PDL Championship Game Report
Friday, August 1, 2014
PONTIAC, Mich. – The Michigan Bucks rallied from a halftime deficit to take a 2-1 victory against the Jersey Express in the second semifinal at the 2014 PDL Championship presented by Nike on Friday evening at the Ultimate Soccer Arenas. Jersey’s Kene Eze had given his side the lead late in the first half, but Ken Tribbett equalized for the Bucks nine minutes into the second half before Zach Steinberger scored the winner inside the final 15 minutes.
The Express held the halftime lead thanks to Eze’s goal and appeared buoyed by the finish as they started the second half brightly and got onto the front foot in search of a second goal. That momentum was stopped in its tracks in the 54th minute, however, as the Bucks earned a free kick on the right side 30 yards from goal, and Tribbett headed home Tom Owens’ delivery powerfully at the far post to put his side back on level terms.
The goal appeared to lift the Bucks, who had given their home fans little to cheer about in the opening half. Michigan continued to push forward in search of the lead and came close with 20 minutes to go when a good piece of interplay at the top of the box set up Tribbett for a shot, but the Express defense closed down quickly and the partially blocked effort floated wide of the right post.
Eight minutes later, however, the Bucks found the game-winner. The chance was created by David Goldsmith, who sent a good pass into the left channel for Steinberger as he broke forward from midfield. The All-League selection controlled, pulled the ball onto his right foot and curled his finish into the right corner of the net. Jersey goalkeeper Matt Turner was able to get a hand on the effort, but wasn’t able to turn it around the post.
Jersey pushed forward late in search of an equalizer to send the game to extra time, and came close in stoppage time when a long throw-in found the head of Sylvain N’Guessan at the near post, but the flicked header was handled by his right post by Adam Grinwis. The 2012 PDL Goalkeeper of the Year stood strong as the Express sent crosses into the penalty area late, twice claiming well under pressure, and that allowed the Bucks to see out the victory and advance to Sunday’s championship game.
The first half saw fewer chances, as the game was tight early. Both sides found it difficult to work the ball through the midfield while passes aimed at stretching the defenses or getting attackers in behind either missed their range or saw the assistant referee’s flag raised for offside.
The Express created the first real moment of danger in the 17th minute when an angled cross into the right side of the penalty area forced Grinwis off his line to punch clear under pressure, but both goalkeepers weren’t seriously challenged in the opening 25 minutes.
Michigan threatened in the 26th minute from a free kick on the right, but the delivery was cleanly gathered by Turner in a crowd. The Express’ defense then held firm in the 37th minute when a good piece of play by Steinberger set up a shot for Tribbett from 25 yards, only for it to be blocked away to safety.
A minute later the Express grabbed the lead. A poor turnover in their own end by the Bucks was picked up by Eze in space, and the former Toronto FC MLS SuperDraft selection held off his defender well as he advanced into the penalty area and fired a clinical finish home from 15 yards.
Eze almost doubled the Express’ lead three minutes later as he again got into the left side of the penalty area, only to shoot wide of the near post. The goal seemed to give Jersey a lift as it confidently carried its lead into the second half as any crosses the Bucks sent into the penalty area were repelled. Tribbett’s header turned the tide in favor of the hosts, however, and Steinberger’s finish gave the Bucks the chance to claim their second championship in club history.