PONTIAC, MI (PDL release) – More than 1,400 people at the Ultimate Soccer Arenas On Saturday August 6 exploded when Michigan Bucks forward Russell Cicerone scored the game-winner from the penalty spot in the 87th minute of the 2016 PDL Championship. However, there was likely no one more overjoyed than Bucks Chairman and CEO Dan Duggan.
Duggan has been with the Bucks since the beginning, leading the franchise during the club’s inaugural PDL season in 1996. He has seen his club claim the PDL title two other times – in 2006 and 2014 – before Saturday’s historic third win. While Duggan was ecstatic following the thrilling 3-2 contest in Pontiac, Michigan, he was also quick to point out the strength of Calgary Foothills FC.
“That was the best damn team we’ve seen all year,” Duggan said of Foothills FC after the game. “They’re tough, scrappy, everything we thought they would be. Tommy [Wheeldon Jr.] had them prepared, and they were awesome.”
Following Cicerone’s opener in the 23rd minute, Foothills FC became the first team to score a goal at the Ultimate Soccer Arenas during the 2016 PDL campaign in the 38th minute. Nico Pasquotti pounced on a defensive mistake and beat Bucks goalkeeper Drew Shepherd. The road warriors then took the lead thanks to a goal by Dominic Russo, ranked 12th in the sixth edition of the PDL Top Prospects list, in the second 60th minute.
The Bucks battled back, though. An off-balance David Goldsmith put just enough on a header to beat Foothills FC goalkeeper Dylon Powley in the 74th minute.
“Our wingers and our fullbacks have been putting great balls in all season, and especially today, so as a forward, I just try to get in the box, get into dangerous areas,” Goldsmith said.
“It was a little bit over my head, so I had to backpedal a little bit to get something on it, and it fell in the corner. It was a great feeling.”
Adam Najem, ranked eighth in the latest PDL Top Prospects list and named PDL Creative Player of the Year, was dangerous throughout the 90 minutes of play on Saturday. With time winding down, it was the University of Akron talent who drew the penalty kick after spinning and beating Jonathan Wheeldon in the box.
“Hard work really does pay off,” Najem said following the match. “This whole organization just worked hard throughout the whole season, and everyone came together … it’s just an amazing feeling having that trophy.”
Najem is a rising senior for the Zips, and he is expected to lead the club to another NCAA Tournament appearance.
“Brad Ruhaak is here as well with Akron, and I talk to him every day. I feel like we’re already in midseason form, and that’s a great feeling,” Najem said. “Preseason is very short in college, and just having these three months of playing here at such a high level with great players, I think it’s only going to be beneficial to us. Thanks to the league for that.”
With the teams knotted at two apiece, up stepped Cicerone, who already had a goal and an assist. In front of a crowd of 1,486, the University of Buffalo attacker converted the chance with ease and ran over to the corner flag to celebrate. There waiting to celebrate with the team was none other than Duggan.
“Thanks to the league. I think it was a first-class show,” Duggan said. “I know things got a little heated at the end, but that’s what you expect when you’ve got two big personality coaches on the sideline and high-energy teams and everything is on the line. I hope the fans enjoyed it because it was one hell of a game to watch … I’ll take the victory, and we start working next Saturday to put together the 2017 team.”