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Uzoigwe, Shipalane power Michigan to first championship 2-1 over Heat.

Tomas Boltnar
Kenny Uzoigwe put the Michigan Bucks ahead for good less than four minutes in and the club went on to win its first PDL title.
-- United Soccer Leagues web site photo --
LAREDO, Texas (Saturday, August 12, 2006) -- Striker Kenny Uzoigwe and midfielder Tyiselani Shipalane scored in the opening eight minutes, giving the surprising Michigan Bucks a lead they would not relinquish in a 2-1 triumph over the host Laredo Heat in the Premier Devolopment League championship game before nearly 7,000 at the United Independent School District Student Activities Center tonight.

Shipalane also cleared a ball from his own goal-line in the first half.

The Bucks from Berkeley, Mich., seeded 13th among 16 playoff teams, the lowest-ever for a champion for the amateur league that serves as the United States' fourth division. Michigan captured its first crown in its 11th season in the PDL in front of owner Dan Duggan.

"You can't express it in words how good this feels." said Duggan, who made the 1,654-mile trip. "The attitude of this team from the very beginning was they understood the mission, knew what had to be done. Very early, we didn't know each other very well. They understood their roles as we went on later in the season. . . It's all heart and desire."

Michigan finished second in the Great Lakes Division, one of 10 groups and 59 teams in the PDL, with a 9-3-4 record. It closed its regular season 3-0-1 and then won four playoff matches to earn its title. The Bucks defeated the third-seeded Boulder Rapids Reserve (4-0), fourth-seeded Chicago Fire Reserve (4-1) and ninth-seeded Orange County Blue Star (2-0) before topping the fifth-seeded Heat.

"I remember when I was in the eighth grade and looking up the Bucks on the Internet," Michigan goalkeeper Steve Clark said. "It's just a dream to be here. I followed the Bucks and it's just awesome. I can't describe the feelings."

Michigan's fast start left Laredo down 2-0 for the second game in a row, though the Heat (17-3 overall) rallied to a 3-2 decision over the visiting Westchester (N.Y.) Flames last Saturday in the semifinals.

In the fourth minute, a goal kick from Clark put Uzoigwe into the offensive third. He pushed the ball forward to forward Mychal Turpin, who played the ball back to Uzoigwe. Uzoigwe took the ball forward a few yards before feeding it to midfielder Nate Jafta, who entered leading the league with 11 assists.

Jafta's attempt to return the ball to Uzoigwe deflected off a defender, but sat perfectly for Uzoigwe to drill a 12-yard shot into the right side of the net with his first touch for a 1-0 lead.

Four minutes later, the Bucks were ahead 2-0 after Turpin was taken down in the Laredo box with a blow to his thigh. Heat keeper Ryan Shaughnessy went quickly to his left to stop Turpin's penalty kick, but Shipalane was first to the rebound and ripped a low shot inside the near right post through Shaughnessy, who had regained his feet, but not fully his balance after his save.

In the 16th minute, Shipalane was quick to send away a near Laredo goal at his goal-line after a short header off a corner kick squirted through Clark. Shipalane was guarding the far post on the play.

Laredo narrowed its deficit to 2-1 two minutes later. Juan de Dios Ibarra-Trevino sent his left-side corner kick to the near post where it was flicked on. Facing the right post, defender Jose Macias headed it home from point-blank range.

Clark made a diving save in the 70th minute to preserve the victory.

"We were just trying to weather the storm," Clark said. "We got out of there and we got a lead, and they threw everything and the kitchen sink at us."

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