Bucks Goal Keepers (Past and Present) Deliver On Center Stage
Shepherd notches 9th shutout; Hildebrandt douses Fire
Pontiac, MI (June 29, 2017)- The Michigan Bucks goal keepers made a huge buzz around the North American world of soccer Wednesday night as current keeper Drew Shepherd (Ann Arbor, MI/ Western Michigan) registered his ninth shutout of the season (in twelve matches played) and former Bucks goalie Mitch Hildebrandt (Livonia, MI/ Oakland University) added another upset to the Chicago Fire (MLS) resume in US Open Cup action for his current FC Cincinnati (USL Division 2). While Shepherd’s clean sheet stayed under the radar, Hildebrandt showed why he is a MLS caliber talent when he saved three penalty kicks to move his team to the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament before a national TV audience on ESPN.
In Pontiac, the Bucks hosted the Dayton Dutch Lions in the final of three regular season matches and jumped out to a 2-0 first half lead and increased their impressive unbeaten streak to nine games; eight by shutout. Shepherd, who missed the Bucks last two home games while training with MLS’s Sporting KC with teammate Francis Atuahene (Ghana/ University of Michigan), added to his clean sheet total for the season. Shepherd has a total of nine shutouts in twelve games started, including two US Open Cup matches, two US Amateur National championship games and five shutouts in PDL league play. The Ann Arbor native will give much of the credit to this outstanding resume to a stellar defense that has only yielded 8 goals in 14 matches (all competitions) this season. Center back Nick Walker (Trinidad) and holding mid fielder Brad Dunwell (Grand Rapids, MI/ Wake Forest) dominated the Dayton defense and kept the pressure off Shepherd all evening long.
The Bucks started the attack early and created several corner kicks and forced Dutch Lions goal keeper Michael Yantz to make two key saves in the first ten minutes, but the pressure kept coming and the Bucks finally broke through in the 21st minute. Jared Timmer (Grand Rapids, MI/ Butler) stole the ball at midfield and fed forward Jacob Bevan (England/ Western Illinois) down the left flank. Bevan turned on the after burners and cruised into the box before unleashing a low left footed rocket that left Yantz no chance for a 1-0 lead.
Bevan solidified his Man of the Match honors when he tore down the left flank again and sent a hard cross along the six yard box that went all the way back post and landed at the feet of Jordan Snell (Palm Bay, FL), who one timed his hard strike into the top of the goal for a 2-0 lead in the 32nd minute. From that point, the Bucks kept possession and killed off the balance of the first half.
The second half was much of the same as the Bucks continued attacking and the story of the half was Yantz, who did everything he could to keep his team in the game with their playoff lives hanging in the balance. Yantz stopped three glorious opportunities in the second half that kept the game close, but it was the Bucks defense that was poised to keep the clean sheet.
The Bucks focus now shifts to the week of the season that everyone has been focused on since the schedule was released in February. The Bucks travel to K-W United on Sunday and then return home to face K-W on Wednesday, July 5th in a match that could determine the eventual Great Lakes division champion. Both teams expected to be in the playoff hunt when the calendar turned to July and that is exactly where the PDL’s last three champions sit today. The Bucks (PDL champs in 2014 and 2016) sit in second place with a record of 6-1-2 (20 points) behind first place K-W (2015 PDL champs) with a record of 8-2-1 (25 points). With the Bucks having two games in hand and back-to-back games with their first place rivals, both teams have everything to play for in the next seven days. The Bucks defeated K-W 2-0 earlier this season in a game at Ultimate Soccer Arenas. Sunday’s match is set for Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario (4 PM kickoff), with the rematch on July 5th back at Ultimate.
Bucks head coach Demir Muftari had several positive take aways from the Wednesday match with Dayton. “Coming off of back to back ties where we feel we should have won both games, I wasn’t sure how we could come out but the team responded and cashed in the two first half goals. Our defense was solid as they have been all season. I would have liked to have seen some better second half finishing, but credit their keeper for coming up big. In the two games against K-W we will need to convert every opportunity we get; especially if we want to come home with a result on Sunday. This will most definitely be the toughest challenge we have had all year and we will prepare as best we can with a short turn around between now and Sunday.”
The Bucks return home from K-W United with back-to-back home games on Wednesday, and then again on Saturday, July 8 against the Cincinnati Dutch Lions. Both games are at Ultimate Soccer Arenas with kick off time at 7:30 PM. The Bucks will also celebrate Youth Night at both games, celebrating the local youth playing in and around the Detroit area. All kids 12 and under get in each game for only $5 and will have special meet and photo opportunities with the players after each game. Kids 5 and under are always free to Bucks home games. For more information, please visit the Bucks web site at www.buckssoccer.com and follow us on Twitter @MichiganBucks.
HILDEBRANDT BECOMES THE LATEST BUCK TO ADD FUEL TO THE CHICAGO FIRE
Mitch Hildebrandt played his last game in goal for the Michigan Bucks in the playoffs during the 2011 season. The next season he was the team’s biggest fan from outside the locker room when the Bucks upset the Chicago Fire with a 3-2 come from behind overtime thriller in the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. On Wednesday night in front of over 32,000 fans at his home stadium in Cincinnati, Hildebrandt finally got to add his name to the Bucks/ Fire rivalry that went far beyond the Open Cup but also to the two annual games the Bucks and Fire PDL team would engage in over the years. After making ten saves during the Round of 16 US Open Cup match against the Fire, Hildebrandt was called on to save his team and send the Fire packing once again. Mitch saved three of the Fire penalty kicks to help propel FC Cincinnati (USL) into the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup tournament. The outstanding performance by Hildebrandt over shadowed a goal line saving defensive play by team mate and former Buck Matt Bahner, that kept the game scoreless to get to the over time session. FC Cincinnati’s performance and huge upset had the team trending on Twitter and with the game televised nationally on ESPN, helped publicize yet another Michigan Bucks connected upset of the Chicago Fire. FC Cincinnati will travel to Miami FC (NASL) on July 12 to decide a winner which will move on to the tournament’s final four.