Muftari, Abubaker, Najem recognized for individual efforts
Pontiac, MI (August 5, 2016)- The Michigan Bucks continued to add to their magical 2016 Premier Development League (PDL) season on Friday when they collected three individual awards the night before they face off against Calgary Foothills FC in the PDL Championship game presented by Nike. Head coach Demir Muftari was named PDL Coach of the Year, while stand out defender Lalas Abubaker took home the prize as the PDL Defender of the Year. Hermann Award preseason favorite Adam Najem was awarded the Creative Player of the Year.
In just his fourth season at the helm, Muftari has led the Bucks to winning the PDL North American Championship in 2014 and back to back PDL Regular Season titles in 2015/2016. With a win on Saturday night, that would give the longtime Vardar academy coach an unprecedented four PDL championships in four years. Bucks Chairman/CEO Dan Duggan was grateful the league awarded Muftari for his consistent achievement. “Demir has excelled since taking over the reigns for Gary (Parsons) at the beginning of the 2013 season. It was a quick learning curve when he went from coaching a group of great young academy players that he was very familiar with to assembling a group of young, hungry professional players that come to live and play here from May to July. He has had some of the highest quality players to choose from over the years, and that takes a whole lot of balancing playing time, egos, relationships and all the other important elements necessary to mold a championship team. The organization works hard to bring in a lot of top talent, but it truly takes a unique individual to garner the success he has had in the past four years. I couldn’t be happier for him and I know Gary is proud of the job he has done.”
Parsons currently serves as the Bucks Director of Coaching and was the only coach in PDL history to ever be named PDL Coach of the Year in back to back seasons when he led the team in 2011-2012. Parsons’ main role with the Bucks is to assemble both the coaching staff along with Muftari and to find the best forty players each year to invite to Bucks camp in early May.
Abubaker is heading into his senior season at the University of Dayton, where the outstanding athlete is going to be visited by many of the MLS clubs who have expressed interest in his services next season. The former U-20 Ghana national team player has played nearly every minute of every game this season for the Bucks and has been a consistent dominating force along the back line. His outstanding speed, strength and athletic ability have drawn interest from teams outside of MLS as well. In addition to being one of the most solid defenders in the PDL, Lalas’ leaping ability makes him a constant threat in the Bucks attacking third on set pieces and corner kicks.
Abubaker is the fourth Bucks player to win Defender of the Year in team history. Kevin Cope (Michigan State) won the honor in 2012, Stew Givens (Oakland University) in 2011 and Kevin Taylor (University of Michigan) took home the trophy in 2005.
Najem became the Bucks second ever PDL Assist leader after Hall of Fame legend Paul Snape earned the prestigious title in 1999. The Akron Zip playmaker continues to lead the Bucks potent offensive attack that has led the league in scoring.
Muftari is the fourth Bucks manager to win the PDL Coach of the Year following Steve Burns (1997), Joe Malachino (2000) and Parsons (2011-2012). Although pleased with the honor, Demir had his mind on a bigger prize. “As much as we appreciate the honor and recognition for the individual awards, we would all gladly trade the individual trophies for the big cup we are all playing for tomorrow night. There are really too many good players and unsung heroes in this locker room to only recognize a few. We know what we have worked for all season and how much each has contributed to our success. The only way to share that is to be able to drink from the cup for a record third time. That is the only goal left to accomplish.”
The Bucks and Foothills face off on Saturday night at Ultimate Soccer Arenas (7:30 PM kick off). Tickets are only $6 all ages, general admission and available at the door. Children 5 and under are always free to Bucks home games. For discounted prices on groups of 20 or more, please contact Kelly Haapala at 248-521-2179.
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