Know Your Enemy: Detroit City FC

imageRBMatchup: FC Cincinnati (USL) vs. Detroit City FC (NPSL)
2018 U.S. Open Cup, 2nd Round
When: May 16th (Wednesday), 7:30 PM
Where: Gettler Stadium, University of Cincinnati

Over the short span of two years, FC Cincinnati has matured quickly in the U.S. Open Cup. With the team’s unfathomable trek into the 2017 tournament behind them, it tends to get forgotten that they almost got bounced by AFC Cleveland in the second round. The defending NPSL champions held FCC’s feet to the fire and lasted well into extra time before Djiby’s header in the 115th minute sealed the 1-0 win.

While 2016 was an initiation to the U.S. Open Cup, 2017 was an exploration within it. It’s now 2018, and FC Cincinnati’s hunt for gold also now makes them the hunted. The team going after them just so happens to be one of the most colorful, anti-establishment teams out there, Detroit City FC.

FC Cincinnati’s quest to enter MLS has clashed with the Motor City’s own expansion committee. However, if you were to ask a member of the Northern Guard Supporters—DCFC’s primary supporters group—about the possibility of joining MLS, they would likely turn the offer down. The general sentiment is that the team doesn’t want to be affiliated with any attempt to join.

How Detroit City got here

DCFC’s quest to this point went through a familiar route—the Michigan Bucks. Hosting the Bucks at their home grounds, Detroit City got on the board first in the 57th minute. A stray header pinged off the crossbar, only for forward Shawn Lawson to smash the rebound in from up close. However, the Bucks equalized off an Alfonso Pineirho penalty kick in the 84th minute.

Despite a Greg Janicki red card in the 95th minute, Detroit City got through extra time with only 10 men. Although they were down early in sudden death, goalkeeper Nate Steinwascher made a key save late in the session, and forward Roddy Green scored the decider to win 6-5 in penalty kicks. DCFC now makes their way to the U.S. Open Cup second round for the second time ever.

2017DCFC
Image: Boys in Rouge, Robert Sherman

What we should know about DCFC

While DCFC is more known for their renegade approach to soccer, there is still a lot to learn. Detroit City FC, who are ya?!

  • Detroit City FC started in 2010 without any affiliation or solid ties to previous teams from Detroit. It took a spark from one future owner forming a recreational league, the Detroit City Futbol League (DCFL). From the positive response and growth within the league, the idea for a team blossomed. Five of the players from two rival teams put DCFC together as an amateur team in the NPSL in 2012, only for the attendance in the first year to balloon to over almost 1,300 per game.
  • DCFC is helmed by Ben “Caesar” Pirrman. The head coach got the nickname when he accidentally said “Caesar” instead of “season” during an interview. In Pirrman’s five years, DCFC has won a division title, made the NPSL playoffs three times, and qualified for the U.S. Open Cup four times.
  • In 2017, DCFC went 9-2-3 during the regular season, reaching the National Semifinals before losing to Midland-Odessa in penalty kicks. The record crowd of 7,533 was no surprise. Detroit City led the NPSL in attendance last year at almost 6,000 per game at Keyworth Stadium.
  • Detroit City has faced a USL team once before in U.S. Open Cup play, losing to Louisville City FC 3-1 in penalty kicks in 2016. In fact, of the five games Detroit City has played in the U.S. Open Cup, four finished in penalty kicks (two wins, two losses).
  • DCFC has managed to maintain quite a bit of their roster over the offseason. Starting midfielder Cyrus Saydee is the last player left from their debut 2012 season, and DCFC’s goal scorer from last week, Shawn Lawson, led the team last year with nine goals. The team has also returned captain David Edwardson, vice-captain Seb Harris, and defenders Stephen Carroll and Omar Sinclair. They recently signed former USMNT and Colorado Rapids player Joshua Gatt as a winger. Overall, DCFC has 12 players who were on the team last year, a decent turnover for the squad.
  • The last time Detroit City FC played in Cincinnati was in 2015, back when the Cincinnati Saints played in the NPSL. On June 20th, the final match of their “rivalry” started with an early Saints goal and a second-half red card to Detroit City, only for Le Rouge to push three late goals in for a 3-1 win. The celebration by the Northern Guard set off so many smoke bombs that the fire department had to pay a visit.
  • While the Northern Guard has shown themselves to have a rough exterior both in person and online, they and the team itself have done much for the community in Detroit. Since 2013, the team has focused on a local charity each year and have created special kits for each organization to be worn at a home game. The Northern Guard has also set up “Let’s Make Roots”, a ticket distribution initiative for kids and families who are not able to afford to come to matches. (This is similar to the “Sports Games for Kids” initiative in Cincinnati.)

The difference in vision and philosophy between FCC and Detroit City should be the main fuel for this opening game. If FC Cincinnati’s drive in the past was to show MLS teams like Columbus and Chicago that they could compete, that same drive will be coming from Le Rouge and the Northern Guard in a match that has the potential to become an instant classic.

(Our thanks to Andrew Goode from Boys in Rouge for providing feedback and information for this article.)

Author: Geoffrey Tebbetts

Contributor for the Orange & Blue Press for FC Cincinnati coverage.

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