An 86th minute strike by KW United midfielder Jannik Loebe was all that separated the Derby City Rovers from the side that currently sits atop the Central Conference Great Lakes Division of the PDL. With the game getting a bit more stretched as it often does in the later stages, Loebe picked up the ball near the sideline just inside the Rovers half and dribbled incisively across the across the field, eluding defenders who simply couldn’t close quick enough, before unleashing a shot from 25 yards that found the top corner at the far post. It was a strike whose pace and accuracy put it just out of the reach of a diving effort from Rovers goalkeeper Chandler Gaunce.
Playing their 3rd match in 4 days, the Rovers put in a solid performance, with organized, tough defending without the ball, and crisp, intelligent ball movement when in possession. “We told guys they should walk off the fields with their heads high as we didn’t so much deserve to lose as KW deserved to win after the great goal they scored in the games final minutes. That’s what great teams and big time players do. They step up and make decisive plays when the game hangs in the balance,” said Rovers Head Coach Nathan Pitcock.
Having lost 1-0 to Dayton on Friday night in a match in which they carried much of the play but couldn’t put away their chances, and then wilted in the 90 degree heat on Saturday, losing 3-0 to Cincinnati, the home side could excused if they weren’t at their best on Monday night. But that was not to be the case as the determined Rovers players showed a resolve that has been frustratingly lacking in some previous games.
Prior to Loebe’s match winner, Derby City defenders Moustapha Fofana, Ahmed Osman, Campbell Weyland, and Greg Fischer had been outstanding, closing down space, intercepting passes, and making timely challenges, to keep the potent KW attack at bay. With the ball the Rovers moved the ball effectively, with a midfield trio of Haji Abdikadir, Walker Andriot, and Yudai Tashiro, orchestrating the flowing attack. On several occasions striker Kenny Doublette and winger Christian Kirchoff looked dangerous going forward but each time the final connection was slightly off or the KW defense was able to intervene. It was an evenly contested game that seemed destined for the two sides to share the points until a piece of individual brilliance proved decisive.
While the Rovers will be glad to get a couple days of recovery after a grueling stretch, the competition won’t get any easier as they host the defending PDL Champions, the Michigan Bucks on Thursday, June 22nd, 7:30pm at Woehrle Field. The Bucks have set the standard for excellence in the PDL, winning 4 regular season titles, 2 post-season championships, and holding the distinction for the most wins by an amateur side over an MLS opponent in the US Open Cup (2000 over New England Revolution; 2012 over Chicago Fire). The upstart Rovers however have given the mighty Bucks difficulty in recent years, posting a 3-2 home victory and a narrow 1-0 defeat on the road in 2016. “They’re a great organization and they always put a load of talent on the field so it will be a great test for us. If we can play like we did tonight I think we’ll be up for the challenge,” said Pitcock. Advance tickets for Thursdays match can be purchased online at roverssoccer.com
Derby City Rovers: Chandler Gaunce, Moustapha Fofana, Greg Fischer (Jean-Phillipe Rutabayiro, 88) Campbell Weyland, Ahmed Osman, Haji Abdikadir (Mason George, 88), Walker Andriot, Yudai Tashiro, Ryan Merckel (Cory Thomas, 63) Christian Kirchoff (Kyosuke Kubota, 70) Kenny Doublette
Subs Not Used: Jack Fasteen, Brett Royster
Current Rovers Academy Player; Rovers Academy Graduate
KW United: Kamal Miller, Ismael Longo (Donald Tomlinson, 66), Jannik Loebe, Munir Saleh, Justin Springer, Mathieu Laurent, Ken Krolicki (Djimon Johnson, 88) Scott Levene, Darren Rios (Charles Novoth, 68), Liam Callahan, Jiro Barriga (Mohamed Aborig, 66)