A Deeper Look into Le Rouge v. Bucks 2016 and the DCFC family
On May 11, Detroit City FC knocked off the Michigan Bucks in the opening round of the US Open Cup. In the eyes of many, the Le Rouge victory and post-match celebration sent a clear message that you can’t write a check and buy the spirit of Detroit. That is what many believe is being done with the prospect of an MLS team in the D. Many believe that the way the prospect is being approached does not embrace the community, does not embrace the spirit of the game, but embraces big money. The excitement after the May 11 match was not just about Le Rouge getting to the second round in the US Open Cup (USOC) for the first time. The excitement was not just about an “underdog” upsetting a perceivably superior team with a healthier resume in the USOC. There is an underlining story to the match-up that is connected to an international movement of resistance to big money’s influence on the game of soccer. A movement that is in the undercurrent here of U.S. soccer. Some would say that it’s larger than even soccer, but about the almighty dollar being embraced over the family, the community.
Before we localize this issue to the match on May 11, a little overview is necessary.
The United States Soccer Federation is the governing body for professional and amateur soccer in the United States. According to USSF, there are three tiers of professional leagues in the U.S. The tiers are said to be the following:
- Major League Soccer
- North American Soccer League
- United Soccer League
The NASL desires to compete with MLS as a top tier league. There is some controversy that USSF is overly cozy with the MLS and allowing rules to be created that suppress the NASL and allow MLS to monopolize the top of the pyramid in U.S. soccer. Many see this as anti-competitive and motivated by money and control. USL has aligned itself with the MLS and desires to be the top second-tier league in the nation under the MLS. There is a deep divide between USL and the NASL based on differing philosophies.
So how does this relate to Le Rouge vs. Bucks.
Both the Bucks and Detroit City are in fourth-tier amateur men’s leagues seen by USSF as being just under the USL on the soccer pyramid they’ve established. The Michigan Bucks are in the Premier Development League otherwise known as the PDL. The PDL is men’s league connected to the United Soccer League. The United Soccer League is a third-tier professional men’s league, under the NASL and as mentioned, desires to replace the NASL as the top second-tier league. The Michigan Bucks are owned by Dan Duggan. He has great resources to recruit great players. The team is set up to be a developmental team as part of a pipeline to transition great players to be greater players and then transition to a “higher level of soccer” in the U.S. soccer pyramid. Duggan has expressed an interest in bringing a USL stadium and team to Detroit. He has also been openly supportive and has significant interest in an MLS team being established in Detroit. It would situate his team well in the pipeline and even more so if he were to establish a USL squad. There is a PDL à USL à MLS pipeline.
Where the Michigan Bucks might serve to transition players to the next level. Detroit City FC wishes to build a club interconnected with the community that transitions to the next level. It is a community movement. It is a moving family. DCFC not only embraces preparing players for the next level of soccer, but also spends a good amount of time, money, and resources embracing a supporter and community-oriented club. They desire to build their club with the community support and honor a supporter’s culture. They are currently in the National Premier Soccer League or the NPSL. It, like the PDL that the Bucks compete in, is a fourth-tier amateur league. DCFC has expressed NASL aspirations. Not to be second-tier, but to support NASL’s move to top-tier in competition with the MLS.
With a divided community on the prospects of MLS in Detroit, DCFC and their supporters, the Northern Guard, provided an example last night that there is more complexity than often meets the eye surrounding this debate. A large family has organically come together to uplift this club and the community it represents since 2012. From the beginning, DCFC was about the spirit of man coming together as a family, pooling their resources to plant a seed, and nurturing the seed to grow into a club that not only would entertain via the beautiful game, but would be intertwined with uplifting the community it represents in its name (Detroit.) DCFC gets that, in order to build support and cultivate a community-oriented embrace of the glorious game of soccer, you have to be able to tap into the spirit of that community you seek to represent. They also understand the increasing responsibility they have to the community as the club’s popularity and power increases. They’ve embraced the spirit of Detroit to not only uplift the club and the city, but the region that has been licking its wounds for years due to in-fighting. They’ve embraced a regional family. Bridges are being built and rebuilt as DCFC gains momentum. All you need to do is find yourself at a pre-match gathering before Le Rouge whoops the ass of their next speed bump to see how people are connecting and building community.
