Bucks Send Nine Players to MLS in January; Atuahene leads seven college picks; Hildebrandt, Grinwis sign deals
Pontiac, MI (January 22, 2018) - The Michigan Bucks continued their record of excellence in recruiting and player development when they upped their total number of players selected to Major League Soccer (MLS) to an incredible 75 since the inception of the MLS SuperDraft in 1999. Seven college players heard their names called at the 2018 SuperDraft last week, while two former Bucks standout goal keepers were upgraded from USL (Division 2) to MLS this past month as well. Mitch Hildebrandt (Livonia, MI/ Oakland) led the way with his outstanding play at FC Cincinnati to sign with Atlanta United FC just a few weeks before long time Bucks standout Adam Grinwis (Ada, MI/ University of Michigan) moved from Saint Louis FC to sign with Orlando City SC.
At the MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia last week, Francis Atuahene (Ghana/ University of Michigan) heard his name called early in the first round as the fourth overall pick to FC Dallas. The outstanding prospect turned heads with the Bucks this past summer, followed by an outstanding year at Michigan and a stellar performance at the MLS combine in Orlando prior to the draft.
With the 11th pick in the first round, FC Dallas chose another speed demon, Ema Twumasi (Ghana/ Wake Forest), also from the Right to Dream academy in Ghana. FC Dallas will be trying to replicate what the Bucks tried to do last summer by lining up two of college soccer’s most dangerous attackers simultaneously. Unfortunately, for the Bucks, due to both players college classes and minor injuries, they were never able to get the two talents on the pitch at the same time.
The first day of the MLS SuperDraft ended with Toronto FC choosing three-year Bucks goal keeper Drew Shepherd (Ann Arbor, MI/ Western Michigan University), moving north of the border to compete for the 2017 MLS Champions. Shepherd not only helped the Bucks win the PDL North American Championship, PDL Regular Season championship and Hank Steinbrecher USASA National Championship, but led the Broncos to their best season in program history this past fall.
As the draft continued on Sunday, Elliott Collier (New Zealand/ Loyola University) was selected by the Chicago Fire with the 49th overall selection. Fellow countryman Cory Brown (New Zealand/ Xavier) was drafted by the Vancouver Whitecaps at 62nd overall. To close out the third round, Alfonso Pinheiro (Brazil/ Albany) was the 71st pick, heading to DC United. Pinhero played one full season for the Bucks in 2015 before moving to FC Tucson to finish his memorable PDL career.
Oakland University product Wilfred Williams (Liberia) was the seventh Bucks alum to be selected in the draft as the 82nd overall fourth round selection to Sporting KC. Williams spent the better part of the past two seasons training with the Bucks, while attending MLS trials throughout the summer.
This year’s seven MLS selections match the Bucks best season of all time, when they also had seven MLS players chosen back in 2011, led by Zarek Valentin (Akron), who was the MLS SuperDraft's fourth overall pick that year. Valentin continues his successful MLS career with the Portland Timbers.
With Hildebrandt, Grinwis and Shepherd joining Steve Clark (DC United) in Division 1, every Bucks starting goal keeper from 2006-2017 is now playing in MLS. All four of the outstanding goal keepers helped win titles during their time with the Bucks. Clark (2006-2009) brought home the first PDL North American title in 2006. Hildebrandt held the fort for two seasons (2010-2011). Grinwis (2011-2014) won the regular season title in 2012 and both PDL national titles in 2014, as well as MVP of the 2014 post season tournament. Shepherd (2015-2017) won the most titles of all and is prepared to continue the tradition of great Bucks goal keepers at the next level.
Bucks Director of Coaching Gary Parsons was happy to see the number of young men receiving the opportunity to pursue their dream at the next level. “This is why Dan (Duggan) and I do this. We love being able to give the kids the chance to hear their name called and prepare for the next step in their career. We are proud of each of these young men and who they are was really exemplified in the moving speech delivered by Francis (Atuahene) when he was welcomed by the full house in Philadelphia. We have accomplished more than most any team in history but the most incredible stat of all is that the Bucks are the only team in North American soccer history- at any level- to have sent at least one player to MLS in each year since the draft began in 1999. That is a tribute to what this organization is all about. We look to continue that this season as we rebuild from graduating so many players,” said Parsons.
