Passion at play for Detroit City FC, Bucks stalwarts

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — You want to talk about passion for the game and not letting go of a dream.

This is a perfect illustration.

After playing at Oakland University, Seb Harris tried his hand at professional soccer.

He went to England and was successful for two seasons, but wanted to return to the United States.

So he took aim at Major League Soccer.

But no team took notice.

His passion, however, never wavered.

“I love the game,” said Harris, 28. “You do it because you love it. I’m going to keep doing it.”

Harris wasn’t about to give in.

So these days, he plays for Detroit City FC in the National Premier Soccer League, all while working 45 hours a week as a parts manager at a forklift company in Lake Orion.

And he doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.

But Harris’ story isn’t unique. In fact, several Detroit City FC and Michigan Bucks (Premier Development League) players have the same drive for soccer.

Most have just completed college, and couldn’t find careers in the pro ranks in the U.S. or Europe.

Some are college players who stay sharp during the offseason.

They don’t get paid. There aren’t many perks.

But it goes back to the passion.

“I’m a realist, and I know at some point, when I graduate, it’ll have to end,” said Brad Ruhaak, who plays at Akron and with the Bucks. “But you strive to be the best player you can be, I enjoy it, and it’s a game I’ve played since I was 4.”

Several players have taken a realistic approach to where soccer fits into their lives — now and in the future.

But that doesn’t mean the effort level wanes.

“There’s a lot of dedication, a lot of players who are working to improve themselves and maybe get to the next level,” said Tom Owens, 24, an Englishman beginning his third season with the Bucks. “There’s a lot of passion for the game.”

Owens is an assistant at Division II Quincy (Ill.), and comes up for the summer to play.

Because of his coaching commitment, though, Owens will leave the Bucks before the regular season is complete.

“I love playing and I get so much, learn from the coaching staff here, to make myself a better player and coach,” Owens said. “It’s a tremendous learning experience.”

The resurgence and enthusiasm around the game also motivates many of the players.

Last week, Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores announced they were teaming up to bring an MLS team — and build a downtown stadium — to Detroit.

And, Detroit City FC is moving to Hamtramck’s Keyworth Stadium this season, having outgrown Detroit Cass Tech, where it played to capacity crowds of several thousand on a regular basis.

“You can see the passion for the game, and along with that, what is happening in Detroit, and the combination of those two things is great to see,” said Detroit FC’s Matt Ybarra, who is earning his master’s degree at Detroit while serving as an intern at General Motors. “You want to be part of it.”

U.S. Open Cup

Michigan vs. Detroit City FC

Kickoff: 7:30 Wednesday, Oakland University, Rochester

Outlook: There are 46 teams in the event, in its 103rd year. ... Michigan defeated Detroit City, 3-0, in last year’s tournament, the first time the teams had met. ... Wednesday’s winner travels to Louisville, Ky., on May 18 for the next round.