Gabby Schriver (Michigan State). The second shot deflected towards the goal and a DCFC defender tried to clear the spinning ball but it spun into the net. It was ruled an own goal.
The 1-0 lead for Flint AFC (2-1-1, 2-1-1) stood well into the second half.
First-year Flint AFC coach Michelle Krzisnik has made multiple roster changes since last season’s two-win campaign and more players are coming in over the next few weeks. The improvements have shown over the first couple of weeks.
“I think the last matchup with them last weekend was pretty good and both teams were even better today – which made it more interesting,” said Krzisnik, who is also the director of coaching for the Michigan Hawks, one of the state’s leading club soccer programs. “The soccer was better and energy was fantastic. At the end of the day, I think when we gave up the goals we pressed and tied it up late. It doesn’t take much in soccer. We played well in the first half and the beginning of the second half. We gave up a goal and (DCFC) really started playing well. They scored twice and then we tied it. It was just a battle, really. Both teams made a commitment to defending and we were really springing forward at times and they were trying to run in behind as well. It was exciting soccer both ways.”
Detroit City FC (0-0-3, 0-0-3) finally tied the game at 1-1 in the 60th minute. Forward Ellie Pool (Bowling Green State University/Michigan Hawks/Sylvania Southview HS) volleyed home a cross from midfielder Avery Peters (University of Michigan/Michigan Hawks/Mason HS), chipping the ball over Flint AFC netminder Kadance Radwanski (Brighton/Michigan Hawks). It was Detroit’s first shot attempt of the second half.
The momentum switch eventually led to additional pressure by DCFC and to its second goal. In the 79th minute, Adelle Francis (Greater Toledo FC/Perrysburg HS/Michigan State commit) took a centering feed from eighth-grade phenom Lily Jaekle (Lake Orion/Nationals GA) and while barley onside Francis unleashed a left-footed shot from just outside of the 18 that sailed past Radwanski and inside the left goal post.
Detroit City could not protect the lead.
Flint AFC stormed back in the 85th minute to net the equalizer. Micayla Johnson (Michigan Hawks) broke free with a breakaway goal off a through ball from Landis Canada (Fenton/Michigan Hawks/Western Michigan University) and cashed in the paycheck for the final goal.
“When you’re down a goal and your close to the end of the game you kind of throw people forward,” said Krzisnik. “One thing we did change is Abby Werthman typically plays up higher for us and is a left-sided player for us. We had to play her back today because we were missing Grace Philpotts. We put her back up top late and you could see the impact with that (change). Justina Gaynor, we put her up a little higher to try to get a little more energy and she was fantastic today. She’s just a workhorse. And she creates so much for us and works defensively as well.”
Flint AFC picked up a 16-10 total shots advantage on the night with 10 of those Flint shots coming in the first half. Both teams collected seven shots on frame with Flint AFC holding a 3-1 edge on cornerkicks.
Both Schriver and Radwanski finished with five saves apiece.
Flint AFC only retained a small batch of players from last season and has brought in a host of other current college players, ECNL stars, Girls Academy players and potentially some more high school and college players over the next few weeks as those players become eligible from other requirements.
All teams in the USWL should get better as the season heats up by bolstering their respective rosters.
“People are still getting home from school (college),” noted Krzisnik, who should see additions from college players finishing up their spring semester requirements and high school seniors who have signed will be finishing up their state tournament requirements in the next couple of weeks. “For us the roster changes slightly every week and we’ll adjust to that. What we’re all trying to do is build on that with more players and build on from the game before. That’s what we’re looking to do. We’ve had a good start to the season and we’ll just continue to get better.”