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U.S. Open Cup wrap: “Cupsets” dot second round slate

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There were “Cupsets” in several locations during the early matches of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s second round on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Atleti wins Europa League ]

Two PDL teams, an NPSL side, and a league qualifier picked up wins over USL competition, with FC Wichita, Mississippi Brilla, Ocean City Nor’easters, and NTX Rayados recording wins.

Tulsa Roughnecks 3-4 FC Wichita

The USL hosts led 1-0 and 2-1 through Jhon Pirez and Riggs Lennon, but the pesky NPSL visitors refused to go away. Franck Yayou scored two goals and outscored its pro opponents 2-1 down the stretch in one of the night’s “Cupsets.”

FC Cincinnati 4-1 (aet) Detroit City FC

There was controversy before the game when FCC decided to play in a much smaller venue and limit away tickets to a few dozen, and Detroit used it as a rallying cry to the tune of an early lead through a counterattack befitting almost any league on Earth. Cincy answered big time, but needed extra time to put away the NPSL side.

FC Motown 1-3 Penn FC

Another scare from an NPSL side saw well-traveled MLS man Dilly Duka put the hosts ahead in the 53rd minute, but the visitors scored thrice in the final 11 minutes to move onto the third round.

Jacksonville Armada 1-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies

An old NASL rivalry saw Jimmy Banks’ 58th minute goal carry the Armada into the third round.

Elsewhere
North Carolina FC 3-0 Lansdowne Bhoys FC
Charlotte Independence 1-3 Ocean City Nor’easters
Erie Commodores 1-2 Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Reading United 1-1 (3-4, pks) Richmond Kickers
Seacoast United Phantoms 0-2 Elm City Express
Charleston Battery 1-0 South Georgia Tormenta FC
Louisville City FC 5-0 Long Island Rough Riders
Miami FC2 1-3 Miami United 
Mississippi Brilla 1-0 Indy Eleven
Midland-Odessa Sockers 0-4 San Antonio FC
Nashville SC
2-0 Inter Nashville FC
Colorado Springs Switchbacks
3-2 FC Denver
NTX Rayados 5-2 (aet) Oklahoma City Energy
Duluth FC – Saint Louis FC
Sporting Arizona – Phoenix Rising
Fresno FC – Orange County FC
Las Vegas Lights – FC Tucson
Reno 1868 – Portland Timbers U23
Sacramento Republic – San Francisco City FC

MLS expansion: Detroit’s bid comes amid Detroit City FC’s popularity

Photo credit: Detroit City FC / Twitter: @DetroitCityFC
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HAMTRAMCK, Mich. (AP) Immediately after the opening kickoff, colorful smoke was already floating through the air and fans were in full voice, singing and chanting in a display reminiscent of matches in Europe and South America.

This wasn’t Milan or Liverpool, though, or even Portland or Seattle. This was a fourth-tier soccer match at a renovated old stadium in Hamtramck, an enclave of Detroit.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The team is called Detroit City FC. It competes in the National Premier Soccer League and its players aren’t paid, but this season the club drew about 5,000 fans a game at its new home field, turning a night at Keyworth Stadium into one of the area’s most unique sports experiences. DCFC’s growth is a testament to soccer’s grassroots appeal in the United States, and it comes as a group led by NBA owners Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores is trying to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Detroit.

The question now is: What will happen to DCFC if MLS shows up? And would an MLS team be able to capitalize on the soccer culture that’s already here?

The answer may not be that simple.

“It’s a tightrope,” said Alex Wright, one of DCFC’s five owners. “It’s going to take some time and some conversation.”

There are over 80 teams in the NPSL, representing big cities like Chicago and Boston as well as places like Fredricksburg, Virginia, and Binghamton, New York. DCFC was founded in 2012, and the ownership group felt there was enough soccer interest in the Detroit area for the project to succeed. The barriers to entry weren’t exactly high. Wright says each co-owner had to kick in $2,500 for the buy-in and a chance to own a team and build it from the ground up.

“It was something we as founders who had day jobs could do on nights and weekends, but it also allowed us the flexibility and the freedom and opportunity to kind of like, really have some fun with what kind of team we wanted to be,” Wright said.

[ MORE: Nashville joins cities seeking MLS expansion team ]

DCFC outgrew its home field and now plays at Keyworth. There’s an independent supporters group – Northern Guard Supporters – and fans march to matches together from a nearby bar.

