The Des Moines Menace closes its road schedule tonight in a crucial match-up against Rochester (Minn.), and hosts Springfield (Mo.) on Saturday.
Tonight’s match at Rochester Community and Technical College Stadium starts at 7 o’clock. Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. match at Valley Stadium caps off a triple-header that includes the 2010 Iowa High School All-Star Games.
The Menace has tied five of its last six Premier Development League matches and is looking for its first win since May 29.
Des Moines seeks revenge against Rochester (5-2-2). The Thunder spoiled Des Moines’ regular-season home opener with a 1-0 win on May 15. That game marked the only regular-season home loss this season for the Menace. Rochester has been idle since a 3-0 victory over Springfield on June 13.
“We need three points to stay in the playoff hunt,” Menace head coach Laurie Calloway said. “We’re going to take it game by game. Not picking up three points (for a win) recently has hurt us.”
This is an important game for both teams. After Real Colorado’s weekend sweep over St. Louis, the Menace and Thunder are tied for second place with 17 points. The Foxes (5-2-5) took sole possession of first place with 20 points. Thunder Bay (5-1-1) has surged into third with 16 points, followed by St. Louis (4-4-2) with 14 points.
Des Moines (4-2-5) had its 19-game road unbeaten streak broken at Thunder Bay last Friday. The lopsided 7-2 loss was the first defeat on the road since May 2008.
The Menace must take care of business Saturday against the division’s weakest team in order to stay in the playoff hunt. Springfield (1-8-2) is in last place with five points.
Saturday marks the final game of a busy month for Des Moines, but the team will play a home game every Saturday through July 24 to close the regular season.
“The playoff race is very tight; we can make it exciting with five wins,” Calloway said of the final leg of the schedule. “Without five wins, I don’t think we have much of a chance, to be honest.”
The top two teams from the Heartland Division advance to the PDL playoffs.
RECAPPING LAST WEEKEND: The Menace returned from Thunder Bay, Ontario with just one point, suffering a 7-2 setback against the Chill last Friday but bouncing back for a 1-1 tie on Saturday.
Friday’s defeat was the franchise’s worst loss since 1999. It was also the second-most goals the team allowed in franchise history.
Des Moines trailed 4-0 at the half, but a Jack Pearson goal two minutes into the second half gave the Menace a glimmer of hope. Brandon Swartzendruber completed a hat trick with back-to-back goals in the 54th and 56th minutes, putting the game away for the Chill.
Menace assistant coach Neathan Gibson was added to the roster for last week’s trip, and entered the game in the 58th minute. It was the 40-year-old’s first action since playing for the Menace in 2002. The former Major League Soccer player assisted Yuki Kariya’s first goal of the season in the 68th minute.
The next day, Clark Bradford converted a penalty kick in the 45th minute, after Sterling Copeland was knocked down in the box. Thunder Bay rallied to tie the game in the 71st minute, but the damage could have been much worse.
Menace goalkeeper Jake Wright, playing in only his second game this season, was phenomenal in the game’s waning moments. Wright made two key saves in stoppage time to make sure Des Moines did not return home empty-handed. Despite being outshot 20-7, the Menace was able to hang on for a draw and salvage one point for the road trip.
SCOUTING ROCHESTER: The Thunder is already in the Heartland Division playoff hunt in just its second season in franchise history.
Last season, Rochester was on the brink of a breakthrough with seven of its nine losses by one goal. The team has taken the next step into contention this season with wins over Real Colorado, Des Moines and Thunder Bay. The Thunder is the only team to defeat Thunder Bay this season, with a 2-0 victory on June 5.
Des Moines defeated Rochester on its home field twice last season, and went 3-0-0 against the team in 2009. The Thunder won the only match between these two teams this season.
Rochester’s Mark Heath-Preston has been arguably the most valuable player in the division this season. His 15 points rank sixth in the PDL, and his seven goals are tied for third in the league. No other player on the team has more than four points.
Goalkeeper Sebastian Narvaez, who played with the Menace in the preseason, is second in the PDL with four shutouts, and eighth in the league with 49 saves. Rochester has given up only five goals in nine games this season, and is second in the PDL with a 0.56 goals against average.
Neil Cassidy, Rochester’s second-year coach, is 10-11-4 with the club.
SCOUTING SPRINGFIELD: The Menace has won every game against Springfield since the team’s inaugural season in 2007. Des Moines holds a 9-0-0 overall record in the series, and has outscored the Demize 34-3.
After finishing 2009 at 2-13-1, Springfield is on a similar pace under first-year coach Logan Hoffman.
The Demize is no team to take lightly, however, as it has gained confidence with a four-point outing against Kansas City last weekend. Springfield defeated the Brass last Saturday, 3-2, for its first win of the season.
The Menace defeated the Demize 3-1 in the regular-season opener on May 12 in the teams’ only meeting this year.
Ben Taylor leads Springfield in scoring with four points in two games played. Taylor led the Menace with 13 points in 2009.
UPCOMING PROMOTIONS: The Menace will host the Iowa High School All-Star games on Saturday before it takes on Springfield. The boys game will start at 3 p.m., and the girls game will start at 5 p.m.
June 26 also marks the second Cleat Crew game. The Cleat Crew is still open to all children 13 and under. For just $5, members get a T-shirt, ticket to this game and the July 24 game against St. Louis, and a hot dog and drink at each game.
Saturday’s triple-header is presented by Kum and Go.