July 9, 2017: at Lansing United (NPSL Regular Season)

July 9, 2017
East Lansing Soccer Complex, East Lansing, MI
NPSL Regular Season Match
Lansing United 1, Detroit City FC 2

LU  James DeCosemo (Tumi Moshobane) 43′
DCFC  Shawn Lawson (Bakie Goodman) 45′
DCFC  Cyrus Saydee (Tyrone Mondi) 57′

A Sunday afternoon journey to East Lansing for the season’s final road match.  Yeah.  Here.  Lansing United.  Where we have played three times previously and only managed to take a single point.  A win or a draw would clinch a playoff spot for us and eliminate Lansing United from playoff contention.

Wait a second.  With a single point, we’d clinch a playoff spot.  Something some thought impossible after the first three matches way back in May.

In the past, this match would be held at the DeMartin Stadium, home to Michigan State University’s soccer team.  But today, the smaller confines of the East Lansing Soccer Complex would be our host.  Perhaps the change in venue would shrug off the lack of success we’ve had in this town.

First blood was drawn by the home team in the waning moments of the first half.  Tumi Moshobane floated a pass into the box to an open James DeCosemo in the 43rd minute.

Two minutes later the bandage was applied when Tyrone Mondi floated a ball into the box.  Bakie Goodman, with back to the goal, received the ball, his first touch causing it to bounced high.  Goodman turned and volleyed it across the face of the goal.  Lansing keeper Jimmy Hague dove for it, but City’s Shawn Lawson slid in and tapped it in.

The half ended with the sides even.

It would have been easy for City to sit back and ride out the draw.  But Cyrus Saydee was uncanny this afternoon, outmaneuvering most every opponent who challenged him.

In the 57th minute, Tyrone Mondi fed a ball through the Lansing defense.  Jimmy Hague and Saydee ran toward it.  Saydee touched it past the Lansing keeper, then deposited it into the open net.

Nine straight wins.
The season’s road record: 5-1-1, outscoring our hosts 12-7.
And we are in the playoffs!

July 7, 2017: vs AFC Ann Arbor (NPSL Regular Season – Part One)

July 7, 2017
Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, MI
NPSL Regular Season Match
Match suspended at the 4:51 mark

On May 21st, City went into Ann Arbor after the first two matches of the season, where leads were blown and points lost due to draws to the Milwaukee Torrent and Michigan Stars.  The cloudy afternoon brought not only rain down upon Hollway Field during halftime, but on the outlook of the team’s season.  AFC Ann Arbor’s Dario Suarez fired two goals against Le Rouge, and no one answered back.

The following weekend was an early break in the season for Le Rouge for the much-anticipated international friendly with Glentoran FC.  It was the 50th anniversary of the Glentoran team that crossed the Atlantic from Belfast to play as the Detroit Cougars. Spirits were lifted in acknowledging Detroit’s soccer past and in entertaining our Irish guests.  The clouds of gloom dissipated.

One month and eight NPSL matches later, Detroit City FC sat two points behind first place AFC Ann Arbor. City had not suffered a loss in the entire month of June, including the traditional friendly against the Columbus Crew SC College Program (which has traditionally been a game lost by Le Rouge). Supporters and teammates were glistening like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

For one week, the momentum of the past month leading to this night, magnified.  The anticipation of this huge match against a hated opponent was tangible.

AFC Ann Arbor – 9 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss, 1st place.
Detroit City FC – 8 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss, 2nd place.

And let’s be clear about that team in Ann Arbor…

Dark clouds came rolling in from the east, forming and following the Northern Guard Supporters as they marched from the Fowling Warehouse.

It was there.  The emotional electricity of revenge.  Like a heavy-weight fighter knowing one more punch would put down his opponent, we felt ourselves in that drawn back fist, ready to deliver the final blow.

After the water balloons were tossed, and the smoke filled the air, the match began.

It ended four-minutes-fifty-one seconds later.

The heavens opened.  It was as if the fist we were ready to apply to our opponent had manifested in the sky above, with rain pelting the pitch with ferocity.  With the match put on hold, we refused to release this moment.  Smoke tried to blanket the field, but still, the rain fell.

The teams left the field, and many left the stands in search of shelter.  But not us.  We’ve been building and waiting for this moment.  And we stayed.  And sang.

When the chants and songs would not relent, the clouds gave way, reducing the rain’s intensity to a light mist in comparison.

But the pitch couldn’t take it.  Saturated by the soccer gods, the field could not absorb the onslaught, and the steady drizzle that followed made draining an impossibility.

It was about an hour after the match had been paused that the officials abandoned game on account of player safety.  Tuesday, July 11th was announced as the rescheduled date.