The Bucks will begin their 23rd season in the PDL this May, opening the season with a US Open Cup match with an opponent to be named in April. Players for the upcoming season will be announced, along with this year’s PDL schedule in the coming weeks. To follow the Bucks, please visit the web site at www.buckssoccer.com or follow us on Twitter @MichiganBucks, as well as on Facebook @MichiganBucksSoccer and Instagram @MichiganBucksPDL.
Bucks Undefeated Streak Ends At Fourteen As Stellar Season Ends
Des Moines advance with 2-0 win
Pontiac, MI (July 22, 2017)- The Michigan Bucks successful season came to a screeching halt on Friday night when the top seed in the PDL’s Central Conference were upset by the Des Moines Menace at Ultimate Soccer Arenas 2-0. The loss sends the defending PDL Regular Season and North American champions out of the playoffs sooner than the team expected. Des Moines moves on to face the Thunder Bay Chill tonight for a berth in the PDL Final Four as the Central Conference champion. Thunder Bay defeated K-W United 2-0 in the first semi final match of the evening.
The first half action really set the tone for an entire ninety minutes that resembled a heavy weight fight with both teams trading jabs but neither able to deliver a knock out punch. Most of the opening stanza was played between the eighteen yard boxes with few shots on goal. The Bucks did have the first quality chance when Jacob Bevan (England/ Western Illinois) thought his attempt from close range was the opening goal, but Menace keeper Kyle Ihn made a great one handed save that only resulted in a Bucks corner kick.
The Menace pressed going the other way and created seven corner kicks of their own on the night, but most were cleared away by the Bucks defense, spearheaded by PDL Defensive Player of the Year candidate Nick Walker (Trinidad), who had another monster performance anchoring the Bucks back line. Goal keeper Drew Shepherd only had to make a couple of saves on the night, but was instrumental in picking off several crosses and corner kick services as well. Shepherd may have played his last game in a Bucks uniform as he now moves on to captain Western Michigan University for his senior season. The Ann Arbor native hopes to take his game to the professional level following his final year in college this fall and three outstanding seasons in a Bucks uniform.
The Bucks and Menace came out in the second half and the defensive battle continued with the Bucks having less possession than they are normally accustomed to. The defending champs were frustrated by a tight marking Menace defense that limited their opportunities at goal. Bucks assistant coach Paul Thomas substituted newly added roster additions Nick Hinds (Plantation, FL/ Akron) and Giuseppe Barone (Grandville, MI. Michigan State) into the lineup to get some fresh legs and some instant offense along with Austin Ricci (Toronto. ON/ Oakland). The Bucks did generate more opportunities as Ricci proved to be a handful on the offensive end, but Ihn kept the Bucks off the score sheet for only the third time in twenty games this season.
In the 69th minute the entire game changed when Des Moines midfielder Ramone Howell cruised down the left flank and beat Shepherd on a low left footed shot from a tight angle that gave the Menace a 1-0 lead. From there the Bucks continued to press to get the game tying goal and looked to have done just that when Danilo Markovic (Queens, NY/ Sienna College) rose high above everyone and headed a corner kick service that beat Ihn, but went just wide of the goal.
The Menace doubled their lead with a late goal in the 82nd minute by Isaiah Madrid on a ball that bounced around in the box before he smacked home the insurance goal to knock the champs out of the post season tournament sooner than expected. The win for Des Moines over the Bucks was only the second victory in eight playoff appearances since their first meeting in 1997. The Bucks defeated the Menace in 2014 and 2016 en route to their past two PDL titles with 2-0 victories, and the Menace will try to return the favor as they are three wins away from their second PDL championship (2005).
Bucks coach Paul Thomas was understandable bitter after the defeat, but proud of the successful season the Bucks produced. “This is a difficult time to try and rationalize what just happened because we expected to make another deep run to the championship. Only one team ends the season on a high note and we get that, but this organization just isn’t accustomed to losing and this result just doesn’t sit well with any of us. We knew it was going to be a battle and Des Moines defended as well as you can defend our talent. They got the first goal and once that happened I thought we were going to relax a bit more and get the tying goal, but that never happened. Congratulations to them. They deserved the win tonight and we wish them well tomorrow,” said the fourth year assistant.
