After plenty of hype both good and bad, the NISA spring season is finally here. We were on the scene at last Friday’s match between the LA Force and Detroit City FC, getting a closer look at what the United States’ newest professional league has to offer.
These days the Cal State LA campus is a bustling hub of soccer activity. In 2018, the newly formed LAFC built their $30 million state-of-the-art training facility there. Now, NISA side LA Force is calling the recently renovated Jesse Owens Stadium home. The fledgling club officially kicked off the inaugural 2020 NISA season there last Friday night. A small, but passionate crowd of maybe 1,000 (maybe less) people saw Detroit City FC claim a 2-0 victory over the home side.
If you’re not up on Detroit City FC, they’ve been one of if not the most supported semi-pro team in the country for years, and it was big news when the club made the announcement to join the professional ranks of NISA in 2019. As expected, there were more than a few members of the Northern Guard Supporters, DCFC’s independent supporters’ group, that made the long trek to witness their club’s inaugural pro match.
Enjoying the relatively warm California weather, the NGS members marched into the stadium, giving LA Force and NISA all the smoke they could handle. Jarrett Maki, a journalism student from East Lansing, Michigan, made a long weekend out of it by flying out Thursday evening.
“When they announced it, I didn’t care where it was going to be, I didn’t care when,” Maki said. “Luckily it fell on my spring break. But I wasn’t going to miss this for the world.”
Maki, who was the NGS’ supporter of the year runner-up last year, spent much of the first half leaning against the railing at the bottom of the stands. When he wasn’t imploring the official to give out more cards to the home team, he was spontaneously shouting “professional!” in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner.
While Maki is excited for his team to be playing in NISA, he does recognize the league might have some limitations.
“It’s club over league 100 percent until the end of time,” Maki said. “So, whatever league this team plays in, whether it’s in California, whether it’s in Michigan, or if it’s on the fucking moon, I’ll be here supporting them.”
A 22nd-minute Matt Lewis tap-in gave Detroit a 1-0 lead at the break, and the club’s surprisingly fluid early season form led Maki to make some bold halftime predictions.
“I think we’re going to win the championship, at least in the spring,” Maki said. “I’ll say the fall too. I think we’re going to win the Open Cup, because I’m insane.”
The second half only further validated his feelings about his team’s play, with midfielder Roddy Green finishing the game off on a counter attack deep into stoppage time.
On the other side of the stands, LA Force fans made themselves comfortable in their new digs. Jonathan Giorge, an Angeleno through and through, has been following the team since the 2019 NISA Fall Showcase when the team played their matches at Rio Hondo College in Whittier. He even got some action in a few practices.
Giorge is looking forward to attending all the home matches, and hasn’t ruled out a few potential away days road trips.
“Actually, this [match] was the one I was looking forward to most,” Giorge said. “Since Detroit is a team building up too.”
While LA Force doesn’t have an official supporters’ group yet, Giorge hinted one is in the works. A pair of drums goes a long way toward creating a festive atmosphere.
“Hopefully we get a good crowd going,” Giorge said.
Free parking and $10 tickets won’t hurt the cause in the mean time, so grab your merch and pull up to a match so you can say you were there before NISA became mainstream.
Check out the LA Force website for upcoming games and tickets. Learn more about Detroit City FC in our ‘Descending the Pyramid’ story which highlights the club’s roots, fans, and deep connection to the Motor City.
Photography by Kyle Scoble for Urban Pitch.