Teammates and fans swarmed Brandon Fricke (second player from left), whose PK sealed a dramatic playoff win. Photo credit: Art Schramm Photography
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Friday, July 25, 2014 – On tired legs, the Premier Development League’s two most storied clubs will face off in the Central Conference final at Valley Stadium.
The Des Moines Menace and the Michigan Bucks needed to work overtime tonight to set up tomorrow’s 7:30 p.m. marquee matchup. Goalkeeper Paul Blanchette and captain Brandon Fricke came up huge in a shootout, as the host Menace dispatched K-W United, 0(4)-0(3) in a tense nightcap that followed the Bucks’ 3-1 extra-time victory over the St. Louis Lions.
Blanchette made consecutive stuffs, and the Menace erased a two-goal deficit. Making a save to his right, he stopped Ridge Robinson in the third round. The Menace drew level, 2-2, with Jonny Macadam’s precisely placed spot kick.
In the next round, Blanchette switched his dive to the left to snuff Sergio Camargo low in the corner. Defender Charlie Bales put pure power into a rocket that gave Des Moines a 3-2 edge after four rounds.
In the fifth and final round, Nick Perea drew K-W even, and Fricke took the team on his shoulders when he stepped up as the final shooter.
United goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod guessed correctly on Fricke’s kick, but the power behind the shot pounded the corner, and Fricke was met by teammates and fans on the near sideline.
“Once I saw it go in the net, it was a huge relief,” said Fricke, a fifth-year staple for his hometown team. “I just wanted to celebrate with our fans and with my team.”
The PDL’s regular-season champions (12-1-1) found themselves in a 2-0 hole after Jordan Murrell and Jack Warburten made good on their shots and Chris Hellmann was denied in the opening round. Defender Alec Bartlett, a Drake teammate of MacLeod, brought the Menace back in it, with a low line drive to the right corner.
The scoreless struggle was a tale of two halves. K-W United took the first half by storm, registering seven shots and forcing Blanchette into two saves. The second half took a different turn, as K-W was shut down, getting just one shot.
The Menace’s first shot of the game came after halftime. The best chance of the game for the Menace came from Nico Wright in the 48th minute. After finding some space on the left side, the Jamaican cut to his right and had a great look at goal. His curling effort was just outside the far post. In the second half, Des Moines tallied 10 shots.
“It’s definitely a sense of relief,” Blanchette said, following his sixth shutout in eight appearances. “We would feel cheated if we didn’t win this one. We’ve all sacrificed a lot through this summer, and we want to keep playing together.
“Now, we have about 30 minutes to bask in the moment.”
The Menace and the Bucks will meet for the sixth time in the PDL Playoffs. Des Moines has finished on top just once, on the way to the 2005 league title.
Michigan is the only PDL franchise with more wins (223) and playoff berths (17) than Des Moines (199 wins, 12 playoff appearances). The Bucks finished their 19th season with a 9-2-3 mark, atop the Great Lakes Division, one rung above K-W United. The team from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., went 8-3-3 in the regular season.
MAN of the MATCH: