After last year’s U.S. Open Cup first round match between the Michigan Bucks and Detroit City FC, I wrote on my personal blog about how the Bucks dominated on the pitch, but the Northern Guard and other Detroit City FC supporters remained in full voice anyway. They had a point to prove. They had to show that Michigan Bucks owner Dan Duggan, or anyone else with a ton of money, cannot simply shmooze with investors to bring professional soccer to the city of Detroit. The fans of the already successful club would have something to say about it one way or another.
US Open Cup Win Shows Detroit City FC Supporters Thriving Amidst MLS Expansion Talk
In this year’s US Open Cup match between Duggan’s Michigan Bucks and the hooligans of Detroit City, the stakes were different. Duggan will no longer be bringing MLS to the city. If he’s involved at all, it will be as somebody trying to butt in from the outside. Instead, the fans had to prove to a group of rich men who are further along in the MLS expansion process that they cannot destroy the culture that has been constructed through the hard work of fans and a grassroots ownership group. Now, a thousand or so passionate supporters probably cannot stop Dan Gilbert, Tom Gores, and their group of deep-pocketed investors from bringing MLS to Detroit. But the Northern Guard and the rest of Detroit City’s fans can help get their club a seat at the table.
Last night’s match was the first step in that battle.
The match at Oakland University’s soccer field, unlike last year’s 3-0 Bucks blowout, was a hard fought scoreless draw that needed a penalty shootout to decide a winner. Both teams had a few chances during the 120 minutes with the Bucks looking better as the game wore on. Detroit City’s defense and their goalkeeper, Evan Lauro, held firm to stretch the affair to a shootout.
After the Bucks missed in the first two rounds and City converted each rebuttal, the tide flipped and ended 3-3 after five rounds. In the sixth round, one more Tyler Lauro save and a Brett Nason goal gave Le Rouge their first ever U.S. Open Cup victory.
Pandemonium followed. The Northern Guard stormed the pitch, mobbed Nason, and lit smoke for the first time all match (which was probably banned anyway, but what could anyone do?) It was a scene of unfiltered joy from a group of fans that had been through a lot this offseason and had been itching for real game action for months now.
The win was huge, obviously. But, again, that isn’t entirely what this match was about. It was about a culture thriving in the face of adversity. It was a group of people who have built something spectacular not wanting their hard work to be destroyed by a bunch of men in suits with money coming out their eyeballs. Detroit City’s loyal fanbase wants to prove that they will not only survive, but be extremely successful regardless of what higher power brings top tier soccer to the city.
Tonight was only the start of that miniature war. Get used to the theme of results not mattering, win or lose, throughout the upcoming NPSL season. This entire year will be about the support that Detroit City FC is getting both locally, and nationally from other supporters groups and clubs at every level of the American soccer pyramid. Their fans are loyal to a club. Not a league. Not a tier in a pyramid. And not, most importantly, rich investors.
You can bet that every home match at Keyworth Stadium will feature the Northern Guard feeling as if they are doing battle with the establishment. Yes, the wins that Detroit City will likely rack up will be nice. But showing the world that Le Rouge and their culture will survive, whether they get involved in the MLS talk or not, will be much more important to the long term success story that is, and will continue to be, Detroit City FC.
Photo credit: Dion Degennaro