Bucks owner Dan Duggan wasn’t happy about the early exit but reflected on another successful season. “It is hard for me to use the word successful after a loss because we just don’t accept that concept here. This team hasn’t lost a game in nearly two months so this is a very strange feeling. On the positive side, we have qualified for the US Open Cup next season and get to defend our Steinbrecher Cup national championship next June so we did accomplish some positive on field results and this year’s team will be well represented next year. This was supposed to be our down year, with eight of last year’s players moving on to play pro soccer. Next year we have thirteen returning players from this team with the exception of a couple who may go pro early and we have never had that many returning players to begin a season so if you are looking ahead to next year, we will be stronger than ever before,” said the Bucks owner.
Several of the Bucks older players will pursue professional careers, including two of the team’s leading scorers Tom Owens and Andre Landell who both missed the playoff game while pursuing professional careers back in Europe. The majority of this year’s roster will take the next ten days off before reporting to their college teams to prepare for the fall season at their respective universities. To keep up on all the progress of all the Bucks players and their continued journey to professional soccer and beyond, please follow the Bucks on Twitter @MichiganBucks and stay up to date all year long on our web site at www.buckssoccer.com.
Bucks Ready to Host Tournament of Champions 2.0
Four current or former PDL champs return to Pontiac Friday
Pontiac, MI (July 20, 2017)- The Michigan Bucks will host the Premier Development League (PDL) Central Conference Final Four this Friday and Saturday at Ultimate Soccer Arenas for the third consecutive year. For the second straight year, the Bucks will welcome the same former PDL champions as last year to battle for a berth in the PDL Semi Finals next Saturday night. Thunder Bay Chill (2008 champs) play K-W United (2015 champs) in an all Canadian affair to kick off the double header at 5 PM Friday. The Bucks (2006, 2014, 2016 champs) will play host to the Des Moines Menace (2005 champs) in the night cap, kicking off at 7:30 PM. Tickets for the two games are only $10 Adults and $5 Youth and available at the door on Friday. The winners of the two Friday semi finals will face off on Saturday at 7:30 PM in the Central Conference championship match.
While K-W and Thunder Bay have never met before in PDL playoff action, the Bucks and Menace history goes back a long way. The teams are two of the league’s elder statesmen and most successful clubs in league history. The Menace joined the PDL in 1994 with the Bucks entering the league two years later. The two teams first met in the Central Conference Final Four in 1997 with the Bucks coming away with a 3-0 victory to advance to the PDL Finals in their second season. Since then the two powerhouses have faced off in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2011, 2014 and 2016. In the seven overall playoff meetings, the Bucks hold the edge 6-1 with Des Moines' only victory coming in their championship season in 2005.
Both teams know that history means nothing to the two teams that will take the field on Friday evening and both have their sights set on winning two games in Pontiac this weekend and see who else survives the other three Conference Championships to determine the next step for the eventual winner. The Bucks come into the game on a fourteen game unbeaten streak and are looking to extend that to eighteen games; which would mean the team would successfully defend their current PDL North American title.
Bucks head coach Demir Muftari has a deep bench and a long list of players to choose from on Friday to compensate for some of the injuries that the team has suffered over the three month season. “I imagine we are no different than any other team this time of year, although we have played four or five more games than some teams. To win this you need a deep bench and you need role players to step up and come through when called upon. I like the chemistry and the group we have brought along so far this season. Many of these guys have been with this organization in the past and understand what is about to take place over the next 48 hours. We need the veterans to step up and get us a win on Friday so we are alive to take the next step. We have a very good track record at Ultimate Soccer Arenas; especially in the playoffs the past few years. We want to keep that going,” said the current PDL Coach of the Year.
Discounted weekend playoff passes are available on line until the end of the day Thursday. Individual passes are only $10 and allow one person admission to all three games over both nights. The best value is the Weekend Family Pass for only $25. This pass allows everyone in your immediate family admission to all three games over Friday and Saturday for one low price. The two passes will NOT be available at the door and must be purchased online at www.buckssoccer.com before midnight.
