Tuesday the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup returns to its pre-COVID-19 pandemic status. After a two-season hiatus, the Columbus Crew is back in the tournament in a trip up north to face Detroit City FC of the USL Championship, the second division of U.S. Soccer.
Detroit’s in its 10th season as a club and its first in the USL Championship. Although it’s a newer team, in comparison to the Open Cup, which started in 1913, Detroit has made a big impact in the sport. Detroit has a fervent group of supporters and it has grown from an independent team to the top domestic league beneath Major League Soccer.
To prepare for Tuesday’s matchup, Massive Report spoke with Dion Degennaro from Detroit City Supporter Radio, a podcast that centers around all things Detroit City FC. Degennaro also spent eight years working on the communications side of the Northern Guard Supporters Group, a devoted group of local supporters that's known for creating the atmosphere in and around Keyworth Stadium.
Massive Report: Detroit City FC moved into the USL Championship this year after history in the NPSL and the last three seasons in NISA. The change in competition hasn’t slowed Detroit down. What’s the type of play supporters can expect and why is it so effective?
Detroit City Supporter Radio: Our teams, under General Manager & Head Coach Trevor James, have always played cohesive, unselfish, soccer where high work rate gets rewarded. Their drive combined with Trevor’s knowledge of the game is a potent combo. This team has a core group of guys that have been together for years, chemistry between them is very strong and has made the transition to Division II less painful.
Some of these guys were on the team that beat Atlas FC, current Apertura LIGA MX champions in Mexico, in a 2019 friendly against their first teamers. This squad is not a joke and they have something to prove. They play with pride and a chip on their shoulder, another potent combo. Be prepared for a team that ages like fine wine as the match unfolds.
MR: The USL and MLS only get a chance to play against each other in the Open Cup. Which players on Detroit’s side should Crew supporters be watching for on Tuesday?
DCSR: All of them, to be honest. We have a very shallow roster so the guys you see are the best ones for the job. They each are a key piece in the James’ system. Some specifics to watch out for is Nate “Steinmonster” Steinwascher, our keeper, he is finally getting national recognition for his talent and has been with the team for a VERY long time.
Another to watch out for is Devon Amoo-Mensah, a player that had fell through the cracks and was playing for Michigan Stars for a number of years and was brought up with DCFC to Division II where he is making himself known as an all league defender.
I really could name the whole roster and tell you a similar story. All of our players are more talented than most realize and that makes us underestimated and more dangerous. It often feels like this team was built to mock the poor scouting we have in the United States, haha.
MR: Detroit’s famously known for its atmosphere, with some teams even complaining that it's unfair (see Michigan Stars in the last Open Cup round). What makes Detroit such an intimidating place to play for opponents and what should traveling Crew supporters expect?
DCSR: I think that for both visiting players and fans alike, Keyworth has a level of intimacy, that if you haven’t experienced it before, can be very jarring. From the moment you see Keyworth stadium you feel transported to somewhere in Eastern Europe, a nearly 100 year old stadium nestled into a neighborhood. A stadium so ingrained in a community that, when DCFC is not playing there, it’s impossible to go there and not see kids using the stadium as a community field.
Fans are right on top of the players, visiting teams are often forced to play narrower than they are used to because of being intimidated by nearly 100 yards of supporters who’s only objective is to make you break concentration. I’ve personally seen supporters find details of visiting players lives within three minutes of them being subbed in and the word passed down along the entire fence line in order to get in the heads of visiting players.
When you’re not being chirped at by individuals on the fence you have an entire stadium that joins in on chants. You have a fan culture that has spent its entire existence, a decade now, hating teams from Ohio, and even greater, hating MLS and the things the supporters feel it represents. Your fans should not feel unsafe or unwelcome, that said. We don’t get violent, most visiting supporters leave Keyworth feeling like they’ve experienced one of the most unique sporting experiences they will have ever participated in. Come to Detroit, make the pilgrimage to Keyworth, I promise it will be worth it, even after we knock you out of the Open Cup