Hamtramck – Juan Ramos of Auburn Hills and Carlos Zamora of Rochester Hills knew each other through friends, but the natives of Mexico didn’t realize they shared a passion for the same Liga MX club.
That was until Tuesday when the engineers happened to cross paths in the food court at Keyworth Stadium, both wearing white and red striped jerseys of Club Necaxa.
They were eagerly relishing the chance to see their heroes in the flesh. Zamora hadn’t seen Necaxa play in person in 20 years.
“I was joking with my wife that this Monday is my birthday so they are coming because of my birthday,” Zamora said. “I was really excited to have them here.”
The pair was among the 7,449 fans at Keyworth Stadium to witness the Mexican first division side play semi-professional Detroit City FC in an international friendly. The crowd was the second largest in club history. A record 7,533 attended last season's National Premier Soccer League national semifinal between DCFC and Midland-Odessa.
Necaxa won 2-1, securing the victory on a Victor Alejandro Davila penalty in the 86th minute to give the visitors a two-goal lead. DCFC’s Trevor Amann scored less than a minute later to make it a one-goal game.
Carlos Camacho opened the scoring in the 55th minute, converting on a breakaway to give Necaxa a 1-0 lead.
The match marked the first time DCFC had hosted a Mexican club, which is part of an ongoing effort to reach the Metro Detroit area’s Latino community.
Necaxa, which lost to Chivas of Guadalajara 2-1 in Denver last Sunday, is taking part in a preseason USA tour. The Aguascalientes-based club plays Monterey on Sunday in the Supercopa MX at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles.
The pull of a Liga MX club, regardless of the opponent, was evident by the parade of green Mexico national team jerseys as well as shirts representing first division teams Club America, Pumas, Monarcas Morelia, Santos Laguna, Cruz Azul and Toluca in the stands at historic Keyworth Stadium.
When DCFC announced in late February it was hosting the Copa MX winners, count the Perez family as among those shocked.
“I was really happy; I couldn’t believe it,” said Gustavo Perez of Detroit, who was with his wife Ana who helped interpret.
The Mexico City native was wearing an 18-year-old Necaxa jersey while stationed outside the team’s locker room underneath Keyworth.
Perez emigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s, but has passionately followed the club that its greatest success was during the 1930s “11 Brothers’’ era. His favorite player was Mexican international midfielder Alberto García-Aspe, who suited up in the mid-1990s for then-Mexico City-based outfit.
When asked who his preferred player on the current Necaxa team, Perez started pointing repeatedly at the lineup sheet. DCFC hosted a social with Necaxa players on Monday night at the Motor City Casino.
“We met five of them,” he said. “We didn’t know about the event. We found out about it from one of the radio guys on Facebook live and we ran over to the casino.”
Martin Espita Sanchez of Detroit was with his daughter Guadalupe. He was wearing a Club America jersey but was intrigued by Club Necaxa’s visit to turn up for a DCFC match for the first time.
“Maybe pretty soon we will see some more,” Sanchez said.
DCFC co-owner Alex Wright hopes so, which is why Club Necaxa visit was paramount to the club’s international schedule. Le Rouge’s friendly slate this season included German second-division cult favorite FC St. Pauli in May and will wrap up with Italian Serie A team Frosinone Calcio on July 31.
“There is a massive untapped resource in this community — the Latino community in Metro Detroit — that loves this sport so much,” Wright said. “For all this talk about how pro soccer is going to change our world and everything is going to be different, how often do you hear other people talk about what Latino people have done for the sport, how they care for the sport and how they support the sport?
“Today, DCFC built a very, very important bridge to that community. Hopefully, a lot of Necaxa fans who came in left DCFC fans when they went out.”