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Detroit City FC season preview: Le Rouge looking to make playoffs for 2nd straight year

Maxi Rodriguez Detroit City FC
Posted at 9:00 AM, Mar 10, 2023

(WXYZ) — Detroit City Football Club (DCFC) is ready to start its second season in the USL Championship and improve on its first season in the second tier of American professional soccer where they made the USL Championship playoffs.

Last year, Le Rouge had an incredible start in the USL. On top of making the playoffs, Detroit also beat an MLS team – the Columbus Crew – in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Detroit kicks off its 2023 campaign on Saturday night on the west coast. They'll take on San Diego Loyal SC at 10 p.m. ET, then face El Paso Locomotive on March 18. The home opener at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 25 against Indy Eleven.

The team hosted its final training session Thursday ahead of Saturday's game, and Head Coach Trevor James said that training has been good since they started in the beginning of February.

"We've been at it a few weeks, and it's been good. It's been very competitive," James said.

From there, Le Rouge will be on home on April 1 and April 29, plus the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, April 4.

Who is back?

Nate Steinwascher - Goaltender Nate Steinwasher will be back in rouge and gold this season. He played a key role in Detroit's run to the playoffs, making 92 saves last season to go with 12 clean sheets, tied for third-best in the USL Championship. He was named the Black Arrow MVP for the 2022 season.

Stephen Carroll - The Irish captain of DCFC will be back for the next two seasons, and was one of the first players re-signed in November 2022. He joined Le Rouge in 2017 and appeared in 30 matches last season with 2,601 minutes of play, 52 interceptions and 32 blocks to go with two goals.

Maxi Rodriguez - Detroit announced in December it was bringing back Maxi Rodriguez on a two-year guaranteed contract. He led the team in goals (9), passes (1,487), interceptions (56), tackles (14), duels (392) and duels won (228) last season. Rodriguez was also named to the USL Championship team of the week six times and had a hat-trick against Loudoun United.

Connor Rutz - Rutz is back with Le Rouge for the next two seasons and an option for the third, after appearing in 34 matches for DCFC last season. The 2021 Black Arrow MVP had three goals and led the team in aerial duels won with 66.

Michael Bryant - In December, DCFC announced the return of Michael Bryant, who appeared in 31 matches last season. He had 14 blocks, 46 interceptions and played in many different roles last season as the team dealt with injuries.

Rhys Williams - Defender Rhys Williams will be back for the next two years after joining the team ahead of the 2021 season. He started 28 matches with 2,535 minutes of play and added three assists. He also finished second on the team in tackles won and duels won.

For James, getting those players back was important and now they have a year of experience in the USL Championship.

"Their role is now to lead, and to become leaders and see how strong they can become themselves," James said. "IF they can repeat anywhere near the success and the performances they had last year, we won't be far away again."

However, the team did lose some players who had important roles on the team. Antoine Hoppenot was tied for the most assists in the league, and he joined the Hartford Athletic in the offseason; Pato Botello-Faz had eight goals and joined the Las Vegas Lights and Decklan Wynne played a big role on offense and joined the Charleston Battery.

"It's a big loss for us because it's a lot of goals you have to replace somewhere if you're going to do the same sort of season last year," James said.

However, the players they have added to the team should help, James said.

"We've added some forward players, but we've added some more creative midfield players, so hopefully we'll have a little bit more creativity to the team this year," James said. "It does change the strategy a little bit, but we'll still be very much on the front foot and trying to attack and play."

Who is new to the team?

Skage Simonsen - Le Rouge signed the Norwegian midfielder on Dec. 13 to a two-year contract. The 24-year-old was drafted in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft by DC United and played most of 2022 for Loudoun United FC where he had 1,779 minutes of play with seven assists and two goals.

Ben Morris - Last month, DCFC signed English forward Ben Morris, who was on loan from Ipswich Town to GAIS in Sweden, where he helped the team get promoted in the Swedish league. In January, he appeared for Ipswich Town's U21 side and scored two goals.

Jalen Robinson - DCFC signed Jalen Robinson to a two-year deal in February. He played for Loudoun United last season and started 21 matches, and played for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

Adrian Billhardt - The 25-year-old from Germany signed a two-year contract with DCFC in January and played last season for South Georgia Tormenta of USL League One, where the team won the USL League One title. He played in 30 matches and had five goals and five assists in 2,031 minutes of play, and was named comeback player of the year after an injury in 2021.

Tommy McCabe - Just three days before the season opener, the team announced it signed another midfielder, Tommy McCabe, who is a former MLS draft pick. He made seven appearances for FC Cincinnati in 2019 and 2020, and was then loaned to USL's Memphis 901 FC. In 2021, he made 31 appearances for Orange County FC and started 21 times, and las season, he made 24 appearances for OCSC.

"There's a lot of excitement from the new guys who want to go on and get some good results," James said.

He added, "their role has been to come in and get on board with what we do, which they have all been very receptive to and very positive, too, so that's a great sign."

Important matchups

Le Rouge will face the 2022 USL Champion San Antonio FC at home on Saturday, May 20, and there will be two games against the other finalist – Louisville City FC – on the road on April 8 and at home on July 19.

Detroit also lost to Memphis 901FC in the first round of the playoffs, and they'll host the Rowdies on April 29 and play them on the road on May 13.

DCFC kicks off the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on April 4 against Gold Star Detroit FC of NISA. If they win, they'll move on to the third round, where they could play an MLS Team, like they did last April when they beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 to advance to the round of 32.

James said he's just excited to have the team back together and to be playing once again.

"We want to get some good results on the road, and look forward to bringing that back to Keyworth and playing in front of a sold-out stadium," he said.