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Open Cup magic the highlight of 2013 season

The starters on May 28 at Sporting Park: (Front, L to R) Albert Edward, Jamie Vollmer, Chris Harmon, Shadow Sebele, Dylan Lax; (back, L to R) Jimmy Tulloch, Sean Hoek, Michael Thaden, Taylor Diem, Brandon Fricke and Scott Angevine
 
 
Picking the best memory of the Des Moines Menace’s 2013 season is an easy task.
 
Highlighted by a May run in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the 20th season of Menace Soccer created memories that coaches, players and fans will not soon forget.
 
Stepping onto the field in front of 15,000 fans, the Menace competed with Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City in the team’s state-of-the-art, $200 million gem of a stadium. It was the clear high point of a season that ended with a 6-6-2 Premier Development League record.
 
“Playing in Sporting Park was very impressive,” first-year Menace head coach Mike Jeffries said of that May 28 match – the organization’s first in an MLS venue. “It’s something the guys will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”
 
Des Moines’ run in the 100th annual Open Cup started on May 15 with a home matchup against the National Premier Soccer League’s Madison 56ers. Jimmy Tulloch’s 50th-minute header sealed the Menace’s first home Cup victory since 2006 and set up a May 21 rematch with Minnesota United FC – one year after the North American Soccer League power bounced the Menace from the second round.
 
In St. Paul, Des Moines fought neck-and-neck with the professional squad for 85 scoreless minutes. Then, in a magical moment, captain Brandon Fricke’s header goal silenced the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium crowd. Pulling off the upset over the heavily favored pros, the Menace cemented its bout in Sporting Park and gained national attention – even a few mentions on ESPN.
 
It was the experience of a lifetime. The day after Memorial Day, the PDL club got a primetime showdown with the defending Open Cup champions. More than 100 Menace fans packed two buses for the trip.
 
Despite dreams of upsets and miracle goals, the visitors were outmatched on the beautiful bluegrass pitch in Kansas City, Kan. It took Sporting less than 12 minutes to remind Des Moines of the differences between professional and amateur players, as fan favorite Kei Kamara one-timed a cross from Chance Myers past former teammate Scott Angevine and into the back of the net for the opening score.
 
“We were disappointed in how we gave up the first goal; we thought we should have been better than that,” Jeffries said. “But we knew it was going to be a tough game from the beginning and (Sporting) came out hard and fast.”
 
The Menace wasn’t ready to pack it in and accept defeat. The underdogs continued to fight for every possession and found itself just inches away from evening the match in the 28th minute. Following a beautiful run up the left side by Chris Harmon, Shadow Sebele collected a deflection off Sporting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg and fired the team’s first shot. It was all for not, though, as Sebele’s slider bounced just inches wide of the far post, outside the reach of a diving Kronberg.
 
After 70 minutes of scrappy defense, the Menace – one of four PDL teams to advance to the third round –  was still down just one goal. But as the 72nd minute passed, a cross found its way to Sporting forward Claudio Bieler and the MLS star doubled Kansas City’s lead with his left-footed screamer.
 
It was a memorable homecoming for Angevine; the Kansas City native, who played last season for Sporting KC, made the most out of his opportunity. Under the bright lights, he made six great saves and kept the Menace within striking distance.
 
Finally finding some footing, the Menace appeared to have gotten on the board in the 90th minute. Fricke’s run and finish sent the Red Army into a frenzy, only to be silenced seconds later as the referees signaled for an offside call.
 
“The Open Cup was huge for our guys,” Jeffries said. “They got a chance to showcase their talents in front of an MLS stadium. We fought hard and we hung with them and that was special.”
 
As the final whistle blew, the Menace walked away with heads held high. Fans hoped that Des Moines’ fourth-straight Open Cup appearance (and eighth overall) would act as a launching pad for the Heartland Division schedule.
 
It did not. The team hit a rough stretch, winning just two of seven PDL matches from Memorial Day weekend through mid-June. Poised for a successful home stand to solidify its place in the division standings, the Menace was promptly shut out in three straight home losses, including a pair to arch-rival Thunder Bay, the league’s eventual regular-season champion and postseason runner-up.
 
A single loss away from becoming playoff-irrelevant, the Menace reversed its direction and claimed three consecutive shutout victories by a combined 4-0 margin. Riding its only winning streak of the season, Des Moines found itself in an all-or-nothing battle with Real Colorado.
 
“Our focus and intensity were great,” said Jeffries of his side’s late-season winning streak. “We knew we had to win; our backs were against the wall and we responded.”
 
