The 2020 season held such promise. The Detroit City FC men’s team had joined the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), becoming a third-tier professional soccer team, and the women’s team would begin its first season in United Women’s Soccer (UWS).
On January 27, 2020, NISA announced its spring schedule for the eight teams, with each team playing 14 games (a home-and-home series with each team), to run from February 28th to June 13th.
The February 28th opening day featured 1904 FC visiting Stumptown Athletic, Cal United Strikers FC hosting Michigan Stars, our frenemies Chattanooga FC, flew out to California to play Oakland Roots, and Detroit City FC played its first pro match in LA against Los Angeles Force. Supporters packed the Detroit City Clubhouse to watch the live-stream of the match, which Detroit City FC won, 2-0, on goals by Matt Lewis and Roddy Green.
Then the pandemic hit.
Detroit City FC’s first home game as a Men’s professional team was to be March 21st, against Oakland Roots. However, due to the pandemic, NISA suspended the season for 30 days on March 12th. Eight days later, in compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, NISA suspended the season until May 10th. On April 27th, NISA officially cancelled the Spring/Summer season.
On July 1, 2020, NISA announced the Independent Cup, a regional competition of independent teams. Four regions were created, and the winner for each region would be crowned that region’s Independent Cup champion.
Detroit City entered the Great Lakes Region with former Rust Belt Derby rivals Cleveland SC and FC Buffalo. Each team would play each other once for the silverware.
The first match featured FC Buffalo and Cleveland SC at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Buffalo on July 29th. Cleveland won by a score of 3-1. The next two matches at Keyworth Stadium began with Detroit City FC facing Cleveland SC on July 31, 2020.
Despite the pandemic, the Northern Guard Supporters (NGS) kept busy in preparation for the inaugural women’s season, which, due to the pandemic, resulted in a two-match UWS Stadium Showcase Tournament at Keyworth the previous weekend. NGS made its presence known by delaying the opening minutes of the Women’s team’s first match with a tifo drop and massive cloud of smoke…
…and introduced the newest Northern Guard Supporter, Smokey the Bot, a smoke-dispensing robot that could be operated remotely. Every Detroit goal scored would be followed by a smoke celebration.
For this match, Smokey the Bot returned to the Supporters Section. There was another smokey introduction to the match, and the south wall was nearly covered with a massive display of tifos.
A close up of each one can be foundHERE.
Also, about 30 hours before the match, Detroit City FC announced that a 10% interest in the club would be offered to the public. Supporters could now invest and hold an ownership stake in Detroit City FC. By game time, over $500,000 in shares had been purchased. Here is the promotional video…
July 31, 2020
NISA Independent Cup
Great Lakes Region
Detroit City FC 3, Cleveland SC 0
Attendance: 1 (Smokey the Bot)
DCFC Ryan Peterson (Roddy Green) 42′
DCFC Connor Rutz 52′
DCFC Shawn Lawson (Connor Rutz) 65′
Big, new tifo for the Men’s Team’s first professional home match.
Smokey the Bot ready with the smoke.
During the pre-game warm-up, Detroit City FC players wore these stunning Black Lives Matter shirts. The women wore them during their warm-ups, too, and they were so in demand that the team took pre-orders for them for supporters to purchase.
Detroit City FC’s Starting Eleven:
Austin Rogers – Goalkeeper
Tendai Jirira – Defender
Steve Carroll – Defender
Sebastian Capozucchi – Defender
Jimmy Filerman – Midfielder
Michael Kafari – Midfielder
Roddy Green – Midfielder
Evans Frimpong – Midfielder
Connor Rutz – Midfielder
Yazeed Matthews – Forward
Ryan Peterson – Forward
When the starting whistle blew, both teams, coaches, and officials, took a silent knee to stand up for social justice for thirty seconds.
Once play resumed, the smoke began.
City controlled the first half, having several chances on the Cleveland goal.
Finally, the breakthrough. Evans Frimpong directed a quick ball through to Roddy Green. Green ran it down the right side then fed a beauty of a pass in the box where Ryan Peterson dove low to head it past Cleveland’s keeper, Conor Cable.
Smokey the Bot launched the celebration.
City went into halftime with the 1-0 lead.
City continued its domination in the second half. Michael Kafari was taken down just outside of the Cleveland box. This set up Connor Rutz’s wicked blast to give City a two goal lead.
Smoke billowed in the background, however it was not from the Northern Guard.
City increased its lead in the 65th minute as Connor Rutz sent a pass across to Shawn Lawson, and Lawson did what he does…he scored.
Neighborhood pyrotechnics created a backdrop to this Detroit City FC victory.
Ahead of Sunday’s match against FC Buffalo, the standings looked like this.
Detroit City FC 1-0-0 3 points, +3 goal differential
Cleveland SC 1-0-1 3 points, -1 goal differential
FC Buffalo 0-0-1 0 points, -2 goal differential.