It took a ferocious finish and a little luck for the Des Moines Menace to qualify for the 2011 Premier Development League playoffs.
With the Menace’s postseason chances on the line for the final month of the season, this group of gritty competitors did not back down from the challenge. They won six of their last seven matches, punctuated by a thrilling victory that clinched a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season.
“The team was a work in progress that got better and better and better,” said Menace head coach Laurie Calloway, reflecting on a 12-4-0 regular season that led to the franchise’s 11th playoff appearance. “We got behind the eight ball, and the guys showed they had the desire, the durability and the dedication to the very end. They knew what they needed to do.”
Calloway praised his players’ collective “fighting spirit,” which he said started spreading through the team during a 1-0, short-handed loss to the Thunder Bay Chill on July 8 that left the Menace no margin for error.
Des Moines revived its playoff hopes the next night with a 2-0 payback win over its arch-rivals.
“We just said, ‘Guys, we’ve got to win every game, and see how the cookie crumbles,’” Calloway recalled. “I think the guys really started to believe they could get to the playoffs. They bought in.”
The Menace players did their part, and they got some help from Thunder Bay. The defending PDL finalists took care of the Real Colorado Foxes – a team whose only two losses came to the Chill, and a team the Menace did not see in 2011. This kept the door open for the Menace to sneak in and grab the Heartland Division’s second and final playoff berth.
In a battle for the Heartland Division crown, the home-team Chill (12-2-2) closed its regular season by defeating Real Colorado (11-2-3), 5-2, on July 23. The Menace kept its postseason chances alive the same night, picking up a 5-1 home win over Kansas City.
A team on a mission, the Menace headed to St. Louis the next day, finally in control of its destiny. A win would clinch the division’s second and final playoff spot (edging Real Colorado on a tie breaker: wins); a tie or loss would mean an abrupt end to the season. Rising to the occasion, the Meance held on for a 1-0 win after John Sosa set up Lebogang Moloto’s header goal in the first half.
“I think (the Menace players) went on the field as prepared as they could be, mentally and physically,” Calloway said of the pivotal July 24 win. “We were motivated, and we got into a rhythm…We survived some scary moments at the end, when St. Louis threw everything at us. We had to fight.”
This set up a Central Conference semifinal between the PDL’s two most storied franchises. The Menace prepared for a July 29 playoff date with the Michigan Bucks at Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac, Mich.
Boasting an 8-0 home record, the Bucks had not conceded any goals at home, outscoring visitors 24-0. Calloway and his crew were determined to be the first team to score against the Great Lakes Division champs on their home turf.
They did just that, and they nearly knocked off the favored Bucks. Moloto assisted Sosa’s header goal right before the half, and the Menace led 1-0 until the Bucks tied the match in the final minute of regulation.
“We played extremely well,” Calloway said of the team’s first playoff action in two years. “We had a lot of possession. We were as prepared as we could be. Because of the way we played, and how closely we followed the game plan, I thought we were very, very unlucky to not win the game in 90 minutes.”
The visitors continued to play well in the overtime – two 15-minute periods to be played out in full, with no golden goal. Sosa, a 2011 all-PDL selection, came through with another goal, converting on a penalty kick to put his side up 2-1.
Things were looking good for the Menace, playing with the lead and a man advantage. Then the momentum harshly swung back in the Bucks’ favor. Sosa, the Menace’s captain, was ejected when he disputed a corner kick that allowed Michigan to score an equalizer in the final minute of the first extra period. The Bucks delivered the knockout punch in the second stanza of OT, sending the Menace packing with a tough-to-swallow, 3-2 loss.
“To lose that way was frustrating. We probably should have closed out the game,” Calloway said. “But I was really proud of the guys, the way they played. I was disappointed for the players.”
It was a difficult way to go out, but should not detract from the team’s 12th-straight winning season. The Menace overcame some bumps in the road, and came together to win key matches down the stretch. The team’s 12 victories – coming on four three-game winning streaks – are tied for the second-most in the franchise’s 18 seasons.
“Overall, I was very pleased with this group of guys. Excellent human beings. Excellent players,” Calloway said. “I don’t think we had any bad eggs.
