A Million Miles Away

Sunday, July 7th, 2013 – Detroit City FC 2, FC Buffalo 1

If you’re part of the millennial generation, you’ve grown up in a time when sports have become almost completely commercialized. TV deals for the largest leagues have grown from millions to billions, only a handful of stadiums have escaped corporate naming (some less fortunate than others), and the phrase, “It’s a business,” is slowly replacing the phrase, “It’s a game.”

If you’re a little older, you’re probably more conscious of these changes that have taken place over the past several decades. You may remember a time when most players spent their entire careers with one team, when not every game was available on TV, and when the only logo on jerseys was that of the team.

One of the things that makes Detroit City FC unique is that it is a throwback to this earlier era. The most obvious parallel has to do with watching the games. If you want to see them play, you have to do it the way your grandparents did – show up to the stadium (and buy an affordable, reasonably-priced ticket). When City plays on the road, however, the story is a little different.

The situation is akin to an even earlier era of sports, one in which radio hadn’t yet taken off and people relied on ticker tape for baseball scores and horse race results. In our time, Twitter has become the preferred method of up-to-the-minute news, and the mysterious person(s) in charge of the official Detroit City feed holds sway over the mood of thousands of supporters, moment-by-moment. As 21st century sports fans, used to 24/7, high-definition coverage, this is intolerable. Those few hundred miles between us and our team when they are playing on the road might as well be a million. So when the regular season finale at Buffalo was streamed live online, it seemed like a gift from heaven.

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Going into the game, City needed only a draw to clinch the 2013 Rust Belt Derby and the first trophy in club history. Things started well – a goal from Jeff Adkins gave Detroit a 1-0 lead at halftime. The first half also gave us this epic photo:

Via Mlive/Buffalo.com

A decade or so from now when Josh Rogers is having his jersey retired, this picture will feature in some form or another, most likely tifo.

Buffalo drew level early in the second half and continued testing Bret Mollon, but as the minutes ticked away, the crucial one point seemed in hand. Then this happened: (I couldn’t get the specific start time to work so either fast forward to 34:55 or click this link.)

Ugo Uche’s first and only goal continued the trend that had developed over the course of the season. The year before, City’s bad habit of giving up late goals had resulted in Cleveland snatching the RBD away, and had allowed Erie to stay in the hunt and win the division on the last day.

2013 was a complete reversal:

  • June 16th @ Erie – 2-1 W, OG 90’+3
  • June 21st @ Cleveland – 3-2 W, Chong 89’
  • July 5th @ Cleveland – 1-1 D, Cameron 76’
  • July 7th @ Buffalo – 2-1 W, Uche 79’

The excellent home performances probably won the division for Detroit, but these results on the road allowed them to win it going away.

Although the game was played hundreds or thousands or millions or however many miles away Buffalo is, being able to watch live made it seem a little closer to home. In conventional soccer wisdom, a road draw is a good result. That may be, but winning is a lot more fun, especially when you get a trophy.

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