Bucks Cruise As Top Seed With 4-0 Win; Host Playoffs Friday
Dunwell wins prestigious Scicluna Award as Bucks MVP
Pontiac, MI (July 16, 2017)- The Michigan Bucks closed out the regular season on Saturday with a dominating performance against the Derby City Rovers and came away with a 4-0 shutout at Ultimate Soccer Arenas. The Bucks finish the PDL season with a record of 10-1-3 (33 points); good enough to win the Great Lakes division title, gain the number one seed in the conference and earn the right to host the Central Conference playoffs for the third consecutive season. The Bucks will play the Des Moines Menace on Friday night (7:30 PM kick off) in the second match of the double header. Two Canadian teams will face off in the first game at 5:00 PM featuring the Heartland Division champion Thunder Bay Chill against K-W United. The winner of the two matches will face off on Saturday at 7:30 with the winner advancing to the PDL national semi final on Saturday, July 29th.
Saturday’s dominating performance by the reigning PDL champions was standard procedure for the team that finished last season with the most goals scored in the PDL and the fewest allowed. This season’s nine goals allowed was second to only Thunder Bay’s eight goals in the 68 team PDL, so defense was once again paramount for the Bucks.
Bucks leading scorer Jacob Bevan (England/ Western Illinois) opened the scoring against the Rovers in the 9th minute when he took a pass from Jared Timmer (Grand Rapids, MI/ Butler) and smacked a left footer past Derby City keeper Bailey Spade with what would eventually become the game winner. Timmer continued his hot streak of late three minutes later when he set up Austin Ricci (Toronto, ON/ Oakland) who finished from close range to make it 2-0 for the home side.
Midfielder Kyle Thomson (Park Ridge, IL/ Loyola) opened his scoring account with the Bucks when he nailed his free kick from 20 yards into the side netting to give the Bucks a comfortable 3-0 lead going into the halftime break. Defensively the Bucks kept everything in order and Drew Shepherd (Ann Arbor, MI/ Western Michigan) was only forced to make two first half saves to record his 10th PDL victory of the season and 14th in all competitions. Shepherd has also recorded twelve shutouts and only allowed eight goals in 17 matches played this season.
The Bucks continued to dominate the second half of play and were content to knock the ball around for most of the final stanza. While the home side did create several chances to increase the lead, only Jordan Snell’s (Palm Bay, FL/ Coker College) second tally of the season penetrated the Rovers goal and the game finished at 4-0 and the Bucks quickly shifted focus to playoffs on Friday and the Des Moines Menace.
The Bucks win increases their impressive undefeated streak to 14 games with their last loss in game number two of the regular season in Dayton where the Bucks lost 2-1 and have been unbeatable in the last two months.
Bucks head coach Demir Muftari feels good about the regular season and what the team has accomplished so far, but knows this team is far from reaching its potential. “Dan (Duggan) made it very clear to all of us from day one that we have the opportunity to accomplish some important goals for not only this year’s team but for next year’s as well. We won the Steinbrecher Cup so we are in the Amateur National championship next June. We won the division, so we are qualified for next year’s US Open Cup so those are important achievements. But what is really important is what is ahead of us and that is repeating as North American champions and that road starts on Friday against a tough Des Moines Menace team.”
Tickets for the PDL Central Conference championships will be available at the door for $10 Adults and $5 Youth (5 and under free). Special discounted Individual Weekend Passes and Weekend Family Passes will go on sale Tuesday at the Bucks web site at www.buckssoccer.com. Individual Passes are only $10 and allow an individual admission to all three games. Family Passes are the best deal in town and allow an entire family to all three matches on Friday and Saturday for only $25! Passes will only be sold pre sale online and will NOT be available the day of the game.
To keep up with the Bucks, follow us on Twitter @MichiganBucks and on Facebook at MichiganBucksSoccer.
DUNWELL WINS PRESTIGIOUS SCICLUNA AWARD AS BUCKS MVP
Third year Michigan Bucks starter Brad Dunwell (Grand Rapids, MI/ Wake Forest) was selected as the 2017 winner of the Paul R. Scicluna Memorial Trophy as the Bucks Total Soccer Player for the season. The honor is named after the long time youth soccer icon who started the Wolves and Hawks youth programs before dying in a tragic car accident in April 1999. Scicluna was a close friend and mentor to Dan and Jim Duggan and helped create the Bucks back in 1995. Only players and coaches are allowed to vote on the annual award winner that most exemplifies the Bucks winning mentality both on and off the field.
