Bucks Unbeaten Streak Goes To Seven
Tie with Chicago keeps the team in playoff hunt
Pontiac, MI (June 18, 2017)- The Michigan Bucks hosted Chicago FC United on a late Sunday Father’s Day evening and came away with a hard fought but disappointing 2-2 draw with their rivals from Chicago. Two late second half goals leveled the game for the visitors and the Bucks shutout streak of over 600 consecutive minutes came to an end with a tie that felt more like a loss for the home side. The tie leaves the Bucks with a record of 5-1-1 (16 points) at the half way mark of the PDL regular season, two points behind K-W United for the Great Lakes division lead. The Bucks and K-W square off in back to back games the week of July 2 to determine the division leader coming into the home stretch. The top two teams from each division make it to the PDL playoffs, which begin on July 21.
The Bucks started the game as they have most matches this season by attacking from the opening whistle. The home side registered an early attack and shot on goal in the first minute and that would set the tone for the first half of play. The Bucks got on the board first in the second minute of action when Austin Ricci (Toronto, CA/ Oakland University) made a nice pivot and turn at the penalty spot and ripped a low hard shot for the corner that was saved by a diving effort from Chicago goalkeeper James Barkei. Ricci’s shot was too hot to handle and the rebound was pounced on by Ivo Cerda (Chile/ University of Michigan), who slammed home his second goal of the season for a 1-0 Bucks lead.
The home side did not take their foot off the gas and kept most of the possession and by the seventh minute mark had already forced Barkei to make four saves. In the 19th minute, captain Tom Owens (England) sent in a perfect long free kick from just inside mid field and was met by a great flick on header by Andre Landell (England) that went into the top corner to give the Bucks a comfortable early 2-0 lead. The duo leads the team in scoring this year, with Owens picking up his fifth assist on Landell’s fifth PDL goal.
The second half started out similar to the first half, with the Bucks controlling play, but that quickly changed with the addition of a couple of second half Chicago subs. FC United started to control the midfield and took control of the match for the middle portion of the second half and started to wear down the Bucks solid defensive unit. Chicago had several good looks at goal, but their most dangerous chances sailed wide of the target. Bucks goal keeper Anthony Mwembia (France/ Bowling Green) was making his first start in a Bucks uniform for PDL goal keeper of the week Drew Shepherd and came up with his first big save in the 61st minute.
In the 77th minute, a Bucks turn over was collected by Chicago forward Qudus Lawai, who ripped a low right footed shot from twenty two yards out that eluded Mwembia and the Bucks lead was cut in half with the visitors buzzing. The goal also ended the Bucks scoreless streak at 602 minutes. They had not yielded a goal in over six matches, dating back to early in the first half on May 30th against St. Louis FC in the third round of the US Open Cup.
The Bucks knew they needed another goal to put the game away, but their close range free kicks and corner kicks could not produce a security goal. Chicago kept pressing for the game tying strike and finally hit pay dirt in the 89th minute when Chris Mueller curled an excellent free kick into the top corner to steal a point from the home side that conceded a late goal for the first time this season. With the tie, Chicago’s record moves to 1-1-4 (7 points) and leaves them in fifth place in the Heartland Division with a whole lot of work to do to earn one of the two playoff spots available.
Head Coach Demir Muftari was not happy with the second half let down or the play of his second half subs coming into the game. “Anytime you get an early 2-0 lead on a quality team like Chicago, you have to put them away with a third goal or you are in for a fight until the end. That is exactly what happened tonight. We had opportunities earlier in the game to make our life a whole lot easier but for some reason this team just can’t seem to deliver the knockout punch. We have been solid all year defensively and should have been able to rely on keeping a 2-0 lead but we were under pressure for a good portion of the second half and I was counting on our players off the bench to put this game away. Chicago got quality efforts from their bench and that was the difference. Being 5-1-1 at the halfway point is nothing to be ashamed of and we are right where we need to be in the hunt but when we look back at the two games that we did not win in the first half, you have to shake your head and wonder why we let either game slip away. This is something we will have to build on for the stretch run, as we have K-W on back to back games and then we see this same Chicago team for a third time late in the season,” said the reigning PDL Coach of the Year.
