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.