By Harold C. Ford
The Flint City Bucks soccer club captured the championship trophy of the United States League Two (USL2) Aug. 3 with a 1-0 victory over Reading United AC at Flint’s Atwood Stadium in front of a joyous crowd of 7,200.
The win by the Bucks, a recent but already much-loved arrival on the Flint sports scene, is the 15th team championship in Flint’s storied sports history.
The winning goal came during the second 15-minute overtime period at the 110th minute on a penalty kick (PK) by Ayuk Tambe (Blaine MN; Tusculum University).
Tambe was awarded the penalty kick when he raced ahead of the Reading defense but was brought down from behind by Reading’s Lamine Conte in the penalty box. Conte was issued a red penalty card and ejected from the contest.
Tambe launched a powerful shot from the penalty kick mark, only 12 yards from the goal line, into the upper-right corner of the net over the outstretched arms of Reading goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre.
The clubs from Flint and Reading, a community of nearly 90,000 about 600 miles from Flint, were the last two standing in the 72-team USL2. Sixteen clubs entered the USL2 playoffs three weeks ago.
The match was played before 7,198 fans at Kettering University’s Atwood Stadium in downtown Flint. The national title was the fourth for the Bucks organization which moved to Flint this year. Founded in 1995, the club previously played its home games in Saginaw, Plymouth, and Pontiac.
Tale of two halves; close contest all the way:
As the final score indicated, it was a close contest all the way with the outcome in doubt until the final whistle of the second overtime period.
The Flint side had the advantage in the first half of regular time, in the view of this reporter, with nine scoring opportunities to two for the visitors from Pennsylvania. Corner kicks, usually an indication of offensive advantage, were three to nil in favor of the Bucks.
Conversely, Reading spent much of the first 45 minutes on its own half of the pitch (field), seemingly content to build its offense with ball possession passing among its defenders and midfielders.
The personality of the contest changed in the second half as Reading pushed the ball into Flint’s half of the pitch with ten scoring opportunities to six for Flint. Reading also had the advantage in corner kicks, 5-0. Reading’s aggressive play also netted two of its players yellow penalty cards.
Full time, 90 minutes, ended in a scoreless match. Two 15-minute overtime periods would play to completion no matter the number of goals scored.
Reading continued to have the edge offensively in the overtime periods with nine scoring opportunities to four for Flint. The key moment came at the 110th minute (of 120) when Tambe blasted his PK into the Reading net.
Hundreds of Flint fans spilled onto the field at the final whistle to celebrate and then watch each of the Bucks hoist the USL2 championship trophy. Tambe was named the most valuable player of the league’s final match in 2019.
The Bucks ended their season with an overall record of 19-3-3 (wins, losses, ties) and a home record at Atwood Stadium of 10-1-1. “I have never had a team with this much heart,” said FCB coach Demir Muftari. “These young men are truly something special and deserve to finish on top.”
The win netted the first national championship in the sport of soccer for a Flint-based team.
It was the fifteenth national team championship overall for Flint-based sports teams.
Bucks continue Flint athletic success with 15th team national championship:
While dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Flint-based athletes have experienced national and international championships, only 15 Flint athletic teams can claim national championship status. That’s according to information found at the websites of the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame and Mott Community College.
The first national championship for any Flint-based team appears to be the 1961 cross country team at Flint Junior College (now Mott Community College). Nearly six decades later, the 2019 Flint City Bucks have added another team championship to Flint’s winning tradition which includes:
- 1961: Flint Junior College cross country team; national junior college (JUCO) championship;
- 1972: Julie’s Pawn shop basketball team; Amateur Basketball Association tournament championship;
- 1974: Carpets by Jim Smith baseball team; 18-and-under Connie Mack World Series championship;
- 1975: Bishop Construction baseball team; American Amateur Baseball Congress’ Stan Musial Division championship;
- 1977: American United Life softball team; American Softball Association championship;
- 1990, 1991, 1992; Sam Ragnone, Attorney basketball team; American Amateur Union (AAU) championship;
- 2001, 2002: Halo Burger-Foutch Auto Wash baseball team; American Amateur Baseball Congress’ Stan Musial Division championship;
- 2003, 2007, 2008, 2012: Mott Community College men’s basketball team; national junior college (JUCO) championship with overall record of 133-15 in those four championship seasons;
- 2019: Flint City Bucks soccer club; United States League Two national champions.
Team championships footnote:
Flint’s first minor league hockey team, the Flint Generals, won league championships thrice: 1983-84 (International Hockey League); 1995-96 (Colonial Hockey League); and 1999-00 (United Hockey League). Though regional in scope, the IHL, CHL, and UHL included teams from the United States and Canada.
EVM Staff Writer Harold C. Ford can be reached at email@example.com.