Pontiac, MI (May 4, 2016)- The Michigan Bucks look to add to their team’s legacy in year 21 in the Premier Development League (PDL) when the perennial powerhouse opens their season with a first round U.S. Open Cup match against Detroit City FC (NPSL) on Wednesday, May 11 at Oakland University (7:30PM kickoff).
While the Bucks annually add many new faces from around the globe each spring, this year the team is going to rely on the veteran leadership of several returning players who are used to winning. The Bucks are building on two of the club’s most successful seasons in history by winning the PDL North American Championship in 2014 and securing the coveted PDL Regular Season title last year (best record of the 67 teams throughout North America).
A major key to annual success for the Bucks begins with a solid line of defense and the Great Lakes Division champs return nearly their entire defense, graduating only Zach Carroll (Michigan State) to January’s MLS Super Draft (NY Red Bulls). Anchoring the back line and returning for their third consecutive season are Francis de Vries (Christchurch, New Zealand/ St. Francis University) and Brad Ruhaak (Akron, OH/ University of Akron). The rest of the defense has two things in common; all are returning to the Bucks again this season and all played their college soccer at Western Michigan University. Outside backs Nick Wysong (Elkhart, IN) and Zack Bock (Novi, MI) will protect returning starting goal keeper Drew Shepherd (Ann Arbor, MI) as they did in Kalamazoo this past fall. To further solidify the Bucks defense that was one of the stingiest in conceding goals in the PDL last season is the return of defensive mid fielder Tom Owens for his third season in a Bucks uniform. Owens was last year’s team captain and has a knack for winning in the PDL, leading the Bucks to their last two titles after helping FC London win the PDL championship in 2012.
While the Bucks have always been proud of their staunch defense, scoring goals has been their forte over the years. The Bucks led the PDL in scoring last season but many of those goal scorers have moved on to play professional soccer elsewhere. The Bucks do have some returning threats in third year striker David Goldsmith (Bristol, England/ Butler University) and second year star Russell Cicerone (Bloomfield, MI/ University of Buffalo). The offense will be significantly upgraded by the return of Adam Najem (Clifton, NJ/ University of Akron). Najem is listed as one of the top players in college soccer and declined an opportunity to join NY Red Bulls this year as a homegrown signee so that he could finish his college career at Akron this fall. Najem signed with the Bucks early last season but did not see any action due to a spring injury prior to his club heading to Brazil last May.
The Bucks’ team begins to gather in Pontiac this week, where the Bucks will host their only open tryout on Sunday, May 8 (3-5 pm) at Ultimate Soccer Arenas. Any player still wanting to tryout for the high level club can do so by visiting the Bucks web site at www.buckssoccer.com and registering today.
While some of the players will join the team this week, the majority of the impact players will not arrive until early next week. According to Bucks’ Director of Coaching Gary Parsons, this will be a hectic week to try and decide who will be in the line up to start against Detroit City next Wednesday in a very important US Open Cup match. “We struggle with this problem every year with the college players. More and more schools are moving their schedules around so that many of the incoming players won’t be finishing their final exams until the end of next week. Add that with the travel schedule to get many of these players who are coming in from all over the country and it makes it difficult to play a meaningful game this early in the season. Fortunately this year we have some continuity on the defensive side of the ball that we will rely heavily on early in the season while we try and figure out who is going to step up offensively for us. We feel very good about the recruiting class we have coming in, but only time will tell,” said the legendary college soccer coach.
Demir Muftari returns for his fourth season at the helm as Bucks head coach and is excited to get started next week. “This is always a fun time of year for us because we get so much new talent that I have never even seen play live before and they get thrown into the mix with 40 guys for a coveted spot on the Michigan Bucks. It is a very difficult task to try and take all this talent and mold it together in a week or two to win games that need to be won, but I know the challenge and am ready to assemble another team that we hope will make a deep run in the Open Cup, but more importantly will challenge for more PDL hardware. We want to defend our regular season title and we want the PDL championship trophy back here in Pontiac this summer. This organization is all about winning and we need to start with a huge win in the Open Cup next Wednesday. It will be a tough challenge and I am going to rely on my veteran players for instant leadership.”
The Bucks do not open up their regular season until Saturday, May 21 against the defending champion K-W United at Ultimate Soccer Arenas, but the focus now is on May 11 at Oakland University, where the Bucks occasionally play home games when there is a schedule conflict with Ultimate. “When U.S. Soccer moved the first round game to May 11, we had no choice but to go to Oakland due to previous scheduling conflicts at Ultimate. We would much rather play anyone in the confines of our home environment, but you have to be prepared to adapt. While the atmosphere for the Detroit City game will not be anywhere near as loud and crazy as last year’s indoor match, one benefit that Oakland does provide is a larger capacity for fans. We sold out the 1,800 tickets to last year’s event and should be able to get as many as 2,500- 3,000 into Oakland University. It is the premier soccer field in the state of Michigan today so I think both teams will appreciate the grass field and the elements that go along with playing the game in an outdoor stadium,” said Bucks Chairman/ CEO Dan Duggan. “I think the atmosphere will be electric and US Soccer is promoting this local derby as the first round U.S. Open Cup match that you won’t want to miss- especially if you are a soccer fan in the state of Michigan.”
Tickets for the US Open Cup match are $15 at the gate (if available) but are ONLY $10 in advance by going to http://www.buckssoccer.com/ Groups of 20 or more can get tickets for only $8 each by contacting Bucks’ Director of Operations, Kelly Haapala at 248-521-2179 or sending an email to email@example.com
Anyone purchasing a Michigan Bucks Family Pass or Season Ticket gets this game included at no charge. Family Passes allow everyone in your immediate family access to all Michigan Bucks regular season home games ($250 value) for only $50. Individual season tickets allow any person entry to all Bucks regular season home games ($70 value) for only $25.
About PDL The proven developmental leader in North American soccer's evolving tiered structure, the PDL features 67 teams within four conferences throughout the United States and Canada in 2015, including 10 teams affiliated with USL or Major League Soccer clubs. The PDL has proven to be an important stepping-stone for top professionals now playing throughout the world, with 70 percent of all MLS draftees having PDL experience. The PDL season consists of 14 regular season matches for each team, seven home and seven away, and provides elite collegiate players the opportunity to taste a higher level of competition while maintaining their eligibility. In addition to league play, PDL teams compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as various exhibitions.
The Michigan Bucks Present the 2016 College Challenge at Ultimate Soccer Arenas on Saturday, March 19th.
Tickets for this Men's Soccer 2016 College Challenge are on sale NOW and are $12 at gate, $8 in advance, and $6 at gate with Student ID.
Click here to order online or contact Kelly Haapala, Director of Operations for tickets at KHaapala@BucksSoccer.com or call 248-521-2179.