Saturday, August 5th, 2017 – Detroit City FC 0 Midland-Odessa 0 (4-2 Midland on penalties AET)
In the lead-up to this match my nerves were perfectly normal and I felt strangely calm. In my mind the Midwest title that had been won the week before was the #1 goal for the season and capturing it meant the year was an unqualified success. Finally getting over that hump, especially in such dramatic fashion, was so satisfying that anything after the fact would feel like mere icing on the cake.
That’s what I told myself, and I think I believed it for about 15 minutes. Once the match got going and we found ourselves once again in the heat of the moment, though, that whole line of thought melted away. I don’t remember when it happened or what precipitated it – maybe one of Fernando Pina’s incredible saves, maybe one of the referee’s dumbfoundingly puzzling decisions, maybe a chance of our own – but I distinctly remember thinking, “Damn, I really want this.”
Once that feeling bubbled up, it only kept growing. With every close call for either team and every awful call, this felt like life and death by the time the hour mark rolled around. The last 10 minutes plus extra time and the penalty shootout, while enthralling, were also agonizing.
Now, the day after, the mind races with all the what-ifs and what could’ve beens. That’s the way this thing works. One day you decide to check out a match, then, like a heavy-duty narcotic, one hit hooks you forever. Pretty soon you’re waking up in a cold sweat thinking about that one chance that hit the bar or the one that was cleared off the line.
Taking it in from a thousand foot view, these were two very good teams who played dead even and were only separated by the slimmest of margins. That may not soothe the raw, stinging sensation that heartbreaking losses tend to cause, but I feel it’s worthwhile to put things in perspective. One year ago Detroit City finished its season with a 4-4-4 record, missing the playoffs and setting up a long, dark, dreary offseason. Today we’re fresh off of the most successful season in club history, capped by (with all due respect to the Rust Belt Derby) the first piece of silverware.
Perhaps just as important, the early days when we used to worry about DCFC’s year-to-year viability as a club are far in the rearview. Additionally, throughout all the speculation and hand-wringing about the Gilbert-Gores MLS venture, City and its supporters have simply kept grinding on. With each passing year, the club wins more and more hearts, more firmly entrenches itself as a staple of the community, and inspires more dedication and loyalty.
Whether the jump to a professional league happens in time for 2018 or the NPSL purgatory continues, there’s no reason to believe those trends won’t continue.
The roots grow deeper every year.