Valley Stadium was an ocean of red and a buzz filled the air on July 13 as Des Moines played host to the Foxes. Winning was a must; a loss or a tie would eliminate the Menace from postseason possibility.
 
Unfortunately, things didn’t start well for the home team. Less than five minutes in, Oliver Gore, the PDL’s goals leader entering the match, collected a loose ball deep in Des Moines’ zone and fed Andrew Mejia. Mejia’s shot deflected off a scrambling Fatai Alabi and over a leaping Angevine for the opening score.
 
“The first goal was tough to come back from,” said Jeffries. “It was a sloppy turnover and it just got to us.”
 
Only after Jamie Gilbert inflated the Colorado lead to two in the 54th minute, did the Menace retaliate. Sebele converted a penalty kick in the 74th minute to cut the deficit in half and Des Moines pushed forward, but it was too little, too late. The final whistle sounded on the match and the Menace’s postseason. For the second-straight year, the Foxes beat out the Menace for the division’s second and final playoff berth.
 
One week later, Des Moines’s season ended the same way as it began, with a tie. Despite holding a one-goal lead three times throughout the match, the disheartened Menace settled for a 3-3 draw against the rival St. Louis Lions on July 20.
 
With the season-ending stalemate, the Menace finished with its first non-winning record since 1999, though the .500 mark did keep alive a streak of 14 straight non-losing seasons. The team was 4-2-1 on the road, but settled for its first losing home record since 1997.
 
Although the season peaked before June, Jeffries is still proud of how his guys fought throughout the summer months.
 
“We had a great group of guys. We tried to push every game and tried to entertain. Our biggest frustration was with not getting the right results in front of the home fans.”
 
The story of the 2013 Menace is clear. A humbling PDL season is overshadowed by an Open Cup match that has been immortalized in Menace history.
 
 
Season Highlights
 
SUCCESS ON THE ROAD
The Menace finished with a winning record on the road (4-2-1) for the sixth time in the past seven years. Des Moines outscored home teams 13-6. Only five PDL sides allowed fewer goals in road matches.
 
UN-FRICKE-N BELIEVABLE
Brandon Fricke is in select company. As a member of the 2013 All-PDL Team, he is one of the top 11 standouts in a 64-team league with more than 1,200 players. A staple in the Menace’s formidable backline, Fricke led the Menace defenders with a pair of goals in PDL play. Also selected to the All-Central Conference team, the Grimes native is the just the third Menace player (and the first local one) to make the all-league team (Tomas Boltnar in 2003, 2005 and 2006; John Sosa in 2011).
 
Fricke’s all-league recognition will look nice sitting next to his Player of the Round award, which he earned for his second-round heroics in the Open Cup. Fricke’s header in the 86th minute combined with a shutout of pro-side Minnesota United FC sealed a date with Sporting KC in Sporting Park.
 
AWARDS AND SPOTLIGHTS GALORE
The entire Menace team played hard all season. But only a select few received postseason awards from Menace coaches and staff. Find out who got the honorable nods here: 2013 team awards: Menace PDL
 
For the third straight year, Menacesoccer.com highlighted a Menace player each week with Spotlight videos and feature stories. Get a better look at some of the players’ personalities here: Player Spotlights
 
The Menace presented Player of the Match honors, sponsored by Seneca Companies, after every game this season. Nico Wright and Shadow Sebele led the Menace with three Player of the Match nods each. Wright earned all three of his honors after dominating the Kansas City Brass. Sebele earned all three of his at home, including the final two of the year after collecting two scores and two assists over Des Moines’ final pair of home matches.
 
SWEET ANGEVINE
Goalkeeper Scott Angevine was named the team’s MVP. One year after suiting up for three MLS teams, Angevine brought veteran leadership and sure-handed play to the Menace. In 12 PDL matchups, he posted a 1.17 Goals Against Average and four shutouts. He earned two more shutouts in the Open Cup, and rose to the occasion in front of a hometown crowd, against his former teammates, in the May 28 loss to Sporting KC.
 
HOOSIER MINUTES LEADER?
A pair of teammates from the defending NCAA champions made a large impact for the Menace. Dylan Lax (1,190 minutes) and Jamie Vollmer (1,141 minutes), both from Indiana University, were two of the top three minute leaders for Des Moines. Brandon Fricke (1,147) finished second.
 
