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In May of 2012, most people would call you crazy for thinking a minor league soccer team in downtown Detroit could be successful.
In May of 2013, Detroit City FC fans would call you crazy for thinking you would have room to sit down in the supporter’s section.
On a beautiful Detroit evening, in an atmosphere comparable to the final home matches of the inaugural 2012 season, over 1,800 Le Rouge faithful packed into Cass Tech High School for an absolutely electric home opener in which City defeated rival AFC Cleveland, 2-1.
As was the case in their 5-1 drubbing of Sparta the previous week, the DCFC offensive attack generated many early opportunities. However, in this match Le Rouge was met by a formidable Cleveland defense that countered City’s talent and speed with physicality and tenaciousness. The same can be said for the Detroit backline and their handling of the Cleveland strikers. In all, the squads would muster 3 shots on goal each. It was clear to all watching that for the two teams on the pitch, this tilt was more than a game – it was a rivalry game.
The Royals struck first. A field-aided turnover at the top of the 18-yard box in the 13th minute gave Cleveland forward Vinny Bell a breakaway. He dribbled to the left of goalkeeper Jeremy Clark (Michigan St.) and placed home the opportunity for an early 1-0 advantage.
Cleveland carried the confidence gained from the opening goal into the next 10 minutes of the match, controlling the majority of possession and generating sporadic chances inside the box. Centerbacks Josh Rogers (Michigan St.) and Nick Lewin (Michigan) stepped up to anchor the back line, sprawling for loose balls and continuously frustrating Royals strikers with their positioning and resolve.
Rogers especially has shown remarkable energy and awareness during the first two games, “He is a gamer,” DCFC head coach Ben Pirmann said. “He just gets it done. You just can’t take him off the field because he does too much stuff. He’s the reason why this team wins and why we’re off to a 2-0 start.”
Feeding off the strong defensive effort, Detroit City’s attack kept pushing forward and probing for opportunities. As the half wound down, midfielder Cyrus Saydee (Michigan St.) sent a ball into the box that was headed just wide of the left post by midfielder Kevin Taylor (Michigan). Just two minutes later, the next City chance was a header from forward Zach Myers (Saginaw Valley St.) that missed just high.
The consistent offensive pressure led to a golden opportunity and the defining moment of the match. In a scramble for the ball inside the box, Myers raced to fire a shot on goal but a hard tackle quickly brought him down and City was awarded a penalty. With a coolness forged from his earlier years playing in professional leagues , Le Rouge rookie Kevin Taylor lined up and placed the ball into the right side of the net for his first goal in a Detroit City uniform to knot things up at one heading into halftime.
Taylor immediately threw his hands up in celebration, and felt right at home standing on the main stage in front of his raucous supporters. “A penalty is the easy way to get one,” Taylor chuckled. “But no, it feels great. With the fans and the atmosphere, it’s awesome.”
Holding the momentum heading back on the pitch for the second half, Le Rouge conducted an impressive opening for the second stanza. Just three minutes in, following a dash up the sideline that is fast becoming a trademark Le Rouge tactic, right back Zeke Harris (Michigan) lofted a beautiful cross to Knox Cameron (Michigan), who converted for his third goal of the season and a 2-1 City edge.
For his efforts, the fans voted Cameron the Core Power Man of the Match.
In the ensuing minutes, Detroit City gained the possession edge as Taylor, Saydee, Spencer Thompson (Michigan St) and Latif Alashe (Michigan) remained poised and physical in the center assuring simple distribution to the wings. On the outside, the aforementioned Harris and his left side counterpart Zach Schewee (Bowling Green St.) utilized their speed to create space and lay off balls to the central attackers. Their efforts nearly paid off when Schewee whistled a shot just inches over the crossbar that would have sent the Le Rouge faithful into a frenzy. Despite the near-miss, the stinginess of the Detroit City back line absorbed each Cleveland attack to keep the score in City’s favor until the final whistle.
And with that, Detroit City FC (2-0-0) sent its - still winless - archrival on a four-hour journey home with plenty to think about, while Le Rouge faithful’s chants rang loud and clear past the confines of Cass Tech and on down Grand River Ave. well after the victory.
Taylor was thrilled to be a part of the comeback win, and even more so, he’s overjoyed to be a part of what DCFC continues to promote in Downtown Detroit. “From playing pro to coming back to Michigan and trying to build a grassroots team, and get something started in Detroit, it’s great for the city, Taylor said. “You see by the support of the fans and everything that everyone is really into it. It makes it easy for us when we have an atmosphere like that.”
With the victory, Detroit City sits in first place in the Great Lakes Division of the NPSL. FC Buffalo is also 2-0-0 but Detroit leads in goal differential. Le Rouge will take on Zanesville Athletic, a newcomer to the division, at home on May 25 at 7:30 pm.
Tickets will be $5 for general admission and season tickets will still be on sale for $35 for all remaining home games. Tickets will be available 90 minutes before the game and Cass Tech will open its gates at 6:30 pm. El Guapo & Mac Shack food trucks will return to help satisfy fans’ hunger during the game. Cass Tech is located at I-75 and Grand River in downtown Detroit.
The match will be a special benefit for Hooligans for Heroes, a grass-roots movement that works in conjunction with the widely recognized Wounded Warrior Project to help bring aid & awareness to American heroes, on and off the field. Hooligans for Heroes is organized by DCFC supporter group Northern Guard, and in honor of the cause and the Memorial Day Holiday, Le Rouge will take to the pitch in special camouflage kits, which will be auctioned off after the game. For more information, see www.hooligansforheroes.com .
For the 2013 season, Detroit City FC will introduce the “Core Power Man of the Match”, which will be voted on by the fans during each home game. Throughout the game, fans will be encouraged to chose their top player of the game and tweet @DetroitCityFC with the hashtag #powerman. The winner will be honored after the game.