July 21, 2012

Michigan Bucks 2012 post-season

Check out the full playoff schedule here

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

July 15, 2012

Michigan Bucks to host Central Conference Playoffs

63' - Zack Steinberger nets the Bucks' 3rd goal
The Michigan Bucks concluded their season in style, breezing past 9-man River City Rovers 4:0 on Sunday. The Rovers are the only team all season to inflict a defeat on the Bucks, and the result of the match was essential for River City's playoff hopes.

The Bucks win means that they will host the Central Conference playoffs next weekend beginning with their first match against the Heartland Division’s number two seeded Real Colorado Foxes. The defending Central Conference champion Thunder Bay Chill will take on the winner of the River City / FC London match which takes place on the 17th.

The match began with a number of threatening chances from the Bucks. They opened the scoring in the 14th minute off a free kick on the flank of the box. Tommy Catalano put the ball in perfectly for Stew Givens, whose header was cleared off the line. The rebound of the clearance fell onto the head of defender Kevin Cope, who hit the ball home past the keeper. Ten minutes later the ref realized that she had lost her yellow card and was able to find it on the pitch.

River City was able to set up a free kick opportunity on the edge of the Bucks' box. The chance was well saved by Adam Grinwis, who then blasted a lofted ball down field to find Tommy Catalano on a counter-attacking run. River City's keeper Matt Soyka charged out to stop Catalano, who pulled the ball away at the last minute, drawing both a penalty kick and red card for the Rovers keeperStew Givens coolly converted from the spot in the 35th minute to make it 2:0.

At halftime, the Bucks organization honored central defensive midfielder Nate Boyden with the Paul R. Scicluna Memorial Trophy. The trophy is awarded every year to not just the best player on the field, but to the player who best exemplifies the Bucks organization itself. This year's winner was justly picked; despite this being his first year with the Bucks, he is a full time graduate student at the University of Michigan, as well as a volunteer assistant coach. Speaking a few words at half time to the crowd, he thanked the fans for their support and confirmed the team's desire to win a PDL National Championship

The second half showed a renewed fierceness from River City, with greater tenacity in their challenges in order to make up for being a man down. The aggression was a bit much, however, in the 59th minute, when River City's Peter May went in recklessly on Tommy Catalano in the open field. Team mate Stefan St. Louis took exception to the foul and initiated a pushing match with the player, before member of each team intervened. River city were then reduced yet another man down to 9, with the Bucks' St. Louis earning a yellow card for his reaction

The Bucks would maintain possession throughout much of the remaining half; River City only had 2 true chances in the final 45 minutes. In the 63rd minute, Zack Steinberger and Anthony Grant linked up in the Rovers box, with Steinberger able to slice home the Bucks' third goal. The Bucks would continue to threaten with close chances from the likes of Simon Omekanda, Seb Harris, Anthony Grant, and Nermin Crnkic.

The Bucks had a number of chances that only required a single touch to turn them into goals. Most of them came from a break down the right flank, followed by a low slotted pass across the box. While many of these were close but unsuccessful, Matt Bahner was able to find Nate Boyden's strong pass in the 87th minute to finish the match off at 4:0.

14' Goal Kevin Cope
33' Red Card Matt Soyka
35' Goal Stew Givens (PK)
59' Red Card Peter May, Yellow Card Stefan St. Louis
63' Goal Zack Steinberger (Anthony Grant)
87' Goal Matt Bahner (Nate Boyden)

Stefan St. Louis
Nermin Crnkic                   Zack Steinberger              Tommy Catalano
 Simon Omekanda                  Nate Boyden     
Nate Robinson              Kevin Cope                Seb Harris               Stew Givens
Adam Grinwis