Detroit City FC (M) vs Louisville City FC

May 10, 2022
Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Match
Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, MI

Shoot.  Out.

After defeating the Columbus Crew SC of MLS in the 3rd Round of the US Open Cup,  Detroit would draw either FC Cincinnati (MLS), New England Revolution (MLS), or Louisville City FC (USL-C) in the Round of 32.  The fates declared that the two MLS squads would face each other and we would host Louisville City FC.

We’ve been in the USL Championship for a couple of months but have not yet faced Louisville City FC in league play.  But we have met them once in the US Open Cup previously.  Almost six years to the day, Louisville City FC hosted us while we were in the NPSL.  And we gave them a good scare, too.  They massively outplayed us, but after 90 minutes, the heroics of a new goalkeeper playing his first match for us – Nate Steinwascher – kept the score nil-nil.  Into added time we went.  The 100th minute saw Louisville awarded a penalty kick.  But Nate Steinwascher made the save.  In the 104th minute, Ali Al-Gashamy delivered a beautiful ball in for Seb Harris to head into the back of the Louisville goal, giving City the hopes of advancing with a 1-nil lead.  But Ilija Ilic scored in the 115th minute and the matter was settled with the hosts advancing on a 3-1 penalty shoot out.

Now, we were at the same professional level as they, with Louisville sitting at the top of the East with 24 points and without a loss, and City in 3rd with 17 points.  With the match in our house at Keyworth Stadium, there was cautious optimism that we’d advance to the Round of 16.

Yet, tonight’s match was enveloped in an uneasy atmosphere.


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Because it does not relate to the play on the match, but it raised some issues worth noting, I will be adding a commentary after the Gallery of photos if you wish to view it. 

Starting XI

Kyle Morton – GK
Wesley Charpie – D
Oscar Jimenez – D
Sean Totsch – D
Joshua Wynder – D
Corben Bone – M
Paolo DelPiccolo – M
Tyler Gibson – M
Jorge Gonzalez – M
Brian Ownby – F
Wilson Harris – F

Starting XI

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Front Row, Left to Right
Deklan Wynne – D
Francis Atuahene – F
Abdoulaye Diop – M
Antoine Hoppenot – F
Rhys Williams – D

Back Row, Left to Right
Maxi Rodriguez – M
Michael Bryant – D
Devon Amoo-Mensah – D
Connor Rutz – F
Nate Steinwascher – GK
Stephen Carroll – D/Captain

Tonight’s referee was Calin Radosav.  He has been the head official in 36 USL Championship matches since 2019.  In the five he officiated this season, he’s shown 19 yellow cards and 1 second yellow ejection.  This is his second US Open Cup match, the previous on April 19, 2022 in Union Omaha (USL-League 1)’s upset of Chicago Fire (MLS), where Radosav handed out five yellow cards (4 to Chicago).  He has officiated one NWSL Challenge Cup match – a nil-nil draw between Chicago Red Stars and Racing Louisville on March 30, 2022.  His assistants were Nick Balcer and Ryan Homik.

The teams began moving the ball around, getting a feel for each other in the oddly subdued Keyworth.  After the 5 minute mark, the supporters raised their voices and with Keyworth feeling like Keyworth again, City was able to draw first blood.

In the 12th minute, Michael Bryant cleared the defensive zone by lofting the ball behind the Louisville defenders and ahead of the City attack.  Antoine Hoppenot caught it and headed it forward with a little more pace than intended.  Defender Sean Totsch cut in front of Antoine, chesting the ball into the run of Francis Atuahene.  With a clever little flick, Francis chipped the ball up, over the head of the crossing Totsch, then began his route to goal.  Francis got around Joshua Wynder, but was sent to ground by Totsch who had scampered back and stepped into the City forward.  Calin Radosav pointed to the spot.

Another PK for Maxi Rodriguez.

Louisville fought back.  In the 17th minute, they were awarded a free kick from just outside the top of the box.  Paolo Del Piccolo stood over it and his shot was placed well to the top corner of the goal.  But not well enough to stymie Nate Steinwascher, who snagged it out of the air, preventing the tying attempt.  Del Piccolo held his arms out, ready to celebrate, but he was there in 2016 and should have known how great Nate was.

