Two Obsessions

First Obsession: The Game

Like many Americans under the age of forty, I once played youth soccer. With the youngest teams, “Everyone Gets a Trophy!” and the recent unearthing of mine revealed that I competed at the U-7 level. My playing career culminated right around the time of the USA-hosted 1994 World Cup, and I have a vague memory of watching the Round-of-16 matchup between the US and Brazil in which the Americans put forth a gritty, hardworking effort only to fall short 1-0.

Shortly after that, I moved on to watching and playing other sports and my interest in soccer fell off the face of the earth. I never belittled or denigrated the game the way some people feel the need to (I’m sure everyone knows or has met a “soccer-hater”), I just didn’t pay it any attention. It wasn’t until I was in college that I happened to stumble upon the game again.

Mainly out of curiosity, I watched parts of all three USMNT matches at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Although the results were abysmal, my interest was piqued enough to watch some of the non-US matches and I even sat through the entirety of the tense but somewhat drab final (the Zidane headbutt game). Almost immediately thereafter, I went out and bought the latest edition of FIFA and began to learn more about the players, teams, leagues, and minutiae – it took me a while to understand aggregate scoring and the away goal rule. I’ve loved the game ever since, with high-points being the USMNT’s run in the 2009 Confederations Cup, Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria, the USWNT’s epic comeback against Brazil in the 2011 World Cup, and attending my first live match – USA vs. Canada at Ford Field in 2011.

You may notice a theme here – all references to country and none to club. This is simply due to the fact that up until 2012, I had no club.

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Second Obsession: The Club

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Being born and raised in Metro-Detroit, I found it impossible to just “adopt” an MLS team. I couldn’t bring myself to support the three that were geographically closest – Columbus (being a life-long Michigan Wolverines fan has disqualified me from ever being able to stomach any team from Ohio), Chicago (Chicago’s sports teams are historic rivals of their counterparts from Detroit), and Toronto (see Chicago + foreign country), and latching on to any of the more aesthetic or well-supported teams – L.A., Seattle, Portland seemed too “bandwagony.” On top of that, the foreign teams that I had gravitated to – Everton, Barcelona, A.C. Milan – were on another continent an ocean away and it was impossible for me to ever become connected to them in any meaningful way.

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“Not only was it [Detroit City Futbol League] a way to meet each other through the league, but the success of that league really made us think, ‘Hey, there is an underserviced market for soccer in this region.'” – Detroit City FC co-owner Sean Mann

“It will work because there’s a market for it.” – Detroit City FC co-owner Ben Steffans

I can’t find the video that contains the second quote, but I can repeat it word-for-word because it is burned into my memory – I remember it because I am that market. Playing FIFA and watching a half-dozen USMNT games a year wasn’t enough for me – I was starving for a club.

I first heard about DCFC on a Sunday afternoon in March or April 2012. My brother had found out about the club online and we both purchased season tickets that day. $30 for eight games was a great deal, but I was just as excited to get such a beautiful scarf.

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I wasn’t at all dissuaded to find out that City would be playing three levels below MLS, or even that at that moment they only had three players. I was sold by the incredible job that the owners had done with the branding and marketing of the club.

In short:

1 – The name: Detroit City Football Club – simple and professional. The use of the word “football” instead of “soccer” should not be ignored. FC is in the names of some of the greatest clubs around the world (FC Barcelona, Manchester United FC, FC Bayern Munich), and Detroit City Soccer Club would’ve sounded amateurish and decidedly minor-league

2 – The nickname: Le Rouge – French for “The Red” and an homage to Detroit’s history (founded as a French fort in 1701), the potential pitfall of a cheesy mascot (Kickers, Wizards, Strikers) was thankfully avoided.

3 – The crest

Incorporates the iconic Spirit of Detroit statue and stays away from the dreaded cartoonish soccer ball that is far too prevalent among American clubs (see San Jose Earthquakes).

4 – Playing in the city – The significance of this cannot be overstated and will be discussed at greater length in an upcoming piece. Suffice it to say that it would be incredibly hypocritical to call yourself “Detroit City” and not actually play in the city of Detroit.

5 – Local sponsors – Instead of trying to find one big sponsor to slap across the team’s shirts, the ownership group teamed-up with a number of local businesses and had each one sponsor a player. This kept the team from having a faceless, ridicule-inducing corporate logo (a la Erie Admirals + Burger King) and gave exposure to Detroit-based restaurants, bars, shops, and services.

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With all this, I was still a little hesitant. A little Wikipedia-ing turned up the fact that Detroit had had a successful NPSL team in the recent past – Detroit Arsenal – which had won the championship in 2005 but folded after 2006.

My thinking at the time wasn’t “I finally have a club!” It was “I finally have a club and I really hope it doesn’t flop after a year or two but it looks like these owners know what they’re doing so let’s see where this goes.”

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