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As the summer soccer season in Metro Detroit draws to a close, the final event in the area at the highest current level of league competition is the United Soccer Leagues PDL Conference Championships. The Bucks finished in first place of the Great Lakes Division, the Central Conference, and the entire 73 team PDL. Winning 13 of 16 and only losing once, the Bucks enter the playoffs as the regular season PDL Champions.
Leading the league with 46 goals scored and tying Carolina Dynamo and the Thunder Bay Chill for least goals conceded with 10, the Bucks have proven themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Keeper Adam Grinwis set the bar for PDL keepers with a league best .444 goals against average and Tommy Catalano tied for most assists with 12. Add the victory over MLS' Chicago Fire in the US Open Cup, and you have a very productive season that demands respect.
Though wary about past misfortune as the 1 seed in the tournament, the team is focused on advancing to the final, potentially on their home pitch. Per the USL: The Conference Champions will meet in the national semifinals on the weekend of July 27-29 at two host locations to be determined. The PDL Championship will be played on Saturday, August 4 at the home of one of the semifinal winners.
If the Bucks were to advance to the final-final, they could make the argument that as the regular season champions that they would deserve the right to host the final. If the league had a set of requirements for the size of the venue or type of field, that argument could potentially be challenged. August 4 is still a ways off and the Bucks would have to win both this Saturday at home against Real Colorado Foxes and again the next day in the Conference Championship.
The Foxes won 8, lost 4 and drew 4 in the regular season, with a goal differential of 0; 19 scored and 19 conceded. Finishing second in the Heartland Division, behind 13-2-1 Thunder Bay Chill. The Chill hail from Western Ontario off the northern coast of Lake Superior, and are partnered with MLS affiliate Toronto FC. They will play fellow Canadian club and Great Lakes Division runners-up Forest City London in the late game Saturday.
The Battle for Ontario will determine the Bucks' potential opponent for Sunday's final, however one opponent certainly looks more difficult than the other. While a hard fought season paid off with a playoff spot for the Canadian club, the Bucks were still able to do the double against Forest City in the regular season, holding on 1-0 at home and snatching victory away 2-1 with a spot kick. Thunder Bay Chill finished the regular season 1 point behind the Bucks with 40, 12 more than Heartland's 2nd placed RC Foxes. Apart from the Bucks, the Chill are also the only club this season in the PDL to have a 100% winning record at home. Should both teams meet in the conference final on Sunday, the Bucks will look to tap into that run of home form yet again.
Conference Semifinals - Saturday, July 21
Real Colorado Foxes at Michigan Bucks, 6 p.m. ET
Thunder Bay Chill vs. Forest City London, 8 p.m. ET
Conference Championship - Sunday, July 22
Semifinal winners, 6 p.m. ET