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Menace in the pros: 2011 in review

Lamar Neagle emerged in 2011 as one of Major League Soccer's top young scoring threats. Photo courtesy Seattle Sounders FC
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 – Major League Soccer's top player, goal and save of the week helped shine the spotlight on a trio of former Des Moines Menace players in 2011.
Lamar Neagle, Danny Cruz and Andy Gruenebaum headline the list of Menace alumni who made their mark in 2011 – a year in which the franchise’s all-time list of alums who have played professionally grew to more than 50.
As we flip the calendar to a new year and prepare for the Menace’s 19th Premier Development League season, we look back on the 2011 accomplishments of 18 former Menace players who are active in the pro ranks.
Major League Soccer
Few might have predicted Neagle’s meteoric rise. At the start of the season, he was fighting for a roster spot with Seattle Sounders FC. By the end of the season, he had established himself as one of the top young players in the United States, while helping his hometown side to a third-straight U.S. Open Cup championship.
In his first full MLS season, Neagle made 35 appearances and scored seven goals, including three scores in Seattle’s 6-2 win over MLS East leader Columbus on Aug. 27. Following the hat trick, he was named the league’s player of the week.
Neagle, a standout in Des Moines in 2007-08, also delivered a pair of streak-busting game-winners. On May 28, his late goal snapped Real Salt Lake’s 29-match home unbeaten stretch. On Aug. 6, his strike in the 92nd minute was Seattle’s second stoppage-time goal in an unlikely comeback that ended Sporting Kansas City’s 14-match undefeated string. It was Sporting KC’s first loss in LiveSTRONG Park.
Cruz, a former UNLV and 2008 Menace teammate of Neagle’s, also came into his own in 2011. Cruz’s season ended in the national spotlight, in the Houston Dynamo’s 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Cup on Nov. 20.
In his third season with Houston, Cruz earned 13 starts (including the MLS Cup), notching seven points on two goals and three assists. He turned heads with his MLS goal of the week, a 38-yard, left-footed missile at Portland on Oct. 14.
Gruenebaum, a sixth-year goalkeeper with the Columbus Crew, made the MLS save of the week on July 30. In the latter of two straight starts filling in for injured starter William Hesmer, Gruenebaum made a diving, left-handed stop to preserve a win at Real Salt Lake. The hero from the Menace’s 2005 PDL champs made five saves in his two appearances, both shutouts.
A fourth Menace alum in the MLS in 2011, Edson Edward (2008 Menace), sat out his second season with FC Dallas, following ACL surgery on his right knee, in February.
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North American Soccer League
Justin Davis is a member of the NASL’s 2011 champions. The defender played in 23 matches for the NSC Minnesota Stars, who lifted the Soccer Bowl trophy on Oct. 29, after beating the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, 3-1, in a two-legged championship. Davis, who played for the Menace in 2007-08, netted his professional goal in a 2-0 win over Puerto Rico on May 18.
Joe Salem completed his second season with the Puerto Rico Islanders, who finished second in the eight-team NASL (four spots ahead of eventual champ Minnesota). The midfielder from the 2008-09 Menace logged more than 700 minutes.
Frankie Sanfilippo, a captain defender with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, prepares for his eighth professional season. He played four seasons under current Menace head coach Laurie Calloway, with the 2002 Menace and his first three years in the pros (2004 Syracuse Salty Dogs, 2005-06 Rochester Rhinos).
 
United Soccer Leagues PRO
Nicki Paterson led the Charleston (S.C.) Battery with 16 points (six goals, four assists) and more than 2,100 minutes. A fan favorite with the 2007-08 Menace, Paterson joined the Battery after a stint with Clyde F.C., a third-division club in his native Scotland.
Foreign Clubs
Leo Krupnik has made 19 appearances in his third-straight season with Maccabi Netanya in the Israeli Premier League Krupnik, who spent time with the Menace in 2002 and 2004, has played in more than 200 professional matches.
Josh Wicks (2003 Menace), a former Major League Soccer player, is the top goalkeeper for IFK Mariehamn in the Finnish Premier League.
Besmir Bega, a Drake product who played for the 2007 Menace, is in his third season with Partizani Tirana in his native Albania.
Clark Bradford, the 2010 team’s captain, enjoyed a successful debut, as a Queensland State League (Australia) all-star. His seven goals were fifth in the league, and a team-best for the Whitsunday Miners.
Rookie Bradley Barraclough (2009 Menace) is back home in England. He has made 12 appearances and assisted one goal for Lincoln City, in the country’s fifth division.
Julien Edwards and Grant Webb,who teamed up to lead the Menace (PDL) and Drake (NCAA Division I) to the Elite Eight in 2009, have reunited. Playing for first-year Capital City FC, they made it to the Canadian Soccer League title match – a 1-0 loss to Toronto-Croatia on Oct. 30.
Edwards and Webb each scored a goal for the Ottawa-based club. Edwards is a member of the Guyana (South America) national team, which is still in the running for a spot in the 2014 World Cup. Guyana advanced to the next round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with a Nov. 12 upset of Trinidad & Tobago.
Major Indoor Soccer League
A trio of former UMKC and 2011 Menace teammates are still at it this winter, as part of the seven-team MISL. Coady Andrews and John Sosa, who each spent time wearing the captain’s band for Des Moines last summer, play for the Missouri Comets. Bryan Perez, who played for the Comets last season, suits up for the rival Wichita Wings.
Nicki Paterson (see above, under USL PRO) is a member of the Baltimore Blast.
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Please email us with any missing Menace alumni or inaccurate information.
ABOUT THE MENACE: The Des Moines Menace provides the highest level of soccer in Iowa. The Menace men’s side competes in the 64-team United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL). The Menace’s women’s team prepares for its inaugural season, as part of the six-team Women’s League Soccer. The Menace teams play their 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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