In front of a crowd of 2,014 at DeMartin Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University, Lansing United tied Detroit City F.C., 2-2, to clinch a spot in the Great Lakes playoffs.
Through the first 19 minutes of the first half, both teams went back and forth, opening up a few scoring chances, but neither could convert.
In the 20th minute, United forward, Brian Cunningham, changed the game when he went on the counter up the right-hand side of the field and hit a low-driving cross towards the Detroit six-yard box, which found the head of United forward, Matt Brown, who flicked it on to the back post and scored.
“We knew they were going to send their outside backs forward into their team attack…they sent numbers forward and then we were able to free up Brian (Cunningham) in the wide channel,” Lansing United head coach Eric Rudland said. “So perfect run, perfect service and Matt Brown made just a clinical finish in the box.”
After the goal, Detroit didn’t hold back as they kept pushing forward into United’s defensive third and eventually earned a penalty kick after United defender, Austin Dunn, made a hard slide tackle on Detroit forward, Zach Myers, just inside the 18-yard box.
Former Michigan State defender and Detroit captain, Josh Rogers stepped up and buried the penalty kick in the lower right corner of the goal to tie the game 1-1.
At the start of the second half, Detroit came out and pressed the United defense, but in the 65th minute, the tables turned when United forward, Gabe Mateo, came on for Cunningham.
A United player got the ball in Detroit’s middle third of the field, found forward, Brown, who found Mateo on a long pass up the right hand side of the field, who finished first time into the near side of the net, beating Detroit goalkeeper, Brett Mollon in the 66th minute.
“I was just sitting on the bench and trying to read the game, trying to figure out when opportunities like that could happen,” Mateo said. “I didn’t expect it to come that early, but I just stayed out wide patiently. Brown got a ball, looked up and made eye contact and I held my run. He played a perfect ball, couldn’t have been any better, and I just one-timed it and put it away.”
After United scored to take a 2-1 lead, they fell back into a 4-5-1, making sure that Detroit could not put in another goal.
Detroit brought the pressure knowing that they had to win in order to advance to the playoffs, but United goalkeeper, Zach Bennett, made several huge saves to keep United in the lead.
“Can’t really ask for much better defending. We were playing defense for most of the game,” Bennett said. “We get a goal ahead and then obviously with the circumstances we tried a little more defensive mindset. I think we played really good defense and did what we needed to do.”
Unfortunately, Detroit found the back of the net late in stoppage time when Detroit midfielder, Locky Savage, found the ball in the middle of the 18-yard box and struck the ball into the far side of the goal.
With little time left in the game, Detroit did not get another opportunity to score and when the whistle blew, the United players rushed the field and the fans grew loud with cheers.
“It was a really cool atmosphere. Obviously DCFC brings some great fans, some crazy guys, and I think Sons of Ransom definitely held their own over there being the new group,” Bennett said. “I think they were just as loud and just as rowdy. So the atmosphere was absolutely amazing and to be able to play at my home pitch, that was something a little special and added a little extra to the game.”
The East Lansing Soccer Complex will be hosting the Midwest Region playoffs on July 20-21.
The first game will be on Saturday at 4 p.m. and the second game will be at 7:30 p.m.
The Fort Pitt Regiment will play the Quad City Eagles at 4 p.m. at Archer Stadium.
United will play the Minnesota United Reserves at 7:30 p.m.
The winners will play on Sunday at 5 p.m to advance to the NPSL national semifinals.
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports.
Photo: Lansing United