BY DAN DUGGAN
TAMPA, Fla. — The United Soccer Leagues published the first two waves of post season awards this week and today announced the finalists for the top five individual awards.
The Michigan Bucks dominated both the conference and all-league teams with three players selected and have a finalist in the running for four of the five categories to be awarded at the PDL championship banquet this upcoming weekend.
The Bucks surpassed last year’s record when two players (Mitch Hildebrandt and Stew Givens) were named to the PDL All-League team and were followed up by individual awards to Hildebrandt (Goalkeeper of the Year), Givens (Defender of the Year) and head coach Gary Parsons (Coach of the Year).
This season, the PDL regular season champions had three players earn All-Central Conference and PDL All-League team, giving the club three of the top 11 players in the 73-franchise league of over 2,000 players. Tom Catalano, Kevin Cope and Adam Grinwis all earned top honors this season, making it a PDL record nine consecutive seasons that the Bucks have had at least one player in the league’s top 11 players. This season also marks the fourth time the team has had multiple top eleven players in team history.
In addition to the All-PDL selections, four Michigan Bucks have also been nominated as finalists, led by goalkeeper Adam Grinwis who is up for both Goalkeeper of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Cope will try to follow in Given’s footsteps by retaining the Defender of the Year award that Givens won last season and coach Gary Parsons will try to become the first coach in PDL history to win back-to-back Coach of the Year honors as a finalist in that category.
Grinwis led the PDL with a regular season goals against of 0.44 and a record of 8-0-1 with five shutouts. He also delivered shutouts in two US Open Cup matches and the Bucks playoff win over Real Colorado and played a huge role in the Bucks defeating two professional teams in the US Open Cup, shutting out the USL Pro Pittsburgh Riverhounds and shocking the Chicago Fire of MLS. The University of Michigan keeper is playing for the Bucks in his third season but did not appear in games in his first two campaigns, qualifying him for the Rookie of the Year nomination.
Cope was the heart of the Bucks defense that allowed the PDL’s fewest goals in the regular season (10) and played nearly every minute of almost every game this season. The Bucks finished their season playing 22 matches, including playoffs and Open Cup (17-3-2 overall record) and the only games missed by Cope were when he was in Kansas City training with Sporting KC of Major League Soccer. The Michigan State centerback not only held the defense together, but also went forward and scored four goals on the season, most of them coming from headers off of cornerkicks and set plays.
Catalano led the PDL in assists and scored six goals in the regular season and added two goals and three assists in four US Open Cup matches to lead the Bucks offense, which also led the league in goals scored (46). Catalano was selected to the All-Conference team in back-to-back seasons and adds his first PDL All-League team selection this year to his resume.
Parsons was pleased with his inclusion as a Coach of the Year finalist for the second time in his four seasons at the helm of the Bucks, but was happier for his players continued recognition.
“We had a season that most teams would only dream about, with our Open Cup run and our regular season championship. I am glad that the other clubs recognize the accomplishments of our players over the season,” said Parsons. “Having the coaches and team’s vote for the top players is a good idea, because they know better than anyone how much of a commitment it takes for a player to play 22 games in nine weeks as we did this summer, and to play at a very high level in every game.
“We only lost a couple of matches all season and those could have gone our way as well,” continued Parsons. “The only way that happens is to have a deep roster of committed players that appreciate what the ownership does for them. I wish we were playing on Saturday night, but if we get an award or two out of this weekend, that would be icing on the cake to our players. They all deserve the accolades that are coming their way.”
The Michigan Bucks just completed their 17t- consecutive winning season in the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League. The 73-team league spans across the United States and Canada. For more information on the PDL, please visit the league web site at www.uslsoccer.com.