Dunwell has been a fixture in the defensive midfield for the Bucks since his freshman year at Wake Forest and is a true workhorse. Dunwell played nearly every minute of every game for the Bucks last summer leading them to the PDL title before playing nearly every minute of every game for Wake Forest as they lost the NCAA championship in heartbreaking fashion on penalty kicks.
Dunwell is looking to add to his ring collection with the Bucks before heading back to college to begin his junior season for the Demon Deacons next month. He is currently ranked as the #4 player in the country on the PDL Top Prospects list released earlier this month.
Bucks Win Record 14th Division Title With 4-1 Win in Chicago
Final regular season home game Saturday at Ultimate
Chicago, IL (July 13, 2017)- The Michigan Bucks cruised into the Windy City on Wednesday, weathered a huge storm along the way and defeated Chicago FC United 4-1 to clinch their Premier Development League (PDL) record 14th Great Lakes division title and the top seed in the Central Conference Final Four to be held on July 21-22 (venue TBD). While the Bucks look forward to potentially hosting the PDL playoffs, FC United’s post season hopes were dashed with the defeat. Michigan is now 9-1-3 (30 points) on the regular season and has extended their unbeaten streak to thirteen games. The Bucks finish the regular season at home on Saturday against the Derby City Rovers, where team management will award the annual Paul R. Scicluna trophy to the Bucks most valuable player at halftime.
The Bucks have been consistent from the opening whistle this entire season and have set a personal record of scoring in the game’s first ten minutes. Wednesday was no different when they jumped on the home team in the game’s first minute when forward Jacob Bevan (England/ Western Illinois) made himself right at home in the city he grew up playing youth soccer when he stole a lazy back pass from United and ripped a laser past Chicago goal keeper Sawyer Jackman. Bevan took over the team lead in goals for the Bucks this season by scoring his sixth PDL goal of the season.
Forwards Jared Timmer (Grand Rapids, MI/ Butler) and Austin Ricci (Toronto, ON/ Oakland) were a constant nuisance for the Chicago defense for the first twenty minutes and created several other opportunities to extend the Bucks lead. Timmer has led the Bucks attack the past three games and the only thing missing from his game was a goal on the score sheet. That came in the 19th minute when he stole a pass, danced through the box past two defenders and volleyed a smooth strike past Jackman for an early 2-0 Bucks lead.
The Bucks played Chicago twice earlier this season and defeated United 2-0 and then held a 2-0 lead late in the second match before FC United connected on two late goals to steal a point from the Bucks at home. The team wasn’t going to let history repeat itself and kept attacking to try and put the home side away before halftime.
The talented Chicago attackers created some first half opportunities, but Drew Shepherd (Ann Arbor, MI/ Western Michigan) was up to the challenge and made two great first half saves before the Bucks could get on the board again. In the 28th minute, Timmer broke out on another counter attack and played an overlapping Jamie Carey-Morrell (England/ Cal State- Bakersfield) into the penalty area and he first timed a right footed shot that went inside the far post and the Bucks were up 3-0.
Chicago struck back quickly four minutes later when Chris Mueller played Ryan Sierakowski in and he just managed to beat Shepherd from six yards out and the home side had new life before halftime at 3-1. The Bucks killed off the balance of the half and looked to regroup for the final 45 minutes after Chicago took the momentum of the game into the break.
The start of the second half was similar to the first half, without the first minute goal. The Bucks attacked and counted on their solid defense to kill any United FC counter attack. Brad Dunwell (Grand Rapids, MI/ WakeForest) and Nick Walker (Trinidad) were solid in the defensive third in front of Shepherd and continued to send the offense on its way where the Bucks often went end to end to create chances. Ricci put the game away for the Bucks in the 52nd minute when he took a neat through ball from Carey-Morrell and volleyed a left footer from close range into the corner of the goal to give the Bucks a 4-1 lead that they would not relinquish.
