Hamtramck — Detroit City FC's pro aspirations were given a dose of reality Wednesday in a 3-1 defeat to Mexican first-division side FC Juarez before 6,901 spectators in an international friendly at Keyworth Stadium.
DCFC played the top-flight side touch for touch for 30 solid minutes before the newly promoted side's professional pedigree began to take over.
Eder Borelli and Lucas Silva struck for two quick goals late in the first half as FC Juarez erased a 1-0 deficit on a Le Rouge strike by Shawn Lawson in the 17th minute.
DCFC took the lead on a give-and-go between strike partners Max Todd and Lawson taking advantage of an FC Juarez defender slipping. Todd found Lawson at the back the net and the former Oakland University standout knocked in his fifth goal in three matches.
The Mexican visitors bided their time and found the seams to strike twice within two minutes later in the first half.
DCFC coach Trevor James felt the international friendly was a teachable moment for his team, which came in riding an 11-game unbeaten streak in National Premier Soccer League play (8-0-3).
"They learned that if you give the ball away cheaply, it's hard to get it back," James said. "It puts a premium on keeping the ball and making decisions and not making high-risk passes.
"We also learned that we can play. The way we can pass and create passes and get behind people and play behind the gaps with the Shawns (Lawson), the Dannys (Deakin) and the Maxes (Todd), and we can do it against a team at this level."
Borelli snuck through on the left side and hit a shot on the side of his left foot that eluded starting goalkeeper Owen Finnerty before bouncing into the corner of the net.
Silva came down the right side and rounded Finnerty before depositing the go-ahead goal in the 39th minute. Flavio Santos set up both goals to give FC Juarez the 2-1 lead at halftime.
DCFC made wholesale changes at halftime, which produced a scoring chance when Tommy Buono nodded a through ball to Santiago Agudelo but the forward's shot trickled wide in the 60th minute.
FC Juarez's Gabriel Hachen caught DCFC substitute keeper Hunter Morse off his line and lobbed it past him to put the visitors up 3-1.
Le Rouge did serve notice early that they weren't going to get muscled off the ball. Todd, who stands 5-foot-9, came out on top of a couple duels for 50-50 balls, one of which led to DCFC's lone goal.
"It's all in the legs," Todd said. "I did a lot of gym work growing up and I played for a professional club (Hibernian FC) and I did a lot of gym work for my age.
"I feel it helped me in this game especially. You to have to be strong. Otherwise they run you over, no matter who you are."
Los Bravos are cramming for their debut in the Mexican Apertura, which starts July 19 against Club Atlas. Last month, the second-division club bought Lobos BUAP and took the Puebla-based outfit's spot in the top tier.
As a result, FC Juarez replaced Lobos BUAP as DCFC's opponent in Wednesday's scheduled friendly. Le Rouge also hosts Mexican first-division side Club Atlas on Sept. 7.
The team flew in Tuesday afternoon and had an early morning training session Wednesday in a conference room at Motor City Casino Hotel where it stayed.
A handful of FC Juarez supporters could be seen at Keyworth, wearing the club's distinctive green jerseys. A few diehards sported Indios shirts, which was the team that preceded Los Bravos in the Mexican border city before disbanding five years ago.
In the book, "This Love Is Not For Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juarez," American journalist Robert Andrew Powell chronicled how people in Juarez found sanity in the city's soccer team Indios amid the drug-related violence. Things have taken a brighter turn since.
Gary Gruskowski of Pleasant Ridge, who took in Wednesday's match with a college friend from Honduras, visited Juarez last summer with his wife Julia.
"I was a little leery because I heard kind of negative things about Juarez, about it being one of the most dangerous cities in the world back in 2012," he said. "I was totally surprised. We didn't see any signs of violence. We weren't scared about our safety or anything.
"It just goes to show you about what you see in the media and then once you go there ... I mean we're from Detroit. There are some people who are scared to come here and the reality is you're fine. That was our take on it."