By Mike Murphy
The Review Special Writer
It was a bittersweet finale for the Detroit City Football Club last weekend.
But the team capped a sweet, sweet season by performing magnificently in the post-season, and also managed to set a record in attendance during Saturday’s final game.
It was bitter, perhaps, because of the sudden death loss, but fans had little to complain about considering DCFC’s players performed like champs, winning all of their postseason outings.
Even in their loss the team played well.
Detroit’s rival, the Texas Midland-Odessa club, came out on top after the two teams wound up scoreless during regulation time and two 15-minute overtime periods. The DCFC’s last best chance to win came in with a goal attempt in the 117th minute of the game that was snagged by the Midland-Odessa goalkeeper.
The DCFC lost its final game 4 goals to 2 in front of a record-setting crowd of 7,533 — which eclipsed the club’s previous attendance record of 7,410 fans — who showed up for the team’s inaugural game in 2016 at the then-newly renovated Keyworth Stadium.
The loss, said Hamtramck resident Steve Pajusevic, was “worse than losing in overtime in the Super Bowl.”
Paljusevic has been a fan of the team since it started up six years ago and has seen all of their home games. The atmosphere at last Saturday’s game, he said, “was electric and very loud.”
David Dwaihy, DCFC co-owner and player, said the intensity of the fans paired with the intensity of the game itself made the match-up sizzle and served as a near-perfect ending to a stellar season.
“It’s been a magical season and it’s too bad it had to end when it did,” Dwaihy said in an interview with Mlive.com, an online news outlet. “It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of it. A lot of fun to be around the guys at the end here. It was a really great group and a great dynamic.”
Also watching the game Saturday was Michael Rehfus, the former owner of Urban Break coffee house on Jos. Campau. He now lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and two children.
He made the four-hour drive here with his son, Milosz, who is a big soccer fan, and still feels connected with Hamtramck. Milosz moved from Hamtramck when he was 3 years old.
“He’s 13 now and incredibly passionate about soccer, playing goalie for club soccer teams around Columbus year-round — indoor soccer; a fast-paced variant called Futsal; and regular outdoor soccer,” Rehfus said of his son. “He loves Hamtramck, and dreams of moving here and playing for DCFC.”
Rehfus described his experience last Saturday:
“We marched through the streets and into the stadium with the supporters and cheered along the whole match. I lived on Jacob Street for years, and marching past my old place with the cheering, chanting supporters put a lump in my throat.
“By the end we were hoarse from singing and bleary-eyed from the smoke bombs. It was such a fun, exhilarating experience, it almost made up for the loss –almost.
“I used to run the steps at the stadium with the Detroit Threads running team, and it was always a dicey proposition with the crumbling concrete and splintering benches. It’s amazing seeing it all restored to what it may have been back when it was new.”
Also part of the game experience is watching the fans.
“The size and composition of the crowd was stunning. Clearly younger, and definitely drawn from a wider swath of Metro Detroit,” Rehfus said.
“Part of our trip felt like a homecoming, though the crowd was filled with so many new faces, it made it hard to meet up with old friends. But we were able to text each other from across the mob, so that was worth something.”
The Detroit club partnered with the public school district a few years ago, and school Superintendent Tom Niczay said it’s been “a match made in soccer heaven.”
The team has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into renovating Keyworth Stadium. Fans have also boosted local bars and restaurants after the games.
“I’m very happy for Hamtramck Public Schools, DCFC, the City of Hamtramck and Hamtramck’s businesses that benefited financially from Le Rouge fans patronizing their establishments,” Niczay said.
“The Hamtramck Board of Education is striving not only to better the school district but to build a strong partnership with the city to better the entire city. Good relationships and good governance go hand in hand.”