I have exactly two memories of watching soccer as a kid. The first was a Detroit Neon indoor soccer game at the Palace of Auburn Hills. It may also have been the announcer’s first game, judging from his heavy reliance on the boingoingoing sound effect for every header.

The second was watching the 1994 World Cup final at my friend Paul Villalba’s lake house. Paul’s family was very invested in the game, possibly because they were from Brazil. I was crestfallen that we had to watch instead of going tubing. I’m not superstitious, but it hardly seems like a coincidence that Brazil didn’t win another World Cup until a year after I finally got to tube.

That summer, I attempted to watch the World Cup with Jamie Hodari (Argentina), broadcast live from Japan and South Korea. Each game, I would note the teams’ respective nation anthems before promptly falling asleep on his couch.

Over the 12 years I played soccer, I never had any interest in watching anyone else play soccer. This could be a liability when I was sitting on the bench but otherwise did not interfere with leading a fulfilling life.

That was all before the Detroit City Football Club.

I have been struggling to put my love of DCFC into words. Too abiding and domesticated to call a love affair. Nor was it love at first sight. When the program was starting out in 2012, the experience seemed reserved for my single and childless friends — a space where they could cheer and jeer with impunity — while I was struggling to behave myself on the sidelines of Judah and Phoebe’s games. I never made it to a game back when the team played at Cass Tech.

Over the next few years, Detroit City FC established a strong presence in the semi-professional National Premier Soccer League and a devoted, charismatic fanbase. I retired from playing and coaching with my ACL and vocal chords still mostly attached. Then, in the spring of 2015, DCFC was set to play at Hurley Field in Berkley — a mile exactly from my door to the gate — and it seemed high time to take in a match, if only for the T-shirt.

A 1-0 loss to Michigan State Univerity played to a half-capacity crowd at a middle school-adjacent field may not sound like the origins of enduring fandom. But I was hooked. I wanted to be part of this. I wanted my kids to learn soccer, scarf wielding and swearing from the combustible combination of DCFC’s players and fans.

It was like the difference between Quixote by Cervantes and Pierre Menard…

“Halfback passes to center, back to wing, back to center, center holds it. Holds it. Holds it.”

“Halfback passes to center, back to wing, back to center, center holds it. Holds it. Holds it.”

Late in 2015, the club announced plans to move to a permanent home in Hamtramck. I had spent Summer 2013 admiring Keyworth Stadium while Summer in the City worked to beautify Veteran’s Park. Now, rather than moving to some pasture in the exurbs or shaking down taxpayers for millions of dollars, DCFC was reaching out to the community to restore a stadium built as one of Michigan’s first Work Projects Administration projects — opened in 1936 with a ribbon cutting by FDR. They raised $741,250 from over 400 investors; I’m not at liberty to say how much I invested, but I can disclose that, without my timely cash infusion, they would have had to make due with $741,000.

The chanting and singing at DCFC games is so intoxicating that you don’t need alcohol, though there’s plenty. It almost doesn’t matter if the team wins — except that they really know how to win. After finishing first in the Midwest-Great Lakes conference in 2019, the club went pro, joining the new National Independent Soccer Association and adding a women’s side.

We were at Keyworth for the inaugural women’s match, a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Muskegon Risers — every bit as fast and physical as the men’s games.

Now, DCFC is in the USL Championship — a national league one tier below Major League Soccer — and they continue to rise to meet the moment. So it is with the utmost humility that I accept a preponderance of the credit for their historic victory over Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup last month.

The boys in Rouge looked sharp at the beginning of the match, though they needed a few minutes to settle in. Then, just a few minutes after that, Columbus was the beneficiary of an undeserving whistle and went up 1-0. Falling behind early in any game — let alone to a major league club on a penalty kick by US National Team striker Gyasi Zardes — would have been insurmountable for most teams.

But not this team … not with me in the stands.

DCFC rallied, fending off 20 minutes of attacks by Columbus before leveling up possession and searching for a seam in the Crew’s defense. Halftime arrived with no answer. As if drawn toward the field by that elusive seam, I soon stood above the sidelines, just in time to rendezvous with Friendly the Bear and multiple men dressed like hotdogs. There, as the prophecy foretold, arrived the missing piece of the DCFC strategy:


Again, I’m not one of those fans that constructs specific narratives around random events to explain probable phenomena in hindsight, but it should be clear to an unbiased observer that by catching the jean shorts tossed to me by a hot dog and promptly putting them on, I was instrumental in changing the direction of the wind at Keyworth Stadium.

Not the actual wind, mind you. That would be crazy. The momentum that led Maxi Rodriguez — the same Maxi Rodriguez who injured the same knee as I did, leading both of us to miss the MLS superdraft — to take a cross from Antoine Hoppenot and score on a header (boingoingoing) in the 64th minute.

Like you, I was not yet convinced of the Jorts integral roll in DCFC’s comeback. Then, after 20 minutes of battle with the score tied, I found myself, as if propelled by the Jorts themselves, behind the Columbus net. As Rodriguez lined up a penalty kick in the 86th minute, the divine denim was directly in his line of site. The magnetism was so strong that his shot veered toward me, richocheting off the post before some combination of physics and providence put it in the back of the net.

To be continued … tonight against top-ranked Louisville City FC in the Round of 32.