Near the entrance to the supporters’ section at the stadium, there’s a banner laying out some ground rules for the uninitiated. Fans who venture into that area along one of the sidelines can expect to stand the whole game, hear plenty of foul language and have smoke bombs set off around them.

“As long as you can stand the smoke and stand the swearing – and just stand for 90 minutes – you fit right in,” said 35-year-old Drew Gentry, a Northern Guard co-founder.

Gentry became interested in soccer after stumbling upon a Champions League match on TV and being amazed by the fan atmosphere.

“I’m like, `What do these people have? This is soccer, it’s not supposed to be interesting. Why do these people love this sport so much?'” he said.

Gentry wanted a local version of what he’d seen, a team he and his community could throw support behind. His is just one story of how an American under 40 came to love a sport that struggled for so long to gain a foothold in this country. Now fans are gravitating toward soccer for any number of reasons – and the group putting together Detroit’s MLS bid knows it.

“There’s a group of people that grew up with soccer now. They’re not necessarily people that grew up with the NFL or something else,” said Matt Cullen, a principal of Gilbert-chaired Rock Ventures. “It is almost like a little bit of a counterculture kind of thing, and people enjoy it in a different way. I think it’s the experience as much as the game at times.”

That’s certainly true at DCFC games. The players aren’t exactly household names. Fans go because of the atmosphere and the excitement of being part of something that they’re all helping build.

“In a more professional, traditional American setting, I think the mentality is you have to be something for everyone,” Wright said. “I think what soccer is proving is that while that is true – that is one way to do it – that’s not the only way to do it. To be something real for some people, is also another way to go, because we’re not trying to fill a 65,000-seat stadium and we don’t have 162 games a year.”

[ MORE: “This guy’s crazy, but he can play” — Jermaine Jones in his own words ]

MLS teams don’t have to draw 65,000 fans a game either. If there is a new team in Detroit, it would be in good shape if it can enjoy the type of loyalty DCFC receives from its fans. There is precedent for that kind of smooth transition. The Portland Timbers were a successful minor league team before being elevated to the MLS level in 2011.

There’s some skepticism among the DCFC die-hards. The Northern Guard website includes a list of lyrics to various fan chants, and one of them aims its profanity-laced hostilities directly at Gilbert, Gores and MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

“It’s really important that everyone understand how much time and effort the supporters put into what they do,” Wright said. “If you don’t understand that, it’s really hard to understand where they’re coming from when you read what they write online or on social media. It’s not vitriol if you’ve been spending so much of your time building something up and you’re worried that it’s going to be forgotten.”

The MLS group has been quick to praise DCFC. Arn Tellem, who works with Gores as an executive at Palace Sports and Entertainment, said he’s met with the DCFC hierarchy, and he raves about the experience at the team’s games. He said DCFC and the Michigan Bucks – a Pontiac-based team that won the championship of the Premier Development League this month – have shown that there is great interest in soccer in the Detroit area. But it’s not yet clear how, specifically, the MLS group and DCFC might work together.

Elevating DCFC to MLS status would be one way to try to preserve the club’s charm and grassroots appeal. That’s a model MLS has followed elsewhere, but Gilbert and Gores would likely have some work to do to win over the trust of some of the local fans.

An MLS team could also try to coexist with DCFC in the hope that each can in its own way help soccer grow in Detroit. There are examples of minor league teams playing in MLS cities, although those teams don’t necessarily draw many fans. Portland Timbers 2 – a team in the United Soccer League – drew about 2,500 at a game Sunday, a figure that would represent a step back for a team like DCFC.

Wright says DCFC looks forward to further conversations with the MLS group about their visions for the future. As for Gentry, he said recently that nobody from the MLS bid had reached out to his supporters’ group.

“I will believe an MLS team is in Detroit when they kick off their first match,” he said. “Until then, it’s not something that I’m going to lose sleep over, only because I’ve got stuff to do to grow my team – the team that’s already here.”

The proposed MLS expansion team could start playing in Detroit by 2020, but that still leaves DCFC plenty of time to build an even greater following. Right now, the big priority for the MLS bid is securing a new stadium for a Detroit team to play in. The group is pushing for a site in downtown Detroit, but there are potential roadblocks.

If the stadium issue is resolved and Detroit is indeed granted a team, talks between the MLS group and DCFC figure to take on much more significance.

“I think we want to be inclusive with DCFC and the Bucks and work with them, and we can learn a lot from them. I think the groups that are running these organizations are really smart and civic minded,” Tellem said. “They have done an incredible job, and I think we can learn a lot from them and we will. Every time I’m with them, I leave feeling more positive that we have to do this together. We can’t do this without them.”

Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup roundup: Pitch storming in Michigan, road winners

@PuraVida96
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If you’re not down with the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, what’s your problem?

The 106th edition of the United States’ best soccer tournament kicked off Thursday around the country, and we had some serious drama to go with good rivalry.

In some cases, both; Detroit City FC and Michigan Bucks tangled at Oakland University, going 0-0 through 120 minutes before Brett Nason scored the decisive penalty in a shootout. Cue a field storming from the DCFC faithful.

[ MORE: MLS Midweek sees some pretty goals (video) ]

We had plenty of road winners, as CD Aguiluchos USA, La Maquina FC, Des Moines Menace, Harpo’s, Lansdowne Bhoys FC, Jersey Express, West Chester United and Aromas Cafe FC (love the names at this stage of the Open Cup) all won.

And did Ventura County Fusion break a rule that will invalidate its win over LA Wolves FC?

Over in Maine, AFC Cleveland struck early then held on through a bit of controversy as Portland Phoenix scored in stoppage time only to see the offside flag in the air.

Full scoreboard
San Francisco City FC 0-3 CD Aguiluchos USA
Seattle Sounders U-23 3-1 Outbreak FC
FC Tucson 3-0 San Nicolas FC
Ventura County Fusion 2-1 LA Wolves FC
Sacramento Gold 3-1 Burlingame Dragons FC
Portland Timbers U-23 0-2 La Maquina FC
Corinthians FC of San Antonio def. NTX Rayados
Albuquerque Sol FC 0-2 Harpo’s
FC Wichita 1-2 Des Moines Menace
Mississippi Brilla 2-0 Motagua New Orleans
AFC Cleveland 1-0 GPS Portland Phoenix
Southie FC 2-0 Seacoast United Phantoms
Michigan Bucks 0-0 (PKs, 3-4) Detroit City FC
Long Island Rough Riders 1-2 Lansdowne Bhoys FC
Indiana Fire 1-0 Cincinnati Dutch Lions
Reading United 2-0 Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves
Miami Fusion FC 4-1 Boca Raton Football Club
Charlotte Eagles 3-2 Myrtle Beach Mutiny
Clarkstown SC Eagles 1-2 Jersey Express
New York Pancyprian-Freedoms 2-1 New York Red Bulls U-23
Fredericksburg FC 1-1 (PKs, 7-8) West Chester United
The Villages SC 1-0 Kraze United
Richmond Strikers 1-2 Aromas Cafe FC

Garber, Gilbert discuss Major League Soccer in Detroit, stadium site

@MakingNews
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Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and MLS commissioner Don Garber were among the dignitaries on hand Wednesday to discuss the potential for Major League Soccer in Detroit.

The passion to bring a franchise to Detroit isn’t new, but Gilbert and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores are working to make it happen now. Garber said the earliest a team would join is 2020.

[ MORE: Pochettino says PSG “part of my dreams” ]

Detroit has seen steady growth from its fourth-tier side, Detroit City FC, gaining a reputable supporter base that started with 1000 fans per game in Year One and has grown to capacity, selling out matches at 3500+ last season. That helped the club privately fund the renovation of a bigger venue in Hamtramck’s Keyworth Stadium through a pledged $740,000 from supporters and investors.

Garber knows this. He was on hand and sure to compliment both DCFC and the nearby Michigan Bucks, the Pontiac-based side which has achieved good on-field success in the fourth-tier.

Garber spoke about the possibility of a team in the league, but said a stadium plan must come before a team (See: problems for NYCFC and Miami Beckham United).

A stadium inside of a massive downtown development was raised, but speculation on that site being used for soccer has already been met with opposition by Wayne County authorities. The site is currently an unfinished jail, one whose proponents say is direly needed in the area.

That last comment from Gilbert could be a loaded one as we move forward. Surely megawatt billionaires like Gilbert have experience in running gigantic sporting enterprises, but what clubs like Detroit City have done to engender passion for a club deserves to be nurtured. Whether they like it or not, a fervent soccer base already exists in the Motor City, one that has been vocally critical of MLS.

[ MORE: 2.Bundesliga side turned down ‘too old’ Vardy ]

Not involving DCFC at some level is a shot at that culture, and uses an arrogance to say, “Get in line or forget about it”. There has to be a spirit of community from the supporters as well — not “We know best and only doing it exactly how we say might make me interested” — but failing to acknowledge and involve the current supported team would be a massive error in judgment from MLS and the Gilbert/Gores group.