The Bucks defeated Chicago FC United 2-0 in Cleveland earlier in June en route to winning the Hank Steinbrecher Cup and the team’s ninth national championship. Michigan travels to Chicago for the last road match of the season on Wednesday, July 12. The Bucks next match is a trip to Louisville, KY this Thursday when they will face off with the Derby City Rovers for the first time this season. Kickoff at Derby City is 7:30 PM.
The team returns home on Wednesday, June 28th to host the Dayton Dutch Lions for Scout Night at Ultimate Soccer Arenas. In honor of all the scouts in the metro Detroit area, the Bucks have a special tribute to the scout troops and scouts get in for only $3 and $5 for all family members. The first 200 scouts in attendance will earn a special badge commemorating the evening with the PDL champs.
For more information about the Michigan Bucks 22nd PDL season, please visit our web site at www.buckssoccer.com and follow us on Twitter @MichiganBucks.
Bucks Shutout Streak Continues With 1-0 Win in Dayton
Chicago up next at 9 PM on Father’s Day at Ultimate
Dayton, OH (June 15, 2017)- The Michigan Bucks extended their shutout streak to five games in Dayton when they earned a hard fought 1-0 win over the Dutch Lions on the road Wednesday evening. The Bucks (5-1-0, 15 points) sit just a game behind K-W United (6-1-0, 18 points) for the top spot in the Great Lakes Division of the Premier Development League (PDL), with a game in hand. The Bucks will host a very important match on Sunday night (Father’s Day) against Chicago FC United to conclude Youth Tryout Week at Ultimate Soccer Arenas. Specially priced Father’s Day tickets are $5 at the door (all ages, 5 and under free).
The Bucks returned to Dayton on Wednesday with revenge on their mind, as the Dutch Lions provided the only blemish on the Bucks otherwise perfect season. The Ohio team converted two Bucks errors into goals and won the first of three matches this season by a score of 2-1. Michigan wanted no repeat performance of the May encounter and looked to continue on the solid defensive play that has enabled the team to play over 525 consecutive minutes without yielding a goal. The Bucks game plan worked in the first half in Dayton but provided for a very slow opening stanza as the visitors came out flat and played an uninspired first forty five minutes of uneventful soccer. The Bucks had the only real chances in the first half by creating a few corner kicks and a couple of free kicks from inside 25 yards, but failed to convert any of these.
The Bucks woke up in the second half and seemed to be a completely different team coming out of the break and immediately began to attack the Dayton goal in a manner that Bucks fans are accustomed to seeing. A great deal of the credit for the Bucks inspired second half domination came from the addition of Austin Ricci and Francis Atuahene into the second half lineup. The two attackers made an immediate impact and changed the balance of the game by keeping the Dutch Lion defense on its heels for most of the last thirty minutes.
Dayton goal keeper Michael Yantz became the Man of the Match for the Dutch Lions when he faced 13 second half shots and made 9 saves; many of them from inside the six yard box. Between the 55th and 60th minute, Yantz made two double saves from corner kicks and somehow saved a close up Ricci shot that was surely going to be the go ahead strike. Yantz’ save fell to the feet of Atuahene at the back post, who had a tap in saved off the line by a sliding Lions defender to keep the game scoreless.
The Bucks pounded the Dayton goal for the next ten minutes and earned another four corner kicks, but could not get anything past Yantz until the 75th minute. The Bucks built up nicely from mid field and Jared Timmer’s run up the middle of the park attracted two defenders to close down the Grand Rapids, MI native. Timmer calmly played the ball to Tom Owens who one timed a ball on the left wing to defender Alexi Souahy who was making a run into the penalty area. Souahy coolly slotted his low left footed shot near post that left Yantz no chance and the Bucks were on the board 1-0.