Bucks assistant coach Paul Thomas was glad to clinch the division title on the road to take some of the pressure of the last home game of the season. “We knew any result here in Chicago meant that we could relax a bit on Saturday. Chicago was playing for their playoff lives and we knew that if they won this game then we would have to win on Saturday AND there was a chance that we could see them in the first round of the playoffs. We have seen them three times and we really didn’t want to have to play them again, especially in a playoff game,” said Thomas. “With the potential for lightning storms that had hit the area all day, we wanted to start fast and get an early lead. Jacob’s first minute goal really got us off on the right foot.”
Now the Bucks shift their focus to Saturday against the Derby City Rovers and playoffs the following weekend at a site yet to be determined. Bucks Director of Coaching Gary Parsons was as happy as Thomas was to get the result in Chicago. “We really want to keep this unbeaten streak going. If we can get it to 18 games, that means we have won another championship, so that is the goal. We will work hard this next week to prepare for the playoffs, as we have some major personnel issues to deal with and injured players to replace. Training this next week will be as intense as it has been all year long. Since we don’t yet know whether we are hosting playoffs or traveling we are preparing for everything- playing inside, outside and on turf or grass. We want to be ready for whatever is thrown at us over the next three weeks,” said the PDL’s only back to back Coach of the Year (2011-2012).
With the undetermined venue for playoffs, this Saturday could be the last time the 2017 Michigan Bucks play at home when they host the Rovers at Ultimate Soccer Arenas (7:30 PM kick off). Tickets are available at the door for only $10 Adults and $5 Youth (5 and under free). The Bucks will be awarding the Paul R. Scicluna Memorial Trophy to the Bucks most valuable player, as selected by the team’s players and coaches. Scicluna, the long time youth soccer legend in the state of Michigan helped Dan and Jim Duggan start the Bucks back in 1995. This year’s Scicluna Award winner will be the 18th recipient of the award first presented in 1999 following Paul’s death in a car accident.
To keep up with the Bucks as they finish the 2017 regular season and head to the playoffs, please visit our web site at www.buckssocer.com and follow us on Twitter @Michigan Bucks.
Bucks Clinch Playoff Berth As Unbeaten Streak Reaches Twelve Games
Need one more win to clinch top seed in conference
Pontiac, MI (July 9, 2017)- The Michigan Bucks ended a hard fought battle with the Cincinnati Dutch Lions in a scoreless draw on Saturday night at Ultimate Soccer Arenas in an intense match that had a playoff feel from beginning to end. The Bucks (8-1-3, 27 points) retain first place in the Great Lakes division of the PDL’s Central Conference over K-W United and extend their unbeaten streak to twelve games, dating back to their last loss in the second game of the PDL regular season in Dayton. Cincinnati (5-5-2, 17 points) was officially eliminated from playoff contention with the tie but played like a playoff team in one of the hardest matches the Bucks have played all season. The Bucks have two remaining games left and a win from either would insure the team their 14th Great Lakes division title and the top seed going into the Central Conference Final Four, with the venue to be determined for the July 21-22 tournament.
The Bucks started the game attacking and put the Dutch Lions on their heels from the opening minutes. The Cincinnati defenders were up to the physical challenge and continued to knock down the Bucks forwards creating several early free kicks for the home side. Captain Tom Owens nearly converted the closest opportunity in the eighth minute when his free kick from 25 yards out hit the cross bar. Jared Timmer (Grand Rapids, MI/ Butler) created most of the opportunities in the final third and was constantly double teamed as he kept the pressure on Cincinnati keeper Zeus de la Paz, who made four saves in the first half, two from point blank range.
Cincinnati knew they had to get a win to keep their playoff hopes alive and had some nice strings of possession within the mid field, but the stingy Bucks defense kept most of the pressure off of Bucks goal keeper Drew Shepherd in the first half. While only forced to make one first half save, Shepherd continued his dominance in his box and was quick off his line to intercept crosses and any incoming danger. Shepherd finished the game registering his seventh shutout in ten PDL matches and his eleventh clean sheet of the season by turning away all four shots he faced.
The second half started out much like the first with the Bucks attacking and the Dutch Lions defenders doing what they had to do to contain the Bucks second half substitutions Austin Ricci (Toronto, ON/ Oakland University) and Francis Atuahene (Ghana/ University of Michigan). Both speedy forwards kept Cinci defending and eliminating most of their desire to go forward to attack.