Co-owner Alex Wright, on the eve of his wedding, took his bride-to-be out to the middle of the pitch, in a demonstration that it was safe to dance.

Rescheduled to a Tuesday night was a frustrating conclusion to the evening.  Why did the soccer gods attempt to drown our momentum and postpone our clash against AFC Ann Arbor?

June 30, 2017: vs Michigan Stars (NPSL Regular Season).

June 30, 2017
Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, MI
NPSL Regular Season Match
Detroit City FC 3, Michigan Stars 1
Attendance: 4,391

DCFC  Tyrone Mondi (Luke Hauswirth) 7′
DCFC  Roddy Green (Cyrus Saydee) 27′
DCFC  Cyrus Saydee (Bakie Goodman) 57′
Stars   Alex Ofiemu 90+

This is the fourth match in a week for the team and supporters.  And though the rain kept the attendance numbers down, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm.  A win tonight would put City on top of the division, with three matches remaining – home against AFC Ann Arbor and a home-and-home weekend against Lansing.

The Michigan Stars were the only team to have walked out of Keyworth Stadium with three points.

Tyrone Mondi started us off with a goal in the 7th minute.  A long ball lofted from our defensive end by Luke Hauswirth ended up hitting the ground ahead of Mondi and Stars defender, Michael Wetunga.  Wetunga slipped on the wet turf, leaving Mondi alone on goal, looping it over the oncoming keeper, Anthony Mwembia.

In the 27th minute, City doubled their lead when Cyrus Saydee passed the ball toward the goal.  Tyrone Mondi ran toward it with Stars defender Nyal Higgins, but dummied it through to Roddy Green who placed it past the goalkeeper.

The first half ended with City up, 2-Nil.

It was Polish-American Heritage Night, and halftime featured traditional P0lish dancing and wardrobe.

Cyrus Saydee seemed to have the field to himself in the 57th minute as he entered the Stars’ end, made it almost to the top of the box, then drilled a shot in the lower corner, beyond the reach of the keeper.

Fernando Pina was on his way to his second straight clean sheet, but in added time, the Stars’ Alex Ofiemu scored from a long throw-in and some pinballing of the ball off legs in the box.

Eight straight victories, and top of the table.

City is finally making Keyworth a tough place to play.  Last year, they recorded 2 wins, 3 draws and a loss, outscoring opponents 10-5.  So far this season, 4 wins and a draw, outscoring opponents 13-6.

In seven days, AFC Ann Arbor would come to our house.  And we wanted them.


June 27, 2017: vs FC Indiana Lions (NPSL Regular Season)

June 27, 2017
Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, MI
NPSL Regular Season Match
Detroit City FC 2, FC Indiana Lions 0
Attendance: 4,354

DCFC Elijah Rice (Roddy Green) 22′
DCFC  Spencer Glass (Elijah Rice) 50′

Indeed we do.  Prior to this speech, while in Fowling Warehouse, I met a young couple from Portland, Oregon.  They were Portland Timbers supporters, and the reason they were in town was that attending a Detroit City FC home match was on their bucket list.

Let that sink in a moment.

Tonight was WDET Appreciation Night, which included an Ira Glass look-a-like contest.

Tonight was also the introduction of our new goalkeeper, Fernando Pina.

In the 22nd minute, Elijah Rice found the back of the net for us, to give City a 1-0 lead.  On an FC Indiana turnover, Kervin Kenton lofted a pass from the center stripe near the Supporters Section to Roddy Green in the center of the Indiana zone.  Green headed it into the path of the open Elijah Rice, who broke in and fired it past Kyle Bugay.

In the 34th minute, Indiana had an opportunity to level the score.  Mehdi Himmich was taken down in the penalty area by Cyrus Saydee, which lead to a penalty kick.  Kevin Amaizo stood at the spot for the visitors, and it was up to Fernando Pina.

In the final minute of the half, Elijah Rice found himself on a break, out pacing the chasing defenders.  Keeper Kyle Bugay came out of the net and tackled Rice outside of the box.  The referee went immediately to his pocket and pulled out a straight red on the Indiana keeper.  The half ended with Detroit City FC up a goal on the scoreboard, and up a man on the field.

At halftime, the Ira Glass look-a-like contest took place.  I thought this guy should’ve won.

To insure the victory, Elijah Rice sent a pass out wide to a cruising Spencer Glass, who one-timed it past Indiana’s Cuauhtemoc Orozco, to insure the victory.

Seventh straight victory.  Fernando Pina records a PK save and a clean sheet in his first ninety minutes in the net.