While the team continued to attack looking for the second goal to put the game away, it was the stellar defense anchored by Nick Walker and Brad Dunwell that frustrated the Lions all night. Dayton managed to get only four shots off for the game, forcing reigning PDL Goal Keeper of the Week Drew Shepherd to make two saves. Although the save count appears to have made Shepherd a pedestrian on the night, the aggressive goal keeper was instrumental in breaking up every long ball that Dayton knocked over the top in an effort to avoid the Bucks stingy back line.
Assistant Coach Paul Thomas liked what he saw in the second half, but was not pleased with the first half effort. “It was by far our worst 45 minutes of the season. We were flat and were not playing with intensity or passion. We were knocking the ball around but not going anywhere. That is not Bucks soccer and we talked about that at half time. One of the Dayton players said we came to steal a point, insinuating we were playing for a tie. I think that fired up the boys a bit. This team wouldn’t know how to play for a tie if their lives depended on it. For some reason we just were not in attack mode the first half, but the field tilted in a hurry in the second half. We should have scored several more, but credit their keeper. He kept them in the game until the end” said Thomas.
Now the Bucks will face an old rival on Sunday in Chicago FC United, formerly known as Chicago Fire U23. The two clubs have combined to have sent over 150 players to Major League Soccer in the past twenty years and Sunday’s match will feature at least ten future MLS players as well. The Bucks and United played in the semi- finals of the Hank Steinbrecher Cup for the USASA National Amateur championship two weeks ago and the Bucks came away with a hard fought 2-0 victory.
Chicago desperately needs a win to keep in the playoff hunt in the Heartland Division of the PDL, as they enter the match with a season record of 1-1-2 (5 points).
All tickets are $5 at the door on Sunday night for the 9 PM game at Ultimate Soccer Arenas, which will bring the Bucks PDL season to the halfway point. For further information about the Bucks, please visit our web site at www.buckssoccer.com and follow us on Twitter @MichiganBucks.
Bucks Post Back to Back Shutouts For Second Straight Weekend
Move to 4-1 in Great Lakes Division
Charleston, WV (June 11, 2017)- The Michigan Bucks went on another long road trip and for the second consecutive weekend came home with two shutout wins over quality opponents. Thursday the Bucks traveled to Northern Kentucky University and defeated the Cincinnati Dutch Lions 2-0 before heading to Charleston, West Virginia on Saturday and blanking the Chaos 3-0. The Bucks record in the Premier Development League Great Lakes Division moves to 4-1-0 (12 points), good for second place behind K-W United (5-1-0, 15 points).
The Bucks registered back to back shutouts for the second consecutive weekend on the road against meaningful opponents and now focus their attention on a Wednesday night rematch with the Dayton Dutch Lions; the only team that has defeated the Bucks this season. Drew Shepherd (Ann Arbor, MI/ Western Michigan) has been solid in goal all season and recorded his seventh shutout in ten matches so far this season in all competitions (PDL, US Open Cup, National Amateur Championship). Shepherd made several key saves over the past two weekends and now the Bucks defense has played over 435 consecutive minutes without conceding a goal.
The Bucks faced off against the Cincinnati Dutch Lions for the first time this season and pressed for an early goal to put the home team on their heels. It didn’t take long as the team dominated the opening minutes and Daniel de Oliveira (Brazil) stole a pass in the fourth minute and went in on goal, only to have his effort saved by Dutch Lions keeper Zeus de la Paz for a Bucks corner. Captain Tom Owens (England) launched the ensuing corner kick into the box where the ball bounced to Jacob Bevan who made a quick flick to Andre Landell (England) who left his feet and volleyed home the game’s first goal. Landell’s goal was his fourth game winner in the Bucks eight total victories this season.
The Bucks continued pressure from all sides of the field and produced the second goal of the game in the 21st minute. New comber Jacob Bevan (Oxford, England/ Western Illinois) continued to show his ability to finish when he scored his second PDL goal of the year in two games when he finished a quality de Oliveira cross from close range. The goal was a classic Bucks style goal which began at their own 18 yard line and four passes later, the ball was in the back of the net and the game in check.