Louisville would eventually equalize on a corner kick in the 24th minute.  The ball went across goal, was headed back to where Wesley Charpie teed up and fired.  A Detroit player blocked the shot, however the ball bounced to Wilson Harris who guided it into the goal.

As the half was winding down, Louisville’s Corban Bone was shown a yellow card for a dive in the 42nd minute and Francis Atuahene’s hard foul in the 44th earned him a yellow.  As the clock approached 45:00, Jorge Gonzalez crossed the ball to Brian Ownby.  The bald skull kissed the ball, which looped high then dipped and tried to sneak in under the cross bar.  However, Devon Amoo-Mensah rose and headed the ball over the frame to keep the match even.

Though Louisville City once again dominated City, it was much closer than six years ago.  Louisville held 60% of the possession, took 9 shots of which 3 were on target.  Detroit fired 6 shots, also putting 3 on target.

The second half played out much like the first, without the scoring.  Antoine Hoppenot, formerly of Louisville City, was sent in on a chance in the 70th minute that keeper Kyle Morton was able to turn away.

IMGP5257 (2)

In extra time, Louisville almost took an early lead in the 92nd minute, when the ball was worked through the box to Wilson Harris, but Nate Steinwascher was quick with the feet and kicked away the attempt.  City had a chance in the 103rd minute when Billy Forbes, who had subbed in for Francis Atuahene in the 97th minute, crossed the ball in for Pato.  Pato had come in for Connor Rutz at the beginning of extra time, these being the only two substitutions City made.  Pato’s shot on goal was stopped by Morton.

With the match unsettled after 120 minutes, penalty kicks would again determine which of these teams would advance in the US Open Cup.  And as in 2016, Detroit came up short.

Penalty Shoot-out

LCFC: Sean Totsch – Goal
DCFC:  Maxi Rodriguez – Goal
LCFC: Niall McCabe – Goal
DCFC: Rhys Williams – Saved
LCFC: Wilson Harris – Goal
DCFC: Antoine Hoppenot – Goal
LCFC: Ian Soler – Goal
DCFC: Stephen Carroll – Miss

Louisville City FC advanced 4-2 on penalty kicks

It was a good beginning for us in the US Open Cup at this level.  We smoked out an old rival, beat down an MLS franchise, and fought hard against a league opponent.

Player of the Match was Stephen Carroll.IMGP5677 (2)

Detroit City FC 1, Louisville City FC 1
DCFC: Maxi Rodriguez (PK) 14′
LCFC: Wilson Harris 24′

LCFC advance 4-2 in Penalty Shoot-Out


Possession: DCFC 39%, Louisville City 61%
Shots:  DCFC 9, Louisville City 19
Shots on Target: DCFC 5, Louisville City 4
Yellow Cards:  DCFC 2 (Francis Atuahene, Billy Forbes), Louisville City 3 (Corben Bone, Wilson Harris, Sean Totsch)
Red Cards:  DCFC 0, Columbus 0

KEEPER KIT RECORD (Both USL Championship and Open Cup)

A tough loss in blue.

  • Purple Kit:  1 draw
  • Yellow Kit: 3 wins, 2 clean sheets
  • Blue Kit: 4 wins, 1 draw, 3 loss, 2 clean sheets


Orlando City (MLS) 2, Philadelphia (MLS) 1
DC United (MLS) 0, New York Red Bulls (MLS) 3
Inter Miami (MLS) 3, Tormenta FC (USL-1) 1
Sporting KC (MLS) 4, FC Dallas (MLS) 2
Los Angeles FC (MLS) 2, Portland (MLS) 0

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Say What?

Since the jump from NISA to USL Championship, there was a lot of concern among fans about how much the supporter culture game day experience would be squelched by being in the professional league. 

The experience of a professional sporting event is sanitized.  The players and game on the field, court, or ice are exciting, but the fan experience is muted to basically cheering as you are told from the sports franchise through a Jumbotron.  This is where Detroit City FC is unique.  Since its 2012 season, the supporter-side experience offers the opportunity to join in as City scores against an opponent and the supporters shout and smoke them out.  They also act as the twelfth field player against our opponent.  And if one sits on the other side of the stadium, the supporters are as much the entertainment as the soccer on the pitch.

