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Preview: Menace shoots for the Stars

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa. – Monday, May 21, 2012 – Chasing its dreams of playing on the Major League Soccer stage in the Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup, the Des Moines Menace looks to move past Minnesota Stars FC tomorrow night at Valley Stadium.

The winner of the 7:30 p.m. battle advances to play Real Salt Lake on May 29. Minnesota would host the 2009 MLS champions in the third round; the Menace travels to Utah if it can upset its undefeated (4-0-3) opponent.

The Open Cup is a 99 year-old single-elimination soccer tournament that pools together the top American amateur and professional teams in a search for the nation’s best.

Surviving the Cup’s first round with a 3-1 overtime victory over the host Milwaukee Bavarians on May 15, the Menace is given the opportunity to host its second-round match after winning the tournament’s new blind-draw selection process. The reigning champs from the North American Soccer League – the country’s second-division, just below MLS – travel to Des Moines for their first match in the 2012 tournament.

Ranked on the level of professionalism the NASL and United Soccer League Pro teams do not enter the tournament until the second round, after the Premier Development League, National Premier Soccer League, United States Adult Soccer Association and United States Club Soccer teams have had the opportunity to duke it out. Teams who get to the third round of the 64-team tournament are joined by the 16 American MLS teams.

“It’s easier to motivate them for these games then regular season games,” said Menace head coach Laurie Calloway. “When you’re the underdog like we are this week, and trying to get a game with a major-league team – it’s another incentive to win.”

With Real Salt Lake waiting on the other side of tomorrow night’s match, the stakes don’t get much higher for Premier Development League players. The Open Cup provides a unique stage for them to get scouted for the big leagues, making it do-or-die time for the Menace and the eight other PDL teams left standing.

“We’re going to need to play like we did Saturday night. In terms of soccer it was fluid,” Calloway said, referencing the team’s 3-2 home win over Kansas City. “But we need to finish much, much better.”

A native of Woodbury Minn., Brent Kallman is playing for more than the dream of facing an MLS team. Also on his plate are family bragging rights. Kallman’s seven-year-older brother Brian Kallman has been a part of the Stars’ defense in each of the team’s three seasons. Family rivalry or not, Brent is all about business and getting his shot against Real Salt Lake in the third round.

“We’re already really excited to play a professional team like Minnesota,” said Kallman, who scored the first goal in Saturday’s win. “It’s a chance to knock off some big teams in the tournament. It’s a huge opportunity for a bunch of college players to come play together against an MLS team.”

One player not getting an opportunity for the Menace this week is defender Jubril Lawal. A hard attack in last week’s match with the Bavarians resulted in a red-card ejection and a one-game suspension for Lawal.

“We look to Taylor Diem this morning,” said Calloway. “Also to Charlie Bales who plays left back at Western Illinois. I’ll have to make a decision tonight. It’s good I have two choices.”

ABOUT THE OPEN CUP: In its 99th year, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is the country’s oldest soccer cup competition. It is open to all affiliated amateur and professional teams in the United States.

A total of 64 teams qualified for this year’s national tournament – a record for the Modern professional-era (1995-current) and an increase of 24 teams from last year’s Cup. The bracket includes all 16 American teams from Major League Soccer, 10 teams from the United Soccer League-PRO and six North American Soccer League teams. The remaining 32 spots are filled by amateur teams, including 16 teams from the Premier Development League.

The 32 non-MLS teams compete in head-to-head matches until the field whittles down to eight, when they are joined by the MLS teams to form a 32-team bracket. Head-to-head play continues until one team is left standing, with the final set for Aug. 7 or 8. Seattle Sounders FC has won the Open Cup the last three years.

The Menace makes its third consecutive and seventh overall appearance by virtue of its 2011 record (12-4-0), as one of the top two teams in the PDL’s Heartland Division (joined by the Real Colorado Foxes, who finished just behind Des Moines, at 11-2-3).

Des Moines carries an 8-6 all-time Open Cup mark, highlighted by the Menace’s back-to-back trips to the fourth round of the 2005 and 2006 tournaments.

Visit for up-to-date results.

Check out the Fans’ Guide to the Open Cup to follow the Menace in its seventh Cup appearance.

RECAPPING LAST WEEK: In the first round of the Open Cup, a couple delays for lightning and sprinklers, and three player ejections, made for a thrilling 3-1 OT win for the Menace over the Milwaukee Bavarians, at Bavarian Soccer Park in Wisconsin. Husref Jupic scored the first goal and Lebogang Moloto finished two goals in extra time. Jupic, who picked up a hat trick in a 4-1 win over St. Louis on May 12, was named the PDL Player of the Week and Moloto received honorable mention.

The Menace defeated Kansas City, 3-2, on Saturday. Luis Piffer emerged the hero, scoring a pair of goals – including the game-winner in the 84th minute. The visitors came back from a 2-0 deficit, thanks to two goals from Nick McDonald, who came on in the 70th minute.

SCOUTING MINNESOTA FC: TheStars are undefeated in seven matches. Led by Amani Walker’s three goals and three assists, the stars sit in second-place in the six-team NASL.

In the net for the Stars will most likely be Matt VanOekel who has started all seven of the Stars’ matches this year. Conceding eight goals this season VanOekel holds a 1.143 Goals Against Average.

Justin Davis, who played for the Menace in 2007-08, is a defender in his second year with Minnesota. The New Mexico product was drafted in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft by Real Salt Lake – the team awaiting tomorrow’s winner.

The Menace won’t be the only team with missing a member on Tuesday. Stars head coach Manny Lagos, a 1992 U.S. Olympic team member, won’t be on the sideline due to an ejection in the team’s last appearance in the Open Cup, in 2010.

UP NEXT: Traveling to St. Louis for the second stint with the Lions this season, the Menace looks to build upon a two-game regular season win streak.

The next Menace home match is set for June 9 against the Kansas City Brass, on Youth Soccer Night at Valley Stadium. All youth-soccer players and coaches receive free admission to the 7:30 p.m. match.

ABOUT THE MENACE: The Des Moines Menace provides the highest level of soccer in Iowa. The Menace men’s side competes in the 73-team United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL). The Menace’s women’s team, in its inaugural season, is part of the five-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, Junior Menace and tournaments.

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