PDL SOCCER: Michigan Bucks find enough energy to advance to PDL national finals

| August 2, 2014 | Comments (0)


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PONTIAC — Zach Steinberger said there was a brief message sent during halftime Friday — and Steinberger and the Michigan Bucks took it all to heart.

“There was just really three words at halftime,” said Steinberger. “Bring some energy.”

The Bucks did just that, scoring two second-half goals to rally for a 2-1 victory over Jersey Express in the U.S. Soccer-Premier Developmental League national semifinals at the Pontiac-based Ultimate Soccer Arenas.

The Bucks, making their fourth appearance in the PDL national semifinals, advance to their fourth national championship match and first since 2007, which ties the national record. Michigan will face the Kitsap (Wash.) Pumas at 1 p.m. Sunday in the PDL national semifinals, also at the Ultimate Soccer Arenas.

Kitsap dispatched the Ocala Stampede 2-1 in Friday’s first national semifinal.

“We’ve had a lot of great teams over the years, but it’s hard to get back. There’s so many great teams at this level,” admitted Michigan coach Demir Muftari. “We’ve had No.1 seed in the nation or No. 1 seed in the Central Conference and couldn’t get this far. It’s nice to finally get back.”

Central Conference champion Michigan (10-2-3) reached its first semifinals since back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007, having lost in the conference finals the past three seasons. The Bucks found themselves in a 1-0 hole at halftime and played somewhat of a lackluster first half offensively against the Express (10-2-3), regular season champions of the Mid Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference champions.

Jersey, which has never had a losing campaign in its seven years in the PDL, capitalized on a Michigan miscue in the 38th minute, as Kene Eze intercepted a failed clearing attempt, dribbled in and ripped home a shot from 18 yards out for a 1-0 lead.

Michigan netted the equalizer in the 54th minute. Tom Owens’ long service off a free kick from the right corner was headed home by Ken Tribbett — the Bucks’ first shot on frame in the contest and only second shot overall.

Steinberger netted the game winner at 77:01. Taking a through ball from David Goldsmith, Steinberger slipped through traffic and deposited a shot inside the far post.

“David Goldsmith played the ball well with the outside of his foot. I saw the goalie coming out a little bit and I was able to get the shot through,” said Steinberger. “Weproved that we have a lot of weapons on this team.”

Jersey did an a fine job bottling up the Bucks’ potent attack, including keeping PDL Golden Boot winner Dzenan Catic at bay and without a single shot attempt.

“(Jersey) did a great job slowing down our attack,” said Muftari. “We played much better in the second half. We were able to get things going.”

Michigan is set for its first national final in seven years. This time the Bucks will play on its home field.

“I’ve played on three greats Bucks teams the past three years,” said Steinberger. “We want to it Saturday for our owner, Dan Duggan. He has put so much effort into this program and it would be nice to win it again for him. For some of us, this will be our last game for the Bucks and we want to go out on top.”


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