With that being said, it is fitting that the crest of DCFC includes an image of the infamous Spirit of Detroit. Let us dissect this city fixture a bit and explore its connection to the rise of the Detroit City FC and Northern Guard Supporters who follow them. If you’ve ever ventured down to the Coleman A. Young Center that sits on Woodward Avenue, you’ll notice a large sculpture that residents and admirers of Detroit have come to love, the Spirit of Detroit. One of many interesting facts about the sculpture is that the artist did not actually name it Spirit of Detroit. The name organically evolved from the people of Detroit rather than someone’s check book. It’s much easier to embrace something as a community when you’ve had a part in creating it, in naming it. Additionally, you will notice that the sculpture is of a man holding an item in each one of his hands. In the left hand, the man is holding what looks like a sphere with rays coming out of it. This is intended to symbolize God. In the right hand, the man is holding a small family. The intention of the artist was to display that the family is the highest quality and moral principal of human relationship. Additionally, he was attempting to convey that this family was manifest by God through man. This is an important point to remember. The Spirit of Detroit represents that family is manifest by God through man. It is not through money. We the people are the ones who build family, who build community. This is God’s work. Money does not build family, nor community. It surely can be used to supplement what the people have built though. It can also be used (intentionally and unintentionally) to try and tear down what the people have built. However, money never creates a solid foundation for something to carry on. Why? Money comes and money goes. Just like that! When the money is gone though, the people remain. The community remains. The family remains and because of this, the spirit remains.
As a family, we are not afraid to forge ahead, taking the long road that builds a more solid foundation. Like the city of Detroit, DCFC makes lemonade out of lemons. Detroit is not a city and DCFC is not a club that simply purchases lemonade (ie. A top-tier club) and enjoys it. This isn’t a place just for those who want a life of leisure built off the backs of others. Our leisure is earned through blood, sweet, and tears. That’s why the Northern Guard lets loose on match day. That’s where the passion comes from. When Detroit City FC fills those stands in Keyworth Stadium this year, we will have immense pride. Why? Because this family invested our hard earned cash (even if it was a couple hundred dollars), contributing to a $750,000 community financing campaign to renovate The Key. Because this family helped scrap the rusty metal off the braces under your seat. Because this family pulled up the rotten wood off your seat. Because this family replaced your seat with new wood. Because this family painted the rouge that covers the bench braces at your feet. This family sawzalled the rusty bolts off the old benches you sit on. This family collected those rusty nuts, bolts, and washers in a bucket and converted them into memorabilia that City supporters purchased to provide new equipment for local HS soccer teams. Because we swept the floor at your feet. This family embraced our sore muscles, bruises, cuts, and splinters to come another week and volunteer our time to renovate what you see at The Key. DCFC might have started off with five heads coming together, but the five became many…quickly. That family came to embrace the spirit of Detroit.
Having a training ground for future professional players is good and I applaud Duggan for what he does in that regard. He recruits great players and works with them to develop even greater. There is no shame in that. However, that is not how you build Detroit soccer. That’s not how you build Michigan soccer. This is not how you build a family, a community. That does not embrace the spirit of Detroit. That is simply one way you can build good soccer players. Creating a USL team or MLS team out of the blue to represent Detroit will not embrace this spirit either. The Michigan Bucks establishing itself as part of a pipeline of players is fine and dandy. Duggan creating a USL team to extend that pipeline is find and dandy. Personally, I have nothing, but love and respect for their staff and players. The organization advances the game in their own tailored way. However, it is not Detroit and it is not Detroit soccer. It does not embrace the spirit of Detroit. If the spirit was truly embraced, City faithful who could not make the match on May 11 against the Bucks would not have watched the game via Twitter updates. You would have fed us Le Rouge v. Bucks livestream. The spirit was found in the young man who filmed a livestream from his phone to supporters on Twitter.
In friendly Twitter banter with Michigan Bucks leading up to the May 11 match, I had an interesting exchange with someone that, to me, showed an example of the disconnect. I joked about a picture shared by Michigan Bucks that included an Oakland Grizzly on a banner in the background. I joked that the Grizzly on the banner made more noise than their supporter did. Obviously, it was a little jab at their lack of community connection despite an impressive resume for an amateur team. The reply though was to point out that the Grizzly represented a player from the US Men’s National Team that assisted the Bucks in winning a national PDL championship in 2006. I thought to myself, “Congrats on what you did 10 years ago! WE just raised $750,000 a few month ago from average people to renovate our new stadium. We’ll be volunteering again this week to help renovate it with our own hands.” THAT’s the Detroit way. That is Detroit City FC. That’s the Northern Guard. That is the spirit of Detroit. We turn rusty nuts and bolts into new equipment for HS soccer players who have hand-me-down gear. That’s a family. That’s a community. THAT’s a movement. THAT’s the spirit.
May 11 wasn’t an upset, it was the inevitable train on the track. Come and Get It! However, remember this as you continue building what you are building…. The spirit of Detroit is not for sale.
And just to think, I’m the new guy in NGS J