The NISA Fall Tournament final
Last night I watched the final of the tier three NISA's Fall Tournament, a matchup between two of the more well-recognized lower division clubs in the United States: Detroit City FC and Oakland Roots SC.
Full disclosure: with a grand total of one share, I am a minority investor in Detroit City FC and Oakland Roots SC head coach Jordan Ferrell is a personal friend. Here is an interview I did with him in July.
Anyway, it's safe to say that I had biases on both sides, which means that like in 98 or so percent of the games I watch, I was just rooting for a good game and the sport to take on a bigger following in this country.
The great Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano once wrote: "...when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don't give a damn which team or country performs it."
I feel the same way, and there were plenty of moments from both teams that showed why.
Before the match I looked up both of the team's rosters on Wikipedia and was surprised to recognize several players including Jack McInerney, Tristan Bowen, Matt Fondy, and Nana Attakora for Oakland and Kevin Venegas and Travis Bowen for Detroit City FC.
I also found it cool that Ferrell had his own Wikipedia entry, which he wasn't aware of, that listed his birth year as either 1985 or 1986. According to Ferell, neither of those years were correct. Oh, Wikipedia.
When the match started, one thing was quickly apparent: both teams had better branding than any MLS club. Just look at these crests:
Oakland took an early lead through a Johnny Rodriguez header only to give up an equalizer after the break on a defensive error. Shawn Lawson of Detroit City finished into the lower right corner on that goal before teammate Ryan Peterson chipped the Roots goalkeeper in the 85th minute for the winner.
The finish was frantic, with Detroit clearing two Oakland shots off the line as the Roots sent all 11 players forward. Even without fans, there was plenty of drama. And there was true quality on the field, rare for a final at any level.
In short, both clubs won me over for the operations they put on both on and off the field. Detroit and Oakland are both top class organizations that have creatively navigated the difficulties of succeeding as lower division clubs in a closed system.
I can't wait until everything opens up again so I can attend a match both in Oakland and Detroit. This was the first time I watched either of these teams. It won't be the last.