Season Preview 2016: Reclamation

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Come let’s fall in love again, let’s turn all the dirt in this world to shiny gold.Rumi

Time is a powerful force. It withers bodies that were once strong, reduces mountains to pebbles, and transforms history into myth. One thing it can’t do, though, is kill an idea that has taken root in the human mind. The idea doesn’t have to be something as grand as liberty or equality; it can be as simple as a few people sharing a vision of how they’d like to shape their small corner of the world.

In one of those corners known as Hamtramck stands a stadium whose eighty years have not been kind to it. Like much of the city that surrounds it, it’s been tossed aside and neglected, in dire need of money, love, and attention. As the saying goes, however, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and so the old ground is now being tended to by those who’ve looked past the crumbling concrete and warped wood and seen the beauty underneath.

If Detroit City Football Club has an underlying theme to its existence, it is community building and enrichment. This is the reason so many people have formed such a deep attachment to the club in just a few short years. More than just the simple, straightforward consumption of a sporting entertainment product, supporting the club allows you to contribute to its overall growth, as well as take a direct hand in many of its local efforts.

The latest of these, the renovation of Keyworth Stadium, is the most ambitious. This isn’t because of the amount of construction work required, the bulk of which will be finished in a few weeks, completing just a three-month schedule; it’s due to the fact that the work was funded entirely by private individuals, many of whom invested just a few hundred dollars. Whenever I write about the community spirit between DCFC and its supporters, it often feels a little vague and nebulous, as if it’s just a warm fuzzy feeling rather than something tangible. It’s definitely there, though, and nearly three quarters of a million dollars invested into a lower level soccer club that only started up in 2012 is hard proof of its existence.

A significant, if less drastic, rebuild is taking place on the field, necessitated by the departures of a number of players, most notably club mainstays Josh Rogers, Will Mellors-Blair, and Bret Mollon. Despite competing at a level in which rosters can fluctuate wildly from year to year, City has been able to maintain a steady core of players from the get-go, and, on paper, it appears that the team has been re-stocked with a substantial amount of talent.

Question marks remain, though, especially following a season which, viewed from the distance of nine months, seems a bit underwhelming. That may seem harsh, and that’s how it feels to write it, but in spite of all the amazing moments – Seb Harris’ late winner against Cleveland, 10>11 and the firetrucks in Cincinnati, WMB’s dagger through Lansing’s heart – the results in the Open Cup and in the Midwest playoffs bookended the year with disappointment.

As with its new home, City is going through a time of transition. Luckily, the annual divisional reshuffling has matched them up with what looks to be a fairly manageable group of opponents. With a bevy of new attacking options, Danny Deakin foremost among them, this year should not lack for excitement and entertainment. There will also be frustrations along the way, but in the end, this may be the club’s best shot at a Midwest title since 2013.

Regardless of results, 2016 has already been a resounding success for the club and the movement that it’s inspired. Time tried its hardest to make people forget about Detroit, but its people wouldn’t let it die. Soon a little old stadium will be filled with a greater number of people and a higher level of noise than it’s ever seen before. Fixing her up won’t save Hamtramck or magically solve all of its problems, but by wiping some of the dirt away, we’ve made one piece of our city shine a little brighter.

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Photo by Konrad Maziarz


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