“I’ve had a lot of compliments about the team – at camps, at clinics, on the road, here at the (Kum & Go corporate headquarters) office. I’m proud of how the guys have represented the club, and the city of Des Moines.”
Calloway has reason for optimism, with the nucleus of this year’s team wanting to return next year to build upon this season’s success, with the goal of making a run in the 2012 PDL playoffs.
Spotlighting a few of the 2011 Menace’s key contributors:
John “Mr. Assist” Sosa
The Menace’s midfield maestro is only the second all-PDL selection in Menace history, joining franchise player Tomas Boltnar (an all-league pick in 2003, 2005 and 2006). A UMKC product who was born in Colombia and calls Florida his home, Sosa led the team with 22 points, not including his four points from the playoff game. He tallied 10 assists, second-best in the PDL, and he set a club record by assisting four goals on May 21 in a 5-2 win over St. Louis.
The speedy Jamaican racked up nine goals in only 10 matches. Brown, an NAIA all-American at Mobile (Ala.), was second on the Menace with 21 points, also turning in a pair of hat tricks in the team’s June exhibitions. His exciting summer ended with a stint playing for his national team.
Lebogang “Tsunami” Moloto
Back for his second season with the Menace, the South African once again put on a skillful display for Menace fans. Moloto scored six goals and assisted another, giving him 25 points in two years in Des Moines. Teammates voted the Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) NAIA standout the team’s best player and the most likely to play Major League Soccer.
Perez tied Moloto for the team’s third-highest point total. His 13 points came on five goals and three assists. Perez, a Floridian originally from Costa Rica, was one of three former UMKC teammates who played the most minutes for the 2011 Menace, regularly joining Coady Andrews (1,227 minutes) and John Sosa (1,128) in the lineup. He logged 1,161 minutes in 15 matches, and even spent 10 days on trial with a Chilean pro club in June.
The local product made the most of his eight matches in his second PDL season with the Menace, notching five assists – second to only Sosa. He set up Perez’s goals in consecutive minutes of a 5-1 win over Kansas City on July 23, after Perez assisted Jupic’s game-winner late in the first half (In this photo, Jupic, right, celebrates his goal with Perez). A product of the Menace Academy and Hoover High School, Jupic prepares for his junior season at Western Illinois.
Highlights from the 2011 season:
BACK TO THE OPEN CUP: The Menace returned to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the sixth time, and for the second-straight year, a 1-0 home loss in the first round bumped Des Moines from the prestigious national tournament. This time around, a late goal by Chicago Fire PDL dealt the Menace a loss, on June 14 at Valley Stadium. Only two weeks later, the Fire went head-to-head with Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC, at the newly opened LiveSTRONG Park; the MLS side won the third-round match, before falling to USL-PRO Richmond in the next round.
WEEKLY HONORS: A trio of Menace players earned spots on the PDL Team of the Week. John Sosa was the first, making the team after his four-assist performance on May 21. Jubril Lawal was recognized for his efforts in the Menace’s pivotal 2-0 win over Thunder Bay on July 9, when he scored the game-winner and helped put the defensive clamps on the Chill. Bryan Perez landed on the regular season’s final team of the week, after scoring back-to-back goals in a 5-1 win over Kansas City on July 23.
INTRODUCING THE MR. B MAN of the MATCH: With the support of Mr. B Clothing, the Menace staff nominated the team’s top contributor for each match. A dozen players received the honor, with Deshorn Brown and John Sosa each named Man of the Match on four occasions. Lebogang Moloto and Bryan Perez were two-time honorees.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHTS: Each week, Menace interns Jenae Jenison and BJ Stokesbary featured a select player, with stories and videos on MenaceSoccer.com. You can click here for links to these spotlight stories.
GOALIES-GO-ROUND: There was no shortage of competition for playing time in the box. No fewer than eight goalkeepers spent time on the team’s active roster; five netminders started for the Menace this season. Jhohan Obando persevered as the top goalie for the run to the postseason, finishing with a pair of shutouts, a 3-1 mark and a 1.00 goals against average. Phil Boerger led the corps with seven games, five wins (including two clean sheets) and 24 saves. Before a season-ending injury, Andy Holte went 2-1, posted a team-best 0.67 GAA and was named Man of the Match for his gutsy performance in a 1-0 loss to Thunder Bay on July 8.