SEIZING DIEM, TAYLOR COLLECTS ACCOLADE
Defender Taylor Diem got into the honor circle with his PDL Team of the Week selection on May 23. Diem’s game-winning header against WSA Winnipeg on May 18 gave the Menace its first Heartland Division victory of the season. Diem was the only Menace player to make the PDL Team of the Week in 2013.
 
RARE SCORES
Pick any game this season and the Menace is likely to have scored one goal or less. In five games, Des Moines managed only one goal and couldn’t find the net at all in another five. In fact, it scored its lowest amount (19 goals) in franchise history. Despite scoring less than any Menace team in history, Des Moines finished with more goals than 23 other PDL teams.
 
Goals were especially hard to come by at home. In seven PDL matches at Valley Stadium, the Menace scored just six times, with half of those goals coming in a 3-3 draw to end the season. Only 18 PDL teams allowed fewer goals than the Menace (16). Until St. Lions scored in the final minute of the first half in the July 20 season finale, Des Moines did not concede more than one score in a single half.
 
WRIGHT CREATES SWEET MUSIC AGAINST BRASS
Facing the Kansas City Brass simply brought out the best in Nico Wright. The Jamaican was scoreless this season against all other teams, but he found the net for the opening score in each of his three contests with the Brass. Nico, recipient of the teams Golden Boot Award, also received Player of the Match honors in each of his matchups with Kansas City – including a 5-1 romp in Atchison, Kan., on June 5.
 
FIRST-EVER .500
The Menace achieved another first this season when it finished with a perfectly even record. The 6-6-2 mark is the first-ever non-winning and non-losing season record for the Menace. It also marks the 14th straight non-losing season.
 
BEYOND THE SHADOW OF A DOUBT
Shadow Sebele, a Zimbabwean who played collegiately at West Virginia, shook off injuries to finish the season strong. He played a role in each of the team’s final four goals, converting a pair of penalty kicks before assisting Brandon Fricke and Sean Hoek for the season’s last two scores. Sebele was the team’s leader with nine points (two goals and five assists).
 
NEW GM, NEW COACH
In the months leading up to the 2013 season, the Menace brought in two leaders with Major League Soccer experience. Matt Homonoff, who spent seven years with D.C. United and the 2012 season with FC Edmonton (NASL), took over as general manager last November. Two months later, the team introduced Mike Jeffries as the head coach. Jeffries, who has more than 20 years’ pro experience as a player and coach, spent more than 10 years on the MLS sidelines (Dallas and Chicago).
 
CELEBRATING 20 SEASONS
In 20 years, the Menace has built a reputation as one of the country’s top clubs. Des Moines’ two-decade history includes eight Open Cup berths, 11 playoff appearances, two PDL titles (2002 regular season and 2005 postseason) and more than 70 alumni who have played professionally.
 
This story, written by Menace intern Jordan Guy, was posted on Aug. 7, 2013.
 
 
Des Moines Menace 2013 Final Results (6-6-2 PDL; 2-4-1 home and 4-2-1 road)
Saturday, May 11          at Springfield Demize                 T, 1-1
Wednesday, May 15     Madison 56ers (OC)                 W, 1-0
Saturday, May 18         WSA Winnipeg                                    W, 1-0
Tuesday, May 21           at Minnesota United FC (OC)      W, 1-0
Saturday, May 25          at St. Louis Lions                       L, 0-1
Tuesday, May 28           at Sporting KC (OC)                   L, 0-2
Thursday, May 30          at WSA Winnipeg                      W, 4-1
 
Saturday, June 1            at Thunder Bay Chill                   L, 0-2
Wednesday, June 5       at Kansas City Brass                 W, 5-1
Saturday, June 8         Springfield Demize                  L, 0-1
Friday, June 14            Thunder Bay Chill                    L, 0-2
Saturday, June 15        Thunder Bay Chill                    L, 0-2
Saturday, June 22        Kansas City Brass                    W, 1-0
Saturday, June 29        Twin Cities BK (E)                    W, 2-1
 
Saturday, July 6             at St. Louis Lions                       W, 1-0
Tuesday, July 9             at Kansas City Brass                 W, 2-0
Saturday, July 13         Real Colorado Foxes               L, 1-2
Saturday, July 20         St. Louis Lions                         T, 3-3
 
All game times are central
OC = Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup; E = Exhibition
 
ABOUT THE MENACE: The Des Moines Menace provides the highest level of soccer in Iowa. In its 20th season, the Menace men’s side competes in the 64-team United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL). The Menace’s women’s team played in the 2013 Women’s Premier Soccer League playoff, after debuting as the Women’s League Soccer 2012 champions. 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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