July 11, 2017: vs AFC Ann Arbor (NPSL Regular Season – Part Two)

July 11, 2017
Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, MI
NPSL Regular Season Match
Detroit City FC 1, AFC Ann Arbor 3
Attendance:  6,972

DCFC  Elijah Rice (Kervin Kenton) 44′
AFCAA  James Vaughan 57′
AFCAA  Alec Lasinski 64′
AFCAA  James Vaughan (PK) 90+

This was the continuation of the much-hyped, much-anticipated AFC Ann Arbor match which was rained-out four days ago.  On this Tuesday evening, there was some concern whether this match would go, due to an afternoon downpour which once again flooded Keyworth.  Hours before the match time, the team and supporters helped clear the water from the pitch.

Having secured a playoff spot two days ago and the match rescheduled for this week night, the pre-game enthusiasm seemed dampened.  In addition, Craine’s Detroit Business reported that Palace Sports & Entertainment had sent an application to the Federal government to register a “Detroit City Soccer Club” trademark.  The timing of this announcement was unusual, being one week prior to the surprise international friendly against the Italian team, Venezia FC; a match sponsored by Quicken Loans and the Detroit Pistons (Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores – the parties interested in acquiring a Major League Soccer franchise in Detroit). This distraction fueled more passion against the Gilbert-and-Gores bid, and had supporters debating the attendance of the friendly they sponsored.

I took my usual position, in the end where City attacked, but the photo opportunities were limited.  Ann Arbor took control of the play.

As the half neared its end, Kervin Kenton found Elijah Rice with a pass, and Rice buried it past Ann Arbor’s keeper, TJ Tomasso.

In the second half, the winning streak was broken, among other things.

A free kick taken from outside the box by James Vaughan beat Fernando Pina in the 57th minute to level the match.  In the 64th minute, Alec Lasinski, controlled the ball after it pinballed among City and Ann Arbor players, and shot it past Pina to give AFC Ann Arbor a 2-1 lead.

In the 70th minute, Kervin Kenton and Ann Arbor’s Kwessi Allen chased an over-hit pass down the line.  I was standing behind the end line, taking a quick glance toward the net to prepare for Kenton to catch up to it and cross it.  But it traveled too fast and he and Allen were trying to slow down as they approached the end line.  Kenton went to ground, sliding to my left.  A security person was behind me.  I decided to remain stationary, to allow Allen to go to my right, but instead he made contact with me, sending me to the pitch.  I picked myself up, thinking my pride was the only thing injured.  As the match went on, my left wrist began to throb.  It swelled overnight, and after a visit to Urgent Care the next day, an x-ray showed an acute fracture.

A foul in the penalty area in stoppage time allowed James Vaughan to score his second, Ann Arbor’s third goal on the night.

The nine-game winning streak, broken.
My wrist, broken.
This match was broken when the football gods flooded our pitch just four days ago, when we had the momentum and the hunger.
For the first time in a month-and-a-half, we, as a team and supporters, had to regroup.

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 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.


June 23, 2017: vs Kalamazoo FC (NPSL Regular Season)

June 23, 2017
Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, MI
NPSL Regular Season Match
Detroit City FC 2, Kalamazoo FC 1
Attendance: 5,345

DCFC  Roddy Green (Bakie Goodman) 30′
KFC     Jay McIntosh 48′
DCFC  Elijah Rich (Tyrone Mondi) 67′

Tonight was City’s annual benefit match.  This year’s recipient being Alternatives for Girls, a nonprofit organization aiding homeless and high-risk girls and young women in avoiding violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation.  The jerseys worn by Le Rouge tonight were auctioned, with the proceeds going to Alternatives for Girls.

The match was chippy.  It seemed Kalamazoo FC controlled the possession, but City generated the chances on quick breaks and free kicks.

In the 30th minute, as the Kalamazoo defense were trying to clear their zone, Cameron Sipple’s heavy touch put the ball in the path of Bakie Goodman.  Goodman passed it to an unmarked Roddy Green just inside the top of the box, where he loft it into the top corner to give City the lead.

Three minutes into the second half, Kalamazoo scored, ending 308 minutes of NPSL play where City had not conceded a goal.  Keeper Colin Miller made a diving save on Ali Sodal’s shot, however the ball parried out to a wide open Jay McIntosh who deposited it into the back of the net.

Into the match came Elijah Rice, who, in the 67’th minute, tapped in a brilliant corner kick from Tyrone Mondi.  Felt a little sorry for Tyrone, as his spot kick beautifully tapered in toward the goal, creating the opportunity, yet everyone went running over to the supporters instead of him.

Five straight wins.  The next test would be in less than 48 hours, with a road trip to our furthest opponent – Milwaukee Torrent.


June 17, 2017: at Grand Rapids FC (NPSL Regular Season)

June 17, 2017
Fifth Third Ball Park, Comstock Park, MI
NPSL Regular Season Match
Grand Rapids FC 0, Detroit City FC 2

DCFC Shawn Lawson (Tyrone Mondi) 62′
DCFC Bakie Goodman 74′

The third game in a row on the road put us in Grand Rapids, where last season the team and supporters endured their worst-ever loss.  But these road-warriors in rouge were on a roll, and revenge was a dish in preparation.

Instead of the Grand Rapids Public Schools-owned Houseman Field, the home pitch of Grand Rapids FC, we found ourselves playing at Fifth Third Ballpark, where the West Michigan Whitecaps minor league baseball team plays.  The ballpark holds only around 1,200 more seats than Houseman Field, so one can only assume that a scheduling conflict caused the match to be played on a baseball field.

From the Unusual Pre-Game Incidents Department:  The Rouge Rovers met at Vitale’s, a short distance from the ballpark.  John Mozena tweeted that a busboy at the Comstock Park sports bar informed him that a family complained about “foul language” used by our supporters, singling out him, Tim Suliman, and me.  What?  I remember us conversing near the entrance, but “foul language?”  I don’t think we were even talking about soccer.  Perhaps they were offended by the outrageous number of supporters we had in their bar, and we were the closest to finger.

From the Unusual Game Incident Department:  The baseball field.  Really?  The base lines were covered by poorly covered sod.  Never a dull moment in the NPSL, which, to be honest, is what makes being a part of this league more amusing and interesting than being in MLS.

The first half was dominated by Le Rouge, but we almost went into halftime down a goal.  Keeper Nate Steinwascher fouled a Grand Rapids forward in the box, creating a penalty kick.  Scott Doney went to the spot, and this happened…

Nil-Nil at the half.

In the top of the sixth inning…er, I mean, 62nd minute, Tyrone Mondi lofted a ball from just inside the center stripe, which found the head of Shawn Lawson in the box, popping it up and over the reach of keeper Noah Fazekas’ glove, giving City the lead.  This was Lawson’s fifth straight game, in all competitions, with a goal, and the fourth game-winner.

Then, just before the 7th inning stretch…er 74th minute, City set up for a corner kick.  It curled in, but was then headed out by a Grand Rapids defender.  However, it fell to the feet of Bakie Goodman, who sent a low knuckle-ball back on goal, which Fazekas bobbled (but not between his legs like Bill Buckner), to secure the victory.

Revenge was a dish served hot, on their home plate (actually, closer to first base).

Like numbers?

-Over the three-straight road games, City took all 9 points, outscoring the opponents 6-1.

-After four straight victories, the team’s record at the halfway point of the season was 4 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss, and the sluggish beginning suddenly felt as if it happened last year.

– Five of the last seven matches of the season would be at Keyworth.

The connection between the team and supporters had strengthened.  We were all hungry for the next match.