Ramone Howell (right) zipped past the Bucks to score on this sequence in the 69th minute, and he assisted Isaiah Madrid 13 minutes later. Photo credit: Joe Sprunger
PONTIAC, Mich. – Friday, July 21, 2017 – The only time the Des Moines Menace ousted the Michigan Bucks from the Premier Development League playoffs was in 2005.
That is, until tonight.
The Menace was victorious over the hosting Bucks, 2-0, in the Central Conference semifinals inside Ultimate Soccer Arenas. The win advances Des Moines to tomorrow night’s final against Heartland Division champion and arch-rival Thunder Bay Chill.
In 2014 and 2016, the Bucks ended the Menace’s seasons en route to PDL championships. Entering tonight, Michigan had a 6-1 advantage in playoff matches against Des Moines, with the Menace’s sole victory coming in the run to the 2005 title.
“Michigan is just a dominant team, and they’ve showed that in previous years,” Menace head coach John Pascarella said. “They’re used to having the ball more. We knew that if we could make them nervous, and if we could keep the ball a little bit, they would get frustrated, and we could capitalize.”
And in the 69th minute, it finally happened.
From the middle of the field, Ramone Howell broke away from the steadfast defense, dribbled past three defenders and, with his left foot, slotted the ball near-post to defeat Michigan goalkeeper Drew Shepherd from a tight angle.
“I saw space and said, ‘I’m going for it’,” Howell said. “We needed that goal, and I’m glad I had my team to back me up.”
Then, in the 82nd minute, Howell teamed up with Valparaiso teammate Isaiah Madrid to add some insurance. Howell delivered a cross that bounced in the box until Madrid finished it in the low-left corner of the net.
Madrid’s goal all but solidified a momentous win for the Menace. Goalkeeper Kyle Ihn, captain Brandon Fricke and their defense shut down the Bucks’ final attacks, and the Menace earned a satisfying shutout in a showdown between the PDL’s most storied franchises.
The Menace is one win from the PDL semifinals, held next Saturday at two host sites.
Thunder Bay won today’s all-Canadian opener, 2-0. The Chill defeated K-W United – a team the Menace faced in the previous three postseasons.
Despite meeting at least two times in the regular season each of the last 18 seasons, Des Moines and Thunder Bay have yet to clash in the postseason. The Menace won the 2017 season series 2-1, with a doubleheader split in Canada (1-0 on June 9 and 0-2 on June 10) and a 1-0 home win (June 17).
“Tomorrow’s game is a final, and it’s against a team that tries to play,” Pascarella said. “It’s against a team that in every match we’ve played this year, it’s been a close game, and I have no doubt it will be the same tomorrow.”
- For the second straight year, the Menace has won a playoff match against the defending PDL champion, in a Central Conference semifinal inside Ultimate Soccer Arenas.
- On July 22, 2016, the Menace upset K-W United, 5-1, with a couple scores from tonight’s goal-scoring hero, Ramone Howell.
- This is the Menace’s second win in Ultimate Soccer Arenas.
- And, this is only the Menace’s second postseason win on an opponent’s home field. The other one came in the 2005 PDL final, a shootout win against the host El Paso Patriots.
- The Menace improves to 16-15 in 15 PDL Playoff appearances.
- Des Moines’ four previous postseason runs ended either against the Bucks (2011, 2014, 2016) or on the Bucks’ home turf (2015 against K-W United FC).
- This was the Bucks’ 20th postseason appearance in 22 PDL seasons (with the exceptions coming in 2001 and 2009).
- Each of the last three meetings between Des Moines and Michigan has ended with a 2-0 score line.
- This is the Menace’s fourth straight playoff appearance; the previous three have ended with losses to the eventual champions (Michigan in 2014 and 2016 and K-W in 2015).
- For the third straight year, the Bucks hosted the Menace, the Chill and K-W for the Central Conference’s championship weekend.
- The Menace snapped a 14-match home unbeaten streak for Michigan (10-1-3 PDL).
MAN of the MATCH: Ramone Howell for his opening goal, assist to Isaiah Madrid and relentless effort. Howell is a student-athlete at Valparaiso and has been with the Menace for three years.
UP NEXT: The Menace is in the Central Conference final! Kickoff against Thunder Bay is set for 7:30 p.m. (EDT) in Pontiac, Mich.
Match: Des Moines Menace at Michigan Bucks
Date: Friday, July 21, 2017
Competition: Premier Development League Central Conference semifinal
Venue: Ultimate Soccer Arenas (indoor, artificial turf) in Pontiac, Mich.
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. EDT
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
MENACE 0 2 2
MICH 0 0 0
MENACE – Ramone Howell 69:00; Isaiah Madrid 82:00
ABOUT THE MENACE: The Des Moines Menace provides the highest level of soccer in Iowa. In its 24th season, the Menace men’s team competes in the Premier Development League (PDL). In its sixth season, the Menace women’s team is part of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL). With loyal support, the Menace men’s and women’s teams play their home games at the Valley Stadium in West Des Moines to provide family-fun entertainment. The Menace organization provides the growth of the game of soccer in Iowa with their youth soccer programs, including Junior Menace (ages 3-9), Menace Youth Academy (ages six and older), and tournaments, camps and clinics.