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Menace looks to make up ground

The Des Moines Menace needs a pair of victories this week to get back into the race for a spot in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Des Moines travels to Liberty, Mo., to take on the Kansas City Brass tonight and hosts the rival St. Louis Lions on Saturday at Valley Stadium. Both game times are set for 7:30 p.m.

Heading into its final two Open Cup qualifiers, the Menace (1-1-0) sits in third place in the Premier Development League’s Heartland Division. Rochester (2-0-1) and Real Colorado (1-1-2) claim the top two spots. The team with the most points in the division after the four-game qualifying stage advances to the cup.

“We have to win the next two games,” Menace midfielder Jacob Schmoker said. “We’re hoping that Rochester can drop some points.”

Des Moines, the defending division champion, needs a boost after Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Rochester (Minn.). After getting past the Menace, the first-place Thunder closes its Open Cup qualifying action by hosting St. Louis and Kansas City each of the next two Sundays; each time, these teams play at Rochester the day after facing the Menace at Valley Stadium.

The Menace made its first Open Cup appearance in 2002, under the direction of Laurie Calloway. The veteran coach is back with the team after a seven-season hiatus, with aspirations of leading Des Moines to its fifth Open Cup. The Menace also qualified in 2003, 2005 and 2006.

This week’s opponents are the Heartland Division’s most recent representatives in the national tournament. Kansas City appeared in the 2007 Open Cup; St. Louis has been there the last two seasons.

Menace forward Sterling Copeland said the team is approaching these matches with confidence and high standards.

“We always expect to win,” Copeland said. “Every single game we want to win. We want to be on top of our league.”

The Menace is still working out early-season kinks. Schmoker and Copeland said communication was the most important issue to fix as the team comes together.

“We have to get on the same page,” Copeland said.

ROSTER MOVES: The Menace heads into these matches without the services of two starters. Goalkeeper Jason Williams (shoulder) and defender Jack Pearson (ankle) are sidelined by injuries. Billy Thompson will see his first action this season, tending goal against the Brass. Backing up Thompson is new addition Kyle Fitch, an Iowa Central Community College Triton who led Spencer to a state championship a year ago. The Menace has also activated a pair of defenders: Sam Morris, an England native who helped Fort Lewis (Colo.) to the 2009 NCAA Division-II title, and Drake’s Joe Lyons, a graduate of the Menace Academy who was part of Dowling Catholic’s 2008 state-championship team.

RECAPPING LAST WEEK: The Menace opened the regular season with a 3-1 road win over Springfield (Mo.) last Wednesday, but dropped Saturday’s home-opener to Rochester, 1-0.

Des Moines rallied from a halftime deficit at Springfield. Clark Bradford tied the match in the 66th minute on a volley assisted by Copeland. With the game tied heading into stoppage time, Juan Hoyos connected on the game-winner and the Demize scored an own goal a minute later; birthday boy Igor Petsch was later credited with the score.

On Saturday, Rochester got all the scoring it needed from Mark Heath-Preston, who tallied his fourth goal in three games. Sebastian Narvaez had six saves to preserve the Thunder to its second victory of the season.

Shortly after Heath-Preston’s goal in the 32nd minute, Husref Jupic intercepted a pass in the Thunder box and nearly tied the game. His shot rolled inches wide of the right post, and the Menace would not get closer to scoring until the final minutes, when the team pulled defender Pearson up top. A pair of shots by Pearson gave the Thunder a couple scares, but Rochester escaped with the win.

SCOUTING KANSAS CITY: The Brass (1-0-0) allowed only two shots on goal in a season-opening 1-0 win over Springfield on Sunday. Coleton Henning scored the game’s only goal on a right-footed blast on a corner kick delivery from Chris Markey.

The Menace (11-1-4 in 2009) had success against the Brass (4-9-3) last season, going 2-0-1. Des Moines shut out Kansas City, 4-0, at home on June 20, and won 3-2 in Liberty on July 16 to claim the outright division title.

Des Moines would have swept the season series for the second year in a row, had the team not allowed a late goal on June 4. Former Menace player Edson Edward scored in the final minute of regulation, to send the visitors home with a 1-1 draw.

The last time Des Moines lost to Kansas City was on May 16, 2007 -- a 3-1 defeat to the only Open Cup team in Kansas City’s 11-year history.

The Menace is 18-10-1 all time against the Brass, including a 7-6-1 mark on the road. Jefferson Roblee, in his eighth season as Brass head coach, has a career record of 53-67-15.

SCOUTING ST. LOUIS: The Lions are looking to bounce back from a season-opening loss and advance to the Open Cup for the third straight year. St. Louis dropped a 2-0 decision to Real Colorado at home on Saturday.

The Menace is 2-3-6 all-time versus St. Louis, including four draws over the last two seasons. The teams tied in back-to-back games a year ago.

With both teams undefeated heading into the final qualifying match of the Open Cup, St. Louis scored in the 74th minute on May 23 to earn a 2-2 tie at home and earn the division’s berth on a tiebreaker. A week later at Valley Stadium, the Lions erased a 2-0 deficit in the final 10 minutes to earn another 2-2 draw.

Des Moines avenged the ties on July 18, shutting down the Lions, 3-0 in the 2009 regular-season finale – the team’s first home win over the Lions in six tries. The Menace is 1-2-3 all-time at home against St. Louis.

Tony Glavin, the Lions’ head coach since their inaugural 2006 season, holds a record of 30-21-16. The Lions were 6-4-6 in 2009.

UPCOMING PROMOTIONS: The Menace will host “Black-Out Night” against St. Louis this Saturday, sponsored by Hubbell Realty and CBRE/Richard Ellis. Des Moines will don black jerseys and all fans are encouraged to wear black. Fans wearing black t-shirts will receive a ticket for only $5. All 2010 home games are on Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday will also mark the first game for the 2010 Cleat Crew. Members of the kids’ club will get a t-shirt, admission to three select games (May 22, June 26, and July 24), and a hot dog and drink at each of the three games. Cleat Crew membership is just $5 for kids 13 and under.

JOIN MENACE PLAYERS AT THE SCIENCE CENTER: Menace players will be at the Science Center of Iowa (401 W. MLK Parkway in downtown Des Moines) from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, showing children “the Science of Soccer.” SCI members receive $2 off admission for Saturday’s game.

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