Hamtramck — Detroit City FC is hosting Mexico’s Club Atlas in an international friendly Saturday at Keyworth Stadium, which is turning into something of a Liga MX North.
Earlier this summer, DCFC played newly promoted FC Juarez in an exhibition before 6,901 fans at its Hamtramck home, losing 3-1. Last year, Le Rouge fell 2-1 to Club Necaxa before a near capacity crowd of 7,449 at Keyworth.
Mexican teams are a big draw wherever they go. Their fans are some of the most loyal and passionate in the world.
Guadalajara-based Atlas is the biggest club DCFC’s will have played in its ongoing series of international friendlies, which includes facing Italy’s Serie A Frosinone Calcio last year.
Atlas is in the middle of the Liga MX Apertura season, sitting in sixth in the 19-team competition with a 4-1-3 record. The 113-year old club’s chief rival is Chivas, which also resides in Mexico’s second largest city.
Saturday’s friendly is a tune-up for next week’s clash with Chivas as the soccer world is on an international break.
“I expect a tough, competitive game,” said Atlas midfielder Edson Rivera through an interpreter. “It’s a good opportunity to continue creating confidence within the team in much the same way the team has in the last few matches.”
Atlas received a shot in the arm, posting a 3-0 victory over 13-time title winners Club America Aug. 30.
By contrast, Atlas has only won the first division title once, and that was in 1951. Their fans are affectionately referred to as “La Fiel” (The Faithful) for their steadfast devotion despite a barren trophy case.
Such excursions north also help Liga MX extend their reach beyond the Latino community. Fox Sports carries matches with English commentary and the eight-team Leagues Cup competition features both Major League Soccer and Liga MX clubs.
“MLS and Liga MX clubs get to know each other and expand their markets,” said Roberto Garcia, Atlas spokesman.
DCFC, which will join the National Independent Soccer Association in spring 2020, has made inroads to the Metro Detroit Latino community through the handful of exhibition matches.
The grassroots organization has seen increased turnout through its DCFC/Detroit PAL Select Program and by numerous Spanish-speaking teams playing at its Detroit City Fieldhouse, owner Sean Mann said.
A Soccer Fiesta was planned Friday at Patton Park in southwest Detroit where Atlas players were expected to sign autographs and Le Rouge players perform a youth clinic. A similar program before the Necaxa match at Clark Park drew several hundreds of people last year, Mann said.
“To be on the same field as Atlas, one of the largest Mexican clubs, is an honor,” Mann said, “but it also helps give us credibility in the community.”
Detroit City FC vs. Club Atlas
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Keyworth Stadium
Tickets: $20 general admission