Garber has made the mistake in the past of picking on markets or established supporters groups, like his thinly-veiled shot at Chattanooga FC — an NPSL side that drew 18,000+ to its championship game — during BlazerCon in New York City this Fall.

The astute commish has learned from that, but how much involvement, if any, is asked of Detroit’s lower league builders will be worth following with great interest by many markets around the country.

Although, admittedly, his choice to use the 3500 figure in the following comment — a number close to DCFC’s average attendance — does have a bit of defiant swagger to it, does it not?

The press conference was supposed to be streamed, so thanks to Detroit Free Press executive editor, a confessed soccer nut, for doing yeoman’s work for those of us outside of Detroit. Also, killer Twitter handle.

US Open Cup first round preview: Detroit City vs. Michigan highlights close-proximity matches

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There are plenty of big-time matches on the “minnows” docket for tonight’s U.S. Open Cup first round.

The tournament is especially interesting at this time of year because the NPSL and PDL sides have to contend not only with each other but with USASA and USSSA sides that have played together much longer as opposed to talented college kids getting to know each other outside of the NCAA window.

This round also tends to keep close proximity at the forefront. It doesn’t make sense for the competition to send Lansing United down to face the Laredo Heat, as it could crush the team’s budget.

[ MORE: Detroit City gets 3,000 for NPSL match ]

So we get juicy match-ups like the PDL’s Michigan Bucks against the NPSL’s Detroit City FC. One club a newer power with a fervent-if-profane fan base against a well-established Open Cup contender trying to lay claim to Detroit as its home and as a future pro side. Sign us up.

DCFC fans hate that Bucks claim fan supremacy despite the Cass Tech crowds dictating otherwise. The Bucks prod at DCFC’s fans by calling them newboys. It’s going to be a dynamite night, and the winner gets to host Timbers 2 of USL, which would be a huge boon to either club.

Then there’s Cal FC, the darlings of the 2012 tournament. The then-Eric Wynalda-coached club surprised Wilmington Hammerheads and Portland Timbers in the tournament. The USASA entry has to get past strong PDL side Ventura County Fusion to get a shot at LA Galaxy II.

There’s plenty more. Monitor the intrigue tonight, as the path to the 102nd USOC title is trod.

Fort Pitt Regiment (NPSL) at West Virginia Chaos (PDL) – 7:00 pm ET
GBFC Thunder (NPSL) at Western Mass Pioneers (PDL) – 7:00 pm ET
RWB Adria (USASA) at Lansing United (NPSL) – 7:00 pm ET
Triangle Brigade (USASA) at Upward Stars (NPSL) – 7:00 pm ET
SW Florida Adrenaline (PDL) at Miami United (NPSL) – 7:00 pm ET
Virginia Beach City FC (NPSL) at AC Connecticut (PDL) – 7:00 pm ET
Maryland Bays (USASA) at Reading United – 7:00 pm ET
Ocala Stampede (PDL) at Chattanooga Football Club (NPSL) – 7:30 pm ET
Brooklyn Italians (NPSL) at Long Island Rough Riders (PDL) – 7:30 pm ET
Detroit City FC (NPSL) at Michigan Bucks (PDL) – 7:30 pm ET
NY Greek American SC (USASA) at Jersey Express (PDL) – 8:00 pm ET
Seacoast United Phantoms (PDL) at GPS Mass (USASA) – 8:00 pm ET
Madison Fire Soccer Club (USASA) at Des Moines Menace (PDL) – 8:30 pm ET
Tulsa Athletics (NPSL) at Midland/Odessa Sockers (PDL) – 8:30 pm ET
NTX Rayados Academy (USASA) at Laredo Heat (PDL) – 9:15 pm ET
Harpo’s FC (USASA) at BYU Cougars men’s soccer (PDL) – 9:30 pm ET
Kitsap Pumas SC (PDL) at FC Tacoma 253 (NPSL) – 10:00 pm ET
Cal FC (USASA) at Ventura County Fusion (PDL) – 10:00 pm ET
Burlingame Dragons (PDL) at Sonoma County Sol (NPSL) – 10:00 pm ET
Golden State Misioneros (PDL) at PSA Elite (USASA) – 10:00 pm ET
Chula Vista Futbol Club (USASA) at FC Tucson (PDL) – 10:30 pm ET