Canton, MI (May 26, 2012)- The Michigan Bucks made their fifth consecutive appearance at the Canton Cup Memorial Day soccer tournament on Saturday and upped their tournament appearance record to 5-0 when they dominated the Hamilton FC Rage in front of over 1,300 fans and participants attending one of the country’s largest youth soccer tournaments. The Bucks left their weather perfect indoor stadium at Ultimate Soccer Arenas for this special event and for the second consecutive year had to battle Mother Nature and the elements much sooner than their opponent. Just six minutes into the match, lightning delayed the festive event for nearly 90 minutes after the crowd was greeted with a special Memorial Day World War II fly over, color guards and dual national anthems. The break seemed to help the Bucks, who started only five of the eleven players that upset the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the second round of the US Open Cup on Tuesday. With several new faces in the lineup, the team came out flat and looked a bit unorganized from the opening whistle.
“As much as you hate to start a game and stop so quickly, it actually worked to our advantage,” said Bucks head coach Gary Parsons. “It gave us time to see how we lined up, how they were going to play us and we made the adjustments with our new personnel to go back and out restart the game as if we were starting fresh. The tactical changes worked, and the team responded with much more intensity on both sides of the ball.”
In the 29th minute, Bucks leading scorer Tom Catalano lined up a free kick from just outside the box. Catalano put the ball on the ground underneath a leaping Bucks player positioned in the wall and slotted it perfectly in the lower corner for a 1-0 lead. The goal was Catalano’s third of the season and second from free kicks. Five minutes later Anthony Grant (Bowling Green) would play a perfect ball through to Zach Steinberger (Butler) and he would notch his first goal of the season to make it 2-0 for the home team.
While the momentum was high, three minutes later in the 37th minute Nermin Crnkic would ignite the crowd with the goal of the game. Tuesday night’s hero Stew Givens launched a long throw across the penalty area where two players attempted to head the ball. When the ball would elude both players, the opportunistic Crnkic was already in mid air where he met the throw with a perfect side volley rocket from eight yards out making the score 3-0. Just before halftime, co-captain Simon Omekanda spotted Anthony Grant on a dead run through the middle of the park and put him in alone on Rage keeper Conor Hurley who had no chance and the locals went into the halftime break up 4-0.
With the game seemingly in hand, Parsons went to his bench in the second half to further explore the depth of his talented side, who were participating in only the second PDL regular season match. The Bucks are now 2-0 (6 points) in first place in the Great Lakes Division and 2-0 in the US Open Cup to remain perfect for the year. In the 55th minute, Grant would record his second goal of the game (and the season) when he headed home a beautiful cross from Sebby Harris for a 5-0 lead. The team was caught napping in the next minute when Hamilton would convert a turnover into a counter attack that would result in a goal by Stephen Powell. The Rage goal would ruin the shutout in the first appearance by keeper Sean Teepen (Charleston). The teams closed out the scoring by trading goals ten minutes apart. PDL all time leading scorer Kenny Uzoigwe would continue his Canton Cup streak of scoring when he blasted a close range shot in the near post top corner to make it 6-1 Bucks. Hamilton would finish the game’s scoring when Mark Reilly would beat Teepen after the Bucks defense was caught flat on an offside trap. The Rage fall to 1-1-1 (4 points) on the season.
The focus now quickly turns to the match of the season on Tuesday night when the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer heat up Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac (7:30 kick off) in what is certain to be the first sold out match in Bucks history at Ultimate since 2008. Bucks owner Dan Duggan was pleased with the fury of presale tickets purchased before the team made it back to Detroit from Pittsburgh on Wednesday afternoon. “Before we put the tickets on sale to the general public on Thursday, we had over 1,100 tickets purchased from our season ticket holders, long time loyal fans and sponsors and several of the youth clubs that have supported the Bucks over the years. We were very concerned about only having 6 days to sell tickets to the match and the fact that the match was the day after Memorial Day when many of our fans were just returning from a long holiday weekend. But the response has been phenomenal and the media is getting on board to help promote this huge event,” said Duggan. By the time we leave the Canton Cup tournament on Sunday night, I would be surprised if there were more than a couple hundred tickets still available. The Bucks will cap the capacity crowd at USA at just under 2,000 fans, including expanded general admission sections.
For those who have not yet ordered their tickets, there are still some VIP reserved seats which guarantee you a specific seat in the arena for only $15. General admission tickets are $12 at the gate (if available) and $10 if purchased on line. Tickets can be ordered at www.bucksscocer.com and clicking on the TICKETS link. Once tickets are sold out, the ticket links will be disabled. All tickets purchased will be left at Will Call and doors will open at 5:30 PM on Tuesday night at air conditioned Ultimate Soccer Arenas.
The Chicago Fire plays at the Columbus Crew on Saturday night and will bus to Pontiac, where they will train Sunday and Monday (sessions closed to the public). The Bucks are off Sunday and will resume training on Monday afternoon in final preparation for their opportunity of a lifetime to upset an MLS team for the second time in US Open Cup history.