By Harold C. Ford
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United States League Two Central Conference Championship
Flint City Bucks at Des Moines Menace
Friday, July 29, 8:15 p.m. EDT
Valley Stadium, 4400 Mills Civic Pkwy, West Des Moines, IA 50265
Online video transmission at uslleaguetwo.com
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The Flint City Bucks football club (soccer team) gained momentum in a late-regular season surge to reach the United States Two League (USL2) Central Conference Championship match against the Des Moines Menace on July 29 starting at 8:15 p.m. EDT.
The match site — Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, IA — is about a nine-hour drive from Flint at 590 miles. Video transmission of all remaining USL2 playoff matches is available at the league’s website — uslleaguetwo.com.
Flint is one of just eight teams remaining in the USL2 postseason tournament. USL2 boasts 113 teams in four conferences subdivided into 16 divisions.
Flint is a member of the six-team Great Lakes Division. The Bucks finished the regular season in second place with an 8-3-3 record (wins, losses, ties) and 19 points. (A win earns two points, a tie one point, and no points for a loss.) The first-place regular season finisher was Kalamazoo FC with an 8-2-4 record and 20 points.
A victory against Des Moines — USL2’s defending champion with the league’s longest active winning streak — on July 29 would advance the Bucks to the USL2 semifinal against the winner of the match between Ventura County Fusion (CA) and Ballard FC (WA) on the same day. Date, time, and location of the semifinal is to be determined.
The goal of all USL2 teams is to reach the USL2 championship match on Aug. 6.
Flint starts playoffs with wins over South Bend and Chicago
Victories over the South Bend Lions (IN), July 22, and Chicago FC United (IL), July 24, at Flint’s Atwood Stadium on the first weekend of the USL2 postseason tournament sent Flint to the July 29 conference championship in Iowa.
In the 3-1 win over South Bend, Flint goals were scored by Jelldrik Dallman at the 39th minute (assists from Harvey Slade and Sebastian Chalbaud), Slade at the 45th minute in stoppage time (unassisted), and Amadou Cisse at the 56th minute (unassisted).
Cisse scored two more goals in the win over Chicago — at the 29th minute (assisted by Dallman) and the 39th minute (unassisted). Cisse has now scored the last three goals for the Bucks.
Stalwart defense, primed offense prepped Flint for 2022 playoffs
After nine matches into a 14-match 2022 regular-season, the Bucks’ playoff chances seemed uncertain. In late-June, their record was a middling four wins, two losses, and three ties. Making the playoffs was a possibility, not a certainty. The Bucks offense was scoring at a pace of 1.7 goals per match while the defense was stellar allowing less than one goal per match.
In their final five regular-season matches, the Bucks outscored their opponents 16 goals to six. The offense improved to a rate of 3.2 goals each match while the defense continued to lock down opponents limiting them to about one goal per match.
Dallman was far and away the offensive points leader for Flint with 11 goals, or 22 points (two points for each goal, one point for each assist). Three other players pitched in with seven points: Slade (three goals, one assist); Cisse (two goals, three assists); and Cekrezi (two goals, three assists).
Flint’s defense was buoyed throughout by something that cannot be taught — speed. All season long, Flint’s back line was patrolled by capable players that stuffed opponents’ offensive thrusts and moved the ball back up field to their midfielders and forwards.
In an interview with East Village Magazine, Bucks’ coach Andrew “Andy” Wagstaff lauded his defense. “We’ve got some of the best defenders in the country,” said Wagstaff. “There is absolutely zero doubt in my mind.”
Wagstaff cited the defensive play of Hugo Bacharach, Abdel Kuku, and Jannik Videbaek.
One of Flint’s goalkeepers, the aforementioned Isaac Walker, is touted as one of USL2’s “top 50 prospects” to move on to a higher professional level.
EVM Sports Beat reporter Harold C. Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Banner photo credit: Amanda Thick, Flint City Bucks Facebook page.