ALUMNI GAME: Menace past met Menace present on July 23, and youth eventually prevailed. This year’s team hosted a team of former Menace players, who held their own in an exhibition fundraiser for Blank Children’s Hospital. Sporting forest-green jerseys with the team’s retro logo, the alumni boasted at least one player from each of the franchise’s 17 previous seasons. The throwback team included the likes of Tomas Boltnar, Armin Mujdzic, Matt Nickel, Luke Frieberg and player/manager Neathan Gibson, the Menace’s assistant coach.
SCORING OUTBURST: The Menace tallied 41 goals during the regular season, with a trio of five-goal rampages – May 21 against St. Louis (a 5-2 win), June 1 at Kansas City (5-2) and July 23 against Kansas City (5-1). The 41 goals – matching the 2007 Menace – are the most by a Menace side since the 2005 PDL champs scored 48. The franchise record is 68 goals, piled up by the 2002 team that finished undefeated.
Related link: Final 2011 statistics
SECOND-MOST WINS: This was the fourth 12-win season in franchise history. The Menace also won a dozen matches each season from 2003 to 2005. The undefeated 2002 squad (15-0-3) is the only one to finish with more regular-season wins. The 2005 league champions went 12-3-1, in the first year the PDL reverted to a 16-match regular season, after playing an 18-game schedule the five previous seasons.
NO TIES: After tying 16 matches in the previous three seasons, the Menace bucked the trend this year. A season without any draws was a welcome change, following the franchise-record seven ties that kept the 2010 Menace (6-3-7) out of the playoffs.
FRIENDLY CONFINES: The Menace finished the regular season 7-1-0 at Valley Stadium, for the team’s best home record since 2002 (8-0-1). This mark does not include the team’s Open Cup loss to Chicago Fire PDL or the team’s three exhibition wins over Des Moines International, the Winnipeg Lions and the Menace Alumni.
Thank you, fans, for Experiencing the World’s Game and supporting your Menace – Iowa’s Premier Soccer Team!
DES MOINES MENACE 2011 FINAL RESULTS
(12-4-0 regular season; 7-1-0 at home and 5-3-0 on the road)
** = exhibition match
# = U.S. Open Cup qualifying match
^ = U.S. Open Cup first round
% = PDL Central Conference semifinal
Saturday, May 14 vs. St. Louis Lions # W, 2-1
Tuesday, May 17 at Springfield Demize# W, 3-0
Saturday, May 21 vs. St. Louis Lions # W, 5-2
Wednesday, May 25 at Kansas City Brass # L, 1-2
Wednesday, June 1 at Kansas City Brass W, 5-2
Saturday, June 4 vs. Des Moines International** W, 14-0
Tuesday, June 7 at WSA Winnipeg W, 2-0
Wednesday, June 8 at WSA Winnipeg W, 4-3
Friday, June 10 at Thunder Bay Chill L, 0-2
Saturday, June 11 at Thunder Bay Chill L, 0-3
Tuesday, June 14 vs. Chicago Fire PDL ^ L, 0-1
Saturday, June 18 vs. Kansas City Brass W, 4-2
Saturday, June 25 vs. Winnipeg Lions** W, 5-0
Friday, July 1 vs. WSA Winnipeg W, 4-0
Saturday, July 2 vs. WSA Winnipeg W, 3-1
Friday, July 8 vs. Thunder Bay Chill L, 0-1
Saturday, July 9 vs. Thunder Bay Chill W, 2-0
Saturday, July 16 vs. Menace Alumni** W, 4-1
Saturday, July 23 vs. Kansas City Brass W, 5-1
Sunday, July 24 at St. Louis Lions W, 1-0
Friday, July 29 at Michigan Bucks % L, 2-3 in OT
ABOUT THE MENACE: The Des Moines Menace competes in the 64-team United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL), the highest amateur level of soccer in North America. The Menace plays its home matches in a fun, family-friendly environment at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines. The organization promotes a healthy lifestyle through its popular youth programs, including the Menace Academy (select soccer for ages 9-19), camps, clinics and tournaments.
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