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Menace, Demize battle for top spot

Lebogang Moloto launches a shot in the Menace's 4-1 win over St. Louis on May 12. Also pictured, left to right, are the Menace's Javi Lopez (16), Phil Da Silva and Brandon Fricke (8).
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Thursday, June 14, 2012 – With first place on the line, the Des Moines Menace returns to Cooper Complex for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff with the Springfield Demize.

Tied for second place in the Premier Development League’s Heartland Division with 14 points, the Menace (4-3-2) and Demize (4-2-2) know tonight’s game will bear a new division leader. Just ahead of the two teams with 15 points is reigning division champion Thunder Bay (5-1-0).

With nine games under its belt, the Menace has played more regular-season matches than every team in the division with the exception of WSA Winnipeg (1-6-5). Menace head coach Laurie Calloway understands how necessary it is for his to earn points tonight.

“There’s only one result we can look for – that’s a three-point win,” said Calloway. “We can only get 35 points and last year that didn’t make the playoffs. In essence we can’t lose another game and get in.”

In the previous four seasons with the Menace (2001-02, 2010-11), Calloway has led his team to three postseason appearances, including an undefeated season in 2002. Last season, the Menace squeaked into the playoffs with 36 points (12-4-0).

A win for Calloway tonight would not only put his team atop of the division, but would also earn him the title of the winningest coach in the Menace’s 19-year history. In Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Kansas City Brass, Calloway improved to a record of 48-17-12, tying Casey Mann’s record (48-19-13 from 2005-09) of most career wins.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” said Calloway. “Hopefully I can go on and make it a lot more.”

Currently on pace this season to tie its five previous seasons’ cumulative wins, the Springfield Demize is no easy opponent this year.

After upsetting the Menace 1-0 in its home-opener, the Demize propelled to three additional wins this season. Despite outshooting the Demize on May 9, the Menace was dealt its first-ever loss to the Springfield, moving the all-time series to 11-1.

“We outplayed them for 90 minutes and lost 1-0,” Calloway said. “We’ll be looking to control the game from the start and get some success in front of the goal.”

While the Menace leads the division in goals scored and has six players with at least two scores, the fact that no one has identified himself as the team’s prime scoring threat leaves Calloway feeling uneasy.

“I want someone to step up and become a leader in the scoring department,” said Calloway. “Someone you trust 90 percent to get a goal every week.”

RECAPPING LAST SATURDAY: Menace defender Javi Lopez put the team on his back, heading home two goals in the Menace’s 2-1 come-from-behind win over the Kansas City Brass at Valley Stadium.

In the 67th minute, Lebogang Moloto drove a corner kick to the far post where it found Taylor Diem. Earning his first assist for the Menace Diem directed the ball back across the box for Lopez’s equalizer.

Lopez took advantage of an opportunity served up by Gabe Silveira in the 89th minute, earning his team the win and three regular-season points.

SCOUTING SPRINGFIELD: The Demize carried an 8-64-8 all-time record into its sixth PDL season. In eight games this year, Springfield has already won half as many games as it had in the franchise’s previous 80 contests.

Jose Esparza and Drew Elton lead Armen Tonianse’s team with three goals apiece. Esparza has a team-high seven points. Goalkeeper Israel Bacerra has a team-best 0.962 Goals Against Average in three matches.

Trevor Spangenberg and Gerard Barbero, Missouri State teammates who spent time with the Menace last season, played key roles in Springfield’s 1-0 win over the Menace on May 9. Spangenberg posted the shutout and has a 1.013 GAA in six matches. Barbero, the team’s minutes leader (687), has scored a goal and assisted two others, including Eric Martin’s game-winner against the Menace.

UP NEXT: The Menace hosts Colorado Select for a 7:30 Blackout Night exhibition on Saturday at Valley Stadium. Fans wearing black get $5 tickets. The game is presented by Chase Suite Hotel in Clive.

Des Moines’ next regular-season action comes June 22-23, with a Friday-Saturday doubleheader at arch-rival Thunder Bay.
 
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). In its inaugural season, the Menace’s women’s team 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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