June 25, 2017: at Milwaukee Torrent (NPSL Regular Season)

June 25, 2017
Hart Park Stadium, Wauwatosa, WI
NPSL Regular Season Match
Milwaukee Torrent 1, Detroit City FC 2

MILW  Nemanja Medic 18′
DCFC  Tyrone Mondi  (PK) 28′
DCFC  Shawn Lawson (Tyrone Mondi) 84′

When the season began, I viewed this and the FC Indiana match as possibly the only two matches I’d miss during the regular season.  But not wanting to break my attendance streak of twenty-straight regular season (home & away) matches, I drove to Indiana, and was not disappointed.  Drawing closer to this match – #25 in a row – I found it possible as an opportunity to make a weekend of leaving Saturday and staying the night in Champagne, Illinois, drive up to Milwaukee on Sunday for the match, then back down to Champagne for the night, then drive home Monday.

But then, there came the bus.

Keith and Cassandra Malcolmson organized an NGS bus trip for this match.  With the team rolling on a five-game winning streak, we weren’t about to disembark from this ride of momentum.  Though it did get us up rather early Sunday morning.

Yeah, at 4:30 AM, the enthusiasm is a bit reserved.

Brian, our bus driver, guided us into Wauwatosa in remarkable time.  He said that this was a newer bus, making its second trip.  Didn’t know a hyper-drive was included.

I had my laptop with me, which came in handy as some legal research was required.  There was an issue regarding whether Milwaukee Torrent’s management or the stadium would have Northern Guard Supporters arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.  The City of Wauwatosa’s civil ordinance was overly broad, and someone had a contact with a lawyer from the ACLU in Wisconsin who was eager to defend us, should we need.  This is the third time this season that the potential for issues with local law enforcement occurred.  In Ann Arbor, there was a few security guards placed directly in front of our supporters.  In Lafayette, there was the threat by the team owner to call the police because we were making noise at their soccer match.  Now this.  Yet our Rouge Rover leaders always make contact with our host’s management and/or supporters group to learn the rules and codes of conduct so that we can support our team, in our way, without crossing any lines.

With a lot of time to kill, we acquainted ourselves with the town.  Some of us had brunch at Cafe Bavaria, some of us found a store that sold a soccer ball and found a field to play on, some kicked back and relaxed, and at least one of us added to his library by visiting the local book store.  Colonel Hart’s Bar became our gathering place.  We made such a positive impression (at least to their Sunday morning revenue) that they hung a Northern Guard Supporter scarf behind the bar.

Time for the march.  Our location was convenient in that Hart Park Stadium was right across the street from the bar and bus.  With forty-three bus passengers, plus the dozens of supporters that arrived on their own, we were a significant percentage of today’s attendance.

Game Time

Nemanja Medic, who scored a really nice goal at Keyworth in our first match of the season, scored in the 18th minute, to give Milwaukee the lead.  Ten minutes later, Derrick Otim was taken down in the box, to give us a penalty kick.

Minutes later, a cross was sent into the box, and the ball ended up in the back of the net.  However, the sideline referee whistled offside, and after watching the video, I don’t see it because there’s a Milwaukee defender on the line.

The half ended tied at one.  As the fifteen minutes ticked by, this local ran sprints along the track in front of our stands.  We started cheering him on with each sprint.  He was a local who did this every weekend, and wasn’t aware there was a soccer match scheduled for the field.  Upon discovering we were from Detroit, he made a comment about being a Packers fan, but also liking the Red Wings.  He left just before the second half began as a Northern Guard Supporter.

In the second half, City began to dominate the match, but couldn’t find the go-ahead goal they needed to keep the winning streak alive.

Enter Shawn Lawson.

Eleven minutes after his appearance on the field, Lawson tallies another game-winning goal.

This is City’s sixth straight victory, with four of them being on the road.  I can understand the discomfort of opposing team management with our presence on their turf.  Including this match, City’s all-time NPSL road record is 18 wins, 10 draws, and 9 losses.  We’re loud.  We’re vulgar.  We have fun.  But we boost their gate revenues, and win hearts and minds of their residents.  After the match, I met a local couple who were at  Colonel Hart’s when we filled the place.  They were so intrigued by us, and were gifted a NGS scarf, that they decided to attend the match…on our side of the field.  The half-time sprinter appreciated our cheering him on.  Even the ball boys appreciated the songs and chants of support for our team.

I hope it is obvious that I enjoy being a part of this club and this culture.  Of all the regular season matches I’ve attended, this one has been my favorite thus far.  From the bus trip to spending the day mingling with others in this new town, to the match and the ride home, pre-dawn to after midnight, this captured everything that this club and culture is about.

And when I go,
And when I go,
Cremate me in rouge and gold,
And spread my ashes on the pitch
Of our home ground.