Mid way through the second half, de la Paz was forced to make three outstanding saves from distance on shots from Ricci, Atuahene and Timmer respectively. The game went end to end for a ten-minute span and the Bucks finally got a call from the referee when Atuahene went by two defenders into the penalty area and was wrestled to the ground. The ref had no choice but to point to the spot and the Bucks had a penalty kick to try and break the scoreless draw in the 77th minute. Captain Tom Owens put his PK low to the corner but de la Paz guessed correctly and made a great diving save to keep the game scoreless. Neither team could finish a goal and the Bucks advanced to the playoffs for a PDL record 20th time in 22 seasons in the league with the draw.
Bucks head coach Demir Muftari warned the team prior to the game to be prepared for exactly the type of match that transpired. “Any time you come off emotional back to back wins like we did against K-W last week, you are afraid of a let down. Then you throw a good, scrappy squad that is fighting for their own playoff lives into the mix and you get a game that is probably going to be decided on one or two plays. That is exactly what happened tonight- except we did not make the play and their goalkeeper was outstanding keeping us off the board. That was one of the hardest matches we have played all year so credit to their coaches and players. The boys better be ready for a similar match on Wednesday because Chicago is in exactly the same position and needs to win to make the playoffs as well.”
The Bucks head to Chicago on Wednesday for the third meeting with Chicago FC United; another team fighting for its playoff life. The Bucks defeated Chicago 2-0 in the semi-finals of the Hank Steinbrecher Cup in early June and then played to a 2-2 tie on Father’s Day thanks to two second half goals by United to steal the point. The Bucks need one point from their final two games to clinch the Great Lakes title and a win in one of their final two matches will insure they are the top seed and hopefully be chosen to host the Central Conference tournament.
The Bucks finish the regular season at home next Saturday night against the Derby City Rovers at Ultimate Soccer Arenas (7:30 PM kick off). Tickets are available at the door for $10 Adults and $5 Youth. Kids five and under are free. This could be the Bucks last home game of the season depending on whom the league selects to host the first two rounds of the playoffs and then the Bucks ability to continue to win and advance during that first playoff weekend.
To keep up with all the updates on the PDL playoff scenarios and the playoff hosts as they are announced, follow the Bucks at www.buckssoccer.com or on Twitter @MichiganBucks.
Bucks Back On Top After Sweep of K-W; Unbeaten in Eleven Straight
Can clinch Great Lakes title with win on Saturday at Ultimate
Pontiac, MI (July 6, 2017)- The Michigan Bucks finished off their season series with Great Lakes division rival K-W United on Wednesday night with a 3-2 win that gave the Bucks a three game sweep over the Ontario based team. With the win, the Bucks reclaimed first place in the division and can clinch their record 14th Great Lakes title with a home win on Saturday against the Cincinnati Dutch Lions (Ultimate Soccer Arenas, 7:30 PM kick off). The Bucks (8-1-2, 26 points) had to hold on after an early 3-0 lead to finish off the 2015 PDL champs, who fall to second place with a record of 8-4-1 (25 points). The victory pushes the Bucks season unbeaten streak to eleven matches, the last nine in PDL regular season play.
The Bucks tried to attack early and had a couple of opportunities, but it was K-W with the early chances and forced Bucks goal keeper Drew Shepherd (Ann Arbor, MI/ Western Michigan) to make a couple of huge early saves to keep the visitors off the board. Shepherd would be the eventual Man of the Match as he made seven first half saves to allow the Bucks offense to do its thing and finished with ten stops on the night and moved his league record to 8-1 on the season.
Michigan threw an unorthodox lineup at K-W as head coach Demir Muftari was forced to use several players in new positions due to injuries that have depleted the Bucks normal starting eleven. Jared Timmer (Grand Rapids, MI/ Butler) was sent to play forward from him normal midfield position and defender Jamie Carey-Morrell (England/ Cal State Bakersfield) was moved from right back to the attack as well. The two moves paid dividends as Timmer was the most dangerous player in the attacking third for the Bucks and Carey-Morrell played a nice ball over the top for the game’s first assist when Jacob Bevan (England/ Western Illinois) lobbed the keeper in the 16th minute for his 5th PDL goal.
