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PDL SOCCER: Michigan Bucks trip Sockers to advance to PDL North American finals for fifth time

| July 30, 2016 | Comments (0)

BY DAN STICKRADT

SENIOR EDITOR

dan.stickradt@northoaklandsports.com

Twitter: @LocalSportsFans

PONTIAC — As the most successful franchise of the U.S.L. Premier Development League over the past two decades, the Michigan Bucks added to its storied lore Saturday night at the Ultimate Soccer Arenas.

The top-seeded Bucks, champions of the Central Conference, tripped up the Midland-Dessa (Tx.) Sockers, 3-0, in the PDL North American semifinals to advance to the championship match for the fifth time.

The Bucks will play in the North American Championships on Aug. 6 against the Calgary Foothills FC at the Ultimate Soccer Arenas.

Calgary advanced Saturday with a 3-0 shutout over the Ocean City (N.J.) Nor’easters.

The Bucks (15-3-0 overall, 15-2 against PDL opponents) have outscored the opposition 53-7 over 18 games and have not yielded a goal in the postseason.

“There is a sense of unity and a lot of depth on this team. Any number of guys came come in here and get the job done,” admitted forward Andre Landell, who scored two goals in the dominating effort. “We just play so well together.”

Michigan is 2-2 all-time in North American championship matches, winning titles in 2006 and 2014 and finishing as the runner up in both 2000 and 2007. The all-time winningest program in PDL history (248 victories, 27 postseason wins) will have another shot for a third title and second in three seasons in one week.

The Bucks did so by controlling play throughout the match.

“I thought we played really well the whole game. (Midland) has some really good players and they gave us some problems at times,” said Bucks coach Demir Muftari. “I thought we came out with a lot of energy and played well for the first 25-30 minutes. Once we got the second and third goals (in the second half), I think it took the sting out of them.”

Michigan finally broke through the Sockers’ defense with a goal at 17:53 of the first half. Landell leapt high in the box to head home a cross from Brad Ruhaak for his 10th goal of the campaign and the 1-0 lead.

Landell gave the Bucks its two-goal cushion at 60:28. Russell Cicerone made a nice individual effort by splitting two defenders before ripping a shot in the box with Landell there to cash in the close-range rebound.

Michigan tucked in a third goal at 65:27 when Francis de Vries volleyed home a shot. Brad Ruhaak’s cornerkick into the penalty box was flicked back by Lalas Abubaker over to an onrushing de Vries.

The Bucks outshot the Sockers 16-8, including 9-5 with shots directly on frame, and even held a 6-2 advantage on corner kicks as part of their dominating effort.

Drew Shepherd made five stops for the team’s 10th shutout and lowered his goals-against-average down to 0.30 in the process.

Midland-Odessa advanced further in the postseason than ever before, yet ran into a buzz saw in the Bucks’ defense.

“They were a better team than us,” admitted Sockers coach Matt Barnes. “They definitely had the advantage playing on this field. I’ve never seen a game this far in the tournament played indoors. I wish it was played outdoors the way soccer is meant to be played. But that does’t take the fact away that they (Michigan) is the better team. They are very well-coached and are a great organization.”

Michigan will host the finals for the second time in three years against an opponent the Bucks have never played against in its history. Calgary will be making its first appearance in the PDL finals.

“I know they have traveled a lot. The played in New Jersey tonight and down south last weekend. But we know nothing about them,” said Muftari. “We’ll have the week to get a scouting report on them and get prepared. We’ll be ready for sure.”

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About Dan Stickradt: DAN STICKRADT | SENIOR EDITOR dan.stickradt@northoaklandsports.com View author profile.

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