The Bucks cruised through the second half keeping most of the possession and making the Cincinnati team chase on a huge field that the Bucks took advantage of. Shepherd was only called on to make a couple of saves in this match, but he came up big twice to keep the shutout streak alive and the Bucks headed to Charleston, West Virginia with their third road shutout in six days.
Saturday, the Bucks played the Chaos for the final time this season, having defeated the West Virginia side 6-2 last month at the Canton Cup Memorial Day soccer tournament. The Bucks dominated this match as well, maintaining the majority of the game’s possession, while shooting from every angle possible in the opening half. The plan was to try and score early in the first half as the Bucks did in Canton when they jumped out to an early 3-0 first half lead, but the Chaos were having no part of that repeat performance.
It looked like the Bucks would score early when Jared Timmer (Grand Rapids, MI/ Butler) walked in past three defenders and ripped a laser headed for the top corner in just the second minute of action. Chaos goal keeper Kiernan Harrison made a great diving save to tip the ball out for the Bucks first of many corner kicks on the evening. Through the first 20 minutes, the Bucks had six glorious chances to score but could not find the back of the net. Meanwhile, Shepherd came up big on his only save during that time frame. In the 20th minute, Bevan took a pass from Timmer and entered the penalty box on the left side and ripped a low left footed shot that beat Harrison on the near post for a 1-0 Bucks lead. Bevan has now scored in all three PDL matches he has featured in this season. The Bucks continued to pound the Chaos goal for the balance of the first half but could not increase the lead.
West Virginia nearly scored the game tying goal at the stroke of halftime when a lazy Bucks pass at the back was intercepted by a Chaos forward and he went in alone on Shepherd. Drew was quickly off his line and the two ended in a heavy collision at the top of the box, where Shepherd made a great sliding save to keep the clean sheet in tact.
The Bucks started to feel the effects of their fourth road game in eight days in the second half and just couldn’t find the final pass to put the game away. Bucks coach Paul Thomas subbed in fresh legs and the Bucks dominated the balance of the match. Austin Ricci (Toronto, Canada/ Oakland University) came in to the game in the 65th minute and had an immediate impact on things. His run down the right flank and pin point cross found the head of Andre Landell at the back post for the Bucks second goal of the match in the 73rd minute.
Ricci closed out the scoring with the weekend’s best finish and one that would contest for PDL goal of the month in the 89th minute. Jordan Snell (Palm Bay, FL) played Ricci through the middle of Chaos defense and he used his speed to put himself in the clear. While running full speed at goal from 25 yards out, he somehow saw the keeper coming off his line and lobbed a shot that went into the top corner and left Harrison with no chance.
Coach Thomas was pleased with the six points but more impressed from the solid effort from the entire 17 man squad that made the trip. “It is always tough to go on the road and it is even harder playing back to back games like we did last weekend and then two in three days this weekend. You need a full bench to come away with two wins and we showed that again this weekend. Our young players that made this trip are maturing very quickly and are earning spots on this team due to their commitment to the plan. We focused on playing solid defense first and keeping the opponent off the scoreboard and then to attack. But with the talent on this team, it is hard to get them out of attack mode. Everyone of them is solid going forward and really put pressure on both opponents this weekend. We need to keep the intensity when we go into Dayton on Wednesday to get some revenge for the earlier loss this season” said the third year assistant coach.
Following the Wednesday road trip to Dayton, the Bucks return home on Father’s Day, next Sunday when they welcome their long time rivals from Chicago to Ultimate Soccer Arenas. To follow the Bucks game in Dayton for an Internet radio feed or possible live stream, please follow the Bucks on Twitter @MichiganBucks.
PDL 2016 Championship MVP Russell Cicerone with PDL Director Todd Eason
Coach Muftari PDL Coach of the Year, Adam Najem Creative Player of the Year and Lalas Abubakar Defender of the Year