With the Bucks up 1-0, the home side kept the pressure on and captain Tom Owens (England) stepped up to take a 20 yard free kick in the 20th minute. Owens swung a perfect ball into the box that was headed home by Kyle Thomson (Park Ridge, IL/ Loyola) for his first goal of the season. The assist was Owens’ team leading sixth of the year. The teams went into halftime at 2-0 and the Bucks knew the second half was going to be a battle.
K-W came into the game knowing they had to defeat the Bucks to have any real chance at knocking off the current division and PDL champs. Both teams came out attacking in the second half and it was Timmer and the Bucks who had the best chances, earning four early second half corner kicks. The Bucks could not convert on the corner kicks but kept the United defenders deep in their own zone for the first part of the half.
Second half sub Austin Ricci (Toronto, ON/ Oakland University) took a throw in from Alexi Souahy(France/ Bowling Green) and turned to run across the field from twenty two yards out when he saw a small opening between two defenders and rifled a low shot that went side netting and gave the Bucks what they thought would be the knock out blow and a 3-0 lead in the 55th minute.
K-W never quit and kept trying to connect their two most dangerous attackers in Ken Krolicki and Jannik Loebe. For the most part, the last pass was usually intercepted by Bucks center back Nick Walker (Trinidad), who had another monster game at the back winning every ball that came near him. Until the 65th minute.
K-W played a ball across the inside of the eighteen yard box that Walker went to intercept and was called for a foul for knocking down the United forward. Loebe stepped up and converted the ensuing penalty kick and the visitors were on the score sheet, down 3-1.
Both teams went up and down in the next fifteen minutes that resulted in great saves at both ends of the field. While the Bucks searched everywhere for the fourth goal, it was K-W that made it a one goal game in the 79th minute. Second half sub Wes Cain made a nice solo run through the box after a Bucks turnover and smashed home a shot that left Shepherd no chance for a 3-2 score line. The Bucks tightened up defensively the rest of the way, with Walker leading the defensive effort to take all six points from the home and home series.
Muftari was glad to see his tactics pay dividends at the end of the epic battle. “If you told me we were going to score three goals against this team tonight before the game, I would have taken that and been the happiest guy in the building. We didn’t expect to yield two goals and that PK definitely changed the momentum in their favor. I loved the way we battled the entire game and hopefully the way we were forced to defend a 3-0 lead and escape with a win will pay dividends down the road. Anytime you beat any team in our league three times, it is a major accomplishment. Beating one of the best teams in the PDL three times is something special that we need to continue to build on this Saturday. We want to beat Cincinnati and host playoffs to defend our title on home turf as long as we can,” said Muftari.
Cincinnati comes into Ultimate Soccer Arenas with slim playoff hopes still alive and would need a win over the Bucks and a K-W loss to keep United from clinching the second and final playoff spot in the Great Lakes. The Bucks only need one win from their final three regular season games to clinch and look to do that this Saturday night. Tickets for the match are $10 Adults at the door and all youth get in for only $5 (5 and under free).
To follow the Bucks run to the 2017 PDL playoffs to defend their title, visit the Bucks web site at www.buckssoccer.com and follow us on Twitter @MichiganBucks.
FIRST BUCKS CAMP AT USA BEGINS MONDAY; SIGN UP TODAY!!!
The first of two 4 day Michigan Bucks youth soccer camps begins at Ultimate Soccer Arenas on Monday, July 10 through Thursday, July 13. Camp runs from 9-3 each day and is directed by the Bucks professional and college players. Bucks camp is open to both boys and girls ages 6-15 and all players will be grouped based on their skill level. All campers receive a Bucks t-shirt, certificate of completion and extended one on one time with some of the top players in North America.
Bucks camp is focused on all campers having a great experience in a fun, yet challenging environment. The coaches’ focus on foot skills, ball control, passing and shooting at all levels during the four day training session. All campers will receive four tickets to an upcoming Bucks home game to see their coaches as they make the stretch run for the PDL playoffs.
Bucks camp is not only the best training in town, but the best value for money as the first child in each family pays only $179, while each sibling pays only $149. There are two camps available at Ultimate Soccer Arenas this summer including the first camp that begins on Monday. The second camp will run from Monday, July 31 to Thursday, August 3. For more information, please visit the Bucks web site at www.buckssoccer.com and click on the CAMPS link.
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