July 25, 2015
NPSL Midwest Division Semi-Final
Breese Stevens Stadium, Madison, Wisconsin
Detroit City FC 1, AFC Cleveland 2
AFCC Antonio Manfut (James Haupt) 7′
AFCC Brian Potocnik 75′
DCFC Charlie MacInnes 76′
Attendance: More of us than them.
Thursday morning I packed my bag and drove the tollroad-free 475 miles, from home to the La Quinta hotel in Madison, Wisconsin. The journey began at 9:45AM, and I found the hotel buried in a huge mass of big box stores at around 7:00 PM (8:00 PM Detroit time). I wasn’t in a hurry, but I also didn’t anticipate that the route avoiding the toll roads would include a long non-highway stretch out of Chicago north toward Milwaukee, and a construction detour outside Milwaukee to connect up with westbound I-94 to Madison. I’ve driven by myself to Washington DC in the past, which is a hundred miles further, however this trip seemed longer for some reason. Maybe the parking lot of I-94 in Chicago had something to do with it.
Checked into the hotel, I unpacked, making myself at home.
Settled in, I then explored the Barnes & Noble and Half Price Books that were in this retail hub. I know. Some folks head out to find interesting taverns to partake in adult beverages. My addictions are chocolate and books.
Friday’s events began at The Brass Ring Pub, just a couple blocks away from the stadium. Game time was 3:00. Who schedules a semi-final playoff match on a Friday afternoon at 3:00? Perhaps a host who fears being outnumbered by a contingent of Detroiters? Hah! We gathered, grabbed lunch and hydration, then marched to Breese Stevens Stadium.
Once inside the old, classic stadium, the stands were nearly empty. There were probably more people on the field, counting all the players, team staff, and officials than had paid to get in. This is why you don’t schedule a match at 3:00 on a Friday afternoon. But of the spectators, our supporters were probably fifty percent of the crowd.
We were against our Rust Belt Derby rival, AFC Cleveland. We did our thing – chanting and taunting. Placed in a very effective position, right behind Le Rouge bench, and with an otherwise quiet stadium, our voices carried. Cleveland scored early, and the rest of the match was a battle. Was there controversy? Of course.
At one point during the first half, after Cleveland’s goal, the referee said something to the fourth official, who then came over to the Northern Guard. He said that they had to knock it off or else they would kick them out. Really? Did a referee actually think he had that kind of power?
There was also an issue about the balls. It appeared that Madison had only one league-regulation ball. The officials determined that they were going to use DCFC’s balls, which Coach Pirmann pointed out were under-inflated. Before the second half, there’s a photo of the officials inflating balls.
For the second half, I stayed near the Northern Guard, as Le Rouge attacked the net closest to them. Cleveland scored a second, but Charlie MacInnes came back a minute later and punched the ball into the back of the Cleveland net to negate it. The final fourteen minutes Le Rouge pushed, but could not bury a second to force a tie and extra time.
The AFC Cleveland supporter section
In the end, it was disappointing. The boys in rouge put everything they had out on the pitch, but the soccer gods denied us advancement to the final match on Saturday. The handful of spectators and AFC Cleveland having left the scene of the crime, we were together – team and supporters – absorbing emotionally what had occurred. Then, someone in the press box played “Hit the Road, Jack” over the public address system. The Supporters raised a finger to him, which he flashed back. I tried to get a shot of it, but didn’t catch it. The team left the field, but a few of the supporters took to the pitch to burn off a final burst of energy.
I checked out of the hotel on Saturday morning, visited A Room of One’s Own, an independent book store joined with Avol’s Rare and Used Books in downtown Madison, where 25-minute limit parking meters collected revenue in front. Who does that? Twenty-five minutes is what I usually need in the Fiction Section alone! After lunch at The Brass Ring, I made my way home.
Was I sorry I made the trip? Hell no! Though another season closed prematurely, it’s another chapter in this long saga of the Detroit City Football Club, making myself and I’m sure my brothers and sisters in the Northern Guard Supporters eager to turn the page and begin Chapter 2016.