“It’s our season,” Lansing United head coach Nate Miller said.
That about sums up Sunday’s “Duel at DeMartin.”
United’s match at Michigan State’s DeMartin Stadium against Detroit City FC is the most important one of the season to date, with the team needing a win to stay in the playoff picture.
With two NPSL regular season matches to go, United has 13 points, three behind third place DCFC and five behind second place AFC Ann Arbor. After Grand Rapids FC secured a spot in the playoffs with a win against Ann Arbor on Friday, only one spot remains.
“There’s no time to look back at regretful stretches, it’s right in front of us,” Miller said. “Our guys are ready and excited for it.”
Lansing has never lost to Detroit at DeMartin Stadium. In 2014, the club locked in its spot in the Midwest Region playoffs with a 2-2 draw thanks to goals from Matt Brown and Gabe Mateo. Last season, United took down DCFC, 3-1, at the home of MSU soccer, on the strength of goals by Stephen Owusu, Jason Stacy and Matt Rickard.
While United has had much success at DeMartin, Miller said it’s hard to take anything from the two previous matches and apply it to Sunday’s game.
“I think it’s one of those things where you need a little bit more of a sample size,” he said. “We think the surface suits us and we’re excited to see how we can take advantage of it. But, the reality is, so is Detroit.”
Miller believes strong play in the box will be the key to Sunday’s match. Both goals Lansing conceded in the June 12 match at Keyworth Stadium came were a result of poor coverage in the box. On the other hand, the Lansing goals – scored by James DeCosemo and Alec Greene – found the back of the net due to their ability to find space in the 18.
“(The matches at DeMartin) have been even games,” Miller said. “It’s just one of those things where players in the box determine games. If you get the job done in the box it changes everything. In those matches there have been some phenomenal goals scored.”
If Sunday’s match is anything like previous ones at DeMartin, more spectacular goals will come. Brown and Owusu’s goals came off of diving headers, while Detroit’s Dave Edwardson scored a screamer from distance in last year’s match.
With a must-win situation approaching, Miller is hoping his team’s two-game NPSL win streak and a solid week of practice will parlay into success at Michigan State.
“Our guys are loose but have been intense in training,” he said. “It’s a good combination.”