By Harold C. Ford
“It’s hard defending a national championship; it’s harder winning one.”
–Dan Duggan, chairman and CEO, Flint City Bucks
The Flint City Bucks football [soccer] club opened the 2021 season with a convincing 3-1 win over Toledo Villa Football Club May 15 at Atwood Stadium before a reported 1700 fans.
The Bucks’ next home match [game] is set for Saturday, May 29 against the Dayton Dutch Lions. Start time is 7:30 p.m. at Flint’s Atwood Stadium.
At the May 15 match-up, the Flint side [team] dominated play in the first half—both in time of possession and field position—as Toledo’s offense struggled to get the ball past midfield. The speed of Flint’s midfielders and defensemen turned back any advances by Toledo’s offense.
The lopsided play emboldened Isaac Walker, Flint’s goalkeeper, to repeatedly leave his net, move beyond the goal and penalty areas, and bark orders to teammates, thus serving as a de facto on-field coach.
Nonetheless, the first half ended with Flint holding a precarious 1-0 lead on a goal by Flint’s Charlie Sharp in the 18th minute.
Play was more balanced in the second half. Defenses dominated as offensive rushes were mostly thwarted at midfield.
Subbing for Sharp at the 78th minute, Ids Hannema pounded home goals in the 83rd and 86th minutes to secure the win for Flint. Kainan Dos Santos scored Toledo’s lone goal at the 89th minute of the 90-minute contest.
The victory was the first win for Bucks’ coach Andy Wagstaff, a former Bucks player and assistant coach, who took over from Demir Muftari in January 2020.
In their second match May 25, the Bucks played Kings Hammer of Cincinnati to a scoreless tie at Xavier University. Kings Hammer coach Paul Nicholson has the rare distinction of a winning record—now 2-1-3 (wins-losses-ties)—against the Bucks, the most successful franchise in USL2 history.
The Bucks have won twenty division titles and four North American championships.
The Bucks are the defending national champions of United States League Two (USL2). The club netted the championship Aug. 3, 2019 with a goal by Ayuk Tambe in the second 15-minute overtime period. USL2 matches were halted during the pandemic year of 2020 except for a handful of friendlies [matches that don’t count in the standings].
Referencing the pandemic-cancelled season, Costa Papista, team president, told East Village Magazine: “The silver lining is that we got to retain our status as national champions for an extra year.”
Asked if he was optimistic about this season, Dan Duggan, team chairman and CEO responded, “Very.”
“We feel we’re going to have a better team than last year’s  team,” he said.
The Bucks are one of nine clubs in the Great Lakes Division of the USL2’s Central Conference. Other clubs include: Kalamazoo FC (MI); Kings Hammer (OH); South Bend Lions (IN); Oakland County FC (MI); Toledo Villa FC (OH); Grand Rapids FC (MI); Fort Wayne FC (IN); and Dayton Dutch Lions (OH).
Two other divisions in the USL2 Central Conference include the Heartland Division (seven clubs) and the Mid South Division (eight clubs),
USL2 has three additional conferences: Eastern Conference (three divisions with 22 total clubs); Southern Conference (three divisions, 23 clubs); Western Conference (three divisions, 14 clubs).
Thus, USL2 currently has four conferences, 12 divisions, and 84 clubs. Sixty-six percent of USL2 athletes are NCAA Division I college players; 68 percent are domestic players.
Bucks’ home matches
The Bucks will take on the Dayton Dutch Lions in their next home match [game] Saturday, May 29; The start time is 7:30 p.m. at Flint’s Atwood Stadium.
The remaining home matches for the 2021 Bucks are: May 29; June 4, 12, 26, 29; July 10, 16, 18, 23, 25, 31. All home matches are played at Flint’s Atwood Stadium starting at 7:30 p.m. except for playoff contests starting July 16; those start times are to be determined.
The Bucks will play four friendlies at home in August (14th, 21st) and September (11th, 25th) all starting at 7:30 p.m.
Many of the Bucks’ matches can be viewed on TV / CW46. https://thecw46.com
Information about the Bucks can be accessed at their website: https://www.flintcitybucks.com
EVM staff reporter Harold Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.