July 18, 2009 – The Des Moines Menace punctuated its playoff-clinching regular season with a 3-0 triumph over the St. Louis Lions tonight, in front of 4,093 fans at Valley Stadium. The Heartland Division champions head into the Premier Development League postseason with momentum. After picking up its first-ever home win against rival St. Louis, the Menace has won eight of its last nine matches.
Goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck delivered a shutout in his first action of the season, supported by goals from Joe Salem, Hunter Kennedy and Armin Mujdzic, as the Menace closed the schedule with an 11-1-4 mark.
“It was a perfect tune-up,” Menace head coach Casey Mann said. “That’s what we talked about to all the guys. Even though we’re already in and they’re already out, if you’re playing, you’re playing for a reason, whether it’s to stay sharp or keep fit.”
Des Moines has a week to get ready for a divisional playoff match at home. On Friday, second-place Thunder Bay (8-3-5) faces third-place Real Colorado (8-4-3 heading into tonight’s match at Kansas City), with the winner advancing to play the Menace on Saturday.
The Lions, who came back twice to tie the Menace, 2-2, in May, are left on the outside looking in this postseason. St. Louis (6-4-6) edged Des Moines for the division’s spot for the U.S. Open Cup on May 23, but for the second-straight year the Lions narrowly miss the playoffs after qualifying for the cup.
Zobeck was planning on playing the second half tonight, but got the starting nod 30 minutes before the opening whistle. Head coach Casey Mann decided to rest Sean Molony, who had played every minute in goal for the Menace, notching five shutouts and a 0.87 Goals Against Average.
“We’ve got a good thing going, and I wasn’t going to mess with it,” said Zobeck, a 2008 graduate of Iowa City West who prepares for his sophomore year at Valparaiso. “I’ve been waiting all season and was pumped to get the chance to start. Today was my day, and I’m happy it ended in a shutout.”
“Kyle’s got so much potential, and he’s worked hard in practices,” Mann said. “The players have noticed, and they’re saying, ‘Hey, this kid’s got something special.’”
Zobeck made six saves in his Menace debut.
Salem’s first goal of the season gave the Menace a 1-0 halftime lead with a 35-yard bomb, in the 38th minute.
Kennedy entered the match after Sterling Copeland went down with a concussion in the opening minute. Copeland was motionless for several minutes after his head collided with a St. Louis defender’s elbow. He walked off the field and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Only three minutes after scoring in the 65th minute, Kennedy got his first assist with a perfectly strung ball from the end line, setting up Mujdzic’s team-leading fifth goal. Kennedy has found the back of the net three times in the last four matches.
“Hunter really stepped in, which was important,” Mann said. “We just hope Sterling is okay. (The trainers) said it was probably the most serious concussion they’ve seen in sports. Hopefully we can keep winning and Sterling has a chance to come back and play.”
The Menace improves to 2-3-6 all-time against St. Louis, snapping a streak of four-straight ties with the Lions. Des Moines’ only other win in the series came in the teams’ first meeting, in May 2006.
Des Moines has scored 35 goals this season, while allowing a franchise-best 13. The previous record belonged to the 2005 PDL champion club that surrendered 16 goals in 16 regular-season matches.
COMING UP: The Menace hosts the 2009 divisional playoffs next weekend. Thunder Bay and Real Colorado battle each other on Friday with kick-off set for 7:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium. The winner will play Des Moines on Saturday for another 7:30 p.m. start.