Friday, June 18, 2010

Michigan Bucks – Dayton Dutch Lions (22-05-2010)

Having watched the Champions League Final in a pub in Ann Arbor with a friend, and some 100 very enthusiastic football fans (admittedly, mostly non-Americans), I arrived a bit late at the Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac, Michigan, home base of the Michigan Bucks.

I was somewhat puzzled by the Ultimate Soccer Arenas, as they looked like a large indoor soccer complex. However, I had been to other stadiums where you go through the indoor arena to the outside pitch, which is what I expected here too.

Inside I bought a ticket for $10 and looked to my right, where there were some luxurious concession stands and indoor soccer pitches. I already heard supporters shout, and when I turned to my left I saw the pitch… inside the arena.

This must have been the first time that I went to a regular football game that was played indoors. In fact, as far as I know, all other PDL teams play outdoors. To be clear, the dimensions of the indoor pitch seemed to match those of (small) outdoor pitches. But it nevertheless looked strange.

There were probably just over 150 people in the stadium, sitting on the only two bleachers on the one long side of the pitch. Surprisingly, some 50 were Dayton Dutch Lions supporters, many decked in orange gear (including vuvuzelas). I doubt, however, that they made the 240 mile (385 km) drive up from Dayton, Ohio. Rather, they might have been Michiganians of Dutch decent. The Bucks had their own ultras, a group of roughly fifteen ‘men’.

I entered the stadium in the 25 minute and it was still 0-0. The Dutch Lions had most of the game, but played everything though their new target man, 35 year old Van der Haar. But despite his superior technique, he couldn’t create much. Hence, 0-0 was also the half time score.

After an exquisite half time snack at the World Cup Grill, inside the Ultimate Soccer Arenas, I made sure to be back in time. And within minutes the Lions scored through a tight shot in the low corner: 0-1. The Bucks reacted in the 54th minute with a powerful shot, which was saved in typical gracious fashion by Oscar Moens, the Dutch Lions goalie. Moens made a couple of other nice safes, before being very harshly punished for a little push in the box: penalty Bucks in the 82nd minute!

After he missed penalty the Bucks kept pushing and the Lions defending became more and more desperate. It was, however, enough to survive. The Dayton Dutch Lions won their first away game, 0-1. Yet again, they were much better than their opponent, at least on paper, yet didn’t impress for more than half a game.

If you ever find yourself in the Detroit area, and the Michigan Bucks play a home game, go and see them. At the very least, you will experience a rather unique feat: an indoor game in an outdoor league. In addition, you will be able to enjoy some of the best stadium snacks you’ll ever find in a football stadium.

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