PDL SOCCER: Michigan Bucks set to battle for second North American title in comfortable zone

| August 3, 2014 | Comments (0)



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PONTIAC — The first and last time the Michigan Bucks won a North American title in the U.S. Soccer-Premier Developmental League, they had to battle the heat of southwestern Texas. This time around they will be in a definitely much more comfortable zone.


Michigan, host of this year’s is PDL Final Four at the Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac, advanced to Sunday’s championship match against the Kitsip (Wash.) Pumas. The Bucks advance with a come-from-behind, 2-1, victory Friday over the Jersey Express in the semifinals.


The finals are set for 1 p.m. Sunday inside the comfortable confines of the Ultimate Soccer Arenas.


“It’s so hard to get here, because there are so many good teams out there. It’s hard just to get to the (postseason),” admitted third-year Bucks head coach Demir Muftari, who owns a national championship with his Vardar club youth program, coming in 2010 as head coach of that side.


The PDL, featuring predominately college-age players or players recently out of college, held its first championship in 1995, with the Richmond Kickers downing the Cocoa Expos, 3-1. Michigan is making its fourth appearance in the title match.


The Bucks defeated the Laredo Heat, 2-1, in the 2006 final, with the Heat gaining some 1-0, on penalty kicks in the 2007 championship. Michigan also lost to the Chicago Sockers, 1-0, in the 2000 finals. Overall, the Bucks have reached the PDL postseason a record 16 times over two decades and is now the all-time winningest program in the 64-franchise league.


“We have a lot of history with the Bucks. There’s nowhere I’d rather have spent the last three summers playing than here,” said midfielder Zach Steinberger, who hails from Butler University. “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.”


Michgan logs a fine 10-2-3 ledger into the finals, while Kitsip, which defeated the Ocala Stampede, 2-1, in Friday’s other semifinal, is 10-1-4. The Pumas feature two Michigan-born players, including Tommy Catalano, who spent three years playing for the Bucks.


Kitsiphas outscored its foes 27-10, while Michigan holds a 40-9 scoring edge over its opponents. The Bucks also boast Dzenan Catic, the PDL’s Golden Boot winner who was held in check in the semifinals.


“The one thing about this team is we have a lot of guys who contribute. We have the league’s leading scorer in Dzenan, but we have a lot of players that can step up when needed and score or make the (key play).”


Goalkeeper Adam Grinwis, who hails from the University of Michigan, has also been stellar between the pipes and has carried the reputation of many fine goalkeepers who have suited up for the Bucks over the years.


“He doesn’t get the attention that maybe he deserves,” said Muftari of his netminder. “If we are going to play well (on Sunday) and come out on top, then he’ll have to play great for us again. He has been very consistent all season. Our whole back line has been solid this season, giving up (10 goals). It’s been a total team effort to get here.”



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