But with the movement up the United States soccer pyramid, to the step just below MLS, the pressure has been put on the club and supporters to quell some of the content and actions from the supporters’ side of the pitch. 

In no way is this intended to be a law review article (though I have read a few in preparing these remarks) so rather than get deep into the legal weeds, these are some thoughts to consider.

Generally, government or state actors are prohibited from placing restrictions on free speech.  Because of their relationship with cities and their stadiums, sports teams have been held as state actors.  Even if the stadium is 100% privately funded and has no symbiotic relationship with the municipality, by virtue of playing the National Anthem can make it a public forum where the First Amendment is protected.

A governmental entity may have a substantial interest in protecting people from unwilling and unavoidable exposure to “objectionable speech.”  The standard that was set comes from the United States Supreme Court decision in Cohen v California, 403 US 15 (1971).  Under the “captive audience” doctrine, governments may make laws that restrict otherwise Constitutionally protected speech in certain places where the listener may not leave or avoid the expression.  There are few specific circumstances that have been identified, such as homes, the workplace, cars, public schools, government offices, and public transportation.  Not sporting events. 

“Cheering Speech” is the expression by fans related to a sporting event, to all aspects of the game, all the participants in the game, and all circumstances surrounding the game.  It is not limited to oral statements, but also includes written and symbolic messages.  Scholars argue that cheering speech should undoubtedly be constitutionally protected because it provides a platform for political and social communication.

What, then, is offensive?  The baseline for offensiveness cannot be reduced to the most sensitive person in the crowd and the level of expression cannot be reduced to what the least tolerant listener will accept.  The court stated in Cohen that “(s)urely the State has no right to cleanse public debate to the point where it is grammatically palatable to the most squeamish among us.”  Cohen, 403 US at 25.  Nor should the measure of offensiveness factor in that children are in the crowd because the level of discourse for adults cannot be reduced to what is proper for children.  In Reno v ACLU, 521 US 844 (1997) the court stated that government may not reduce the adult population to only what is fit for children.  Within a sports arena, the sports team, who is a government actor, is a mixed audience of adults and adults who bring their children.   The choice becomes whether children unavoidably hear some “adult” language (or “soccer words” as I’ve heard responsible parents in the supporters group call them) or we reduce the level of speech to what is suitable for the playground.  The Court has ruled in favor of the former.

So, by virtue of all of that, it sounds like censorship of the supporter’s group chants and signs are protected First Amendment speech.  However, one cannot ignore the consequences.

The First Amendment does not provide protection of all speech.  The US Supreme Court has held against laws that prohibit obscene, libelous or defamation, fighting words, and incitement of an imminent illegal action. 

Under the Captive Audience doctrine mentioned above, even though those in the stadium are not captive audiences, those watching the matches in their homes are. 

In FCC v Pacfica Foundation, 438 US 726 (1978), the Court held that when Pacifica Radio aired George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” performance, it effectively entered the homes of people through the airwaves.  The Court reasoned in favor of the FCC because the notion that a person could have avoided the unwanted language by turning off the radio was like saying the remedy for an assault is to run away after the first blow.  This is still good law today.

Obscene language risks sanction to those who televise our matches.  They can mute the microphones near the crowd, but cannot redact the banners on the screen.  It puts them in a liable position, which makes it easy for them to deny covering our matches.  The Hour Detroit May 2022 issue where they had the supporters section on the cover and rebranded one of the scarves to “Ed Ducker Forever,” shows what a magazine will do to protect itself (and make Ed Ducker a legend).

In short, we can’t be the envy of other teams, supporters, players, or locations if our viewership is limited to stadium attendance.

The Northern Guard Supporters are a collection of the most intelligent, creative, artistic, and caring people in all of sports.  And Detroit City FC is the most fan-friendly, memory-making professional sports organization you’ll ever encounter today.  And though this adjustment sparked some tough conversations, the move up into the league is the perfect place for us to retain a great deal of our autonomy while also having the opportunity to defeat and become champions over MLS teams in the US Open Cup.  Unfortunately, our first excursion at this level has come to an end.  But there are many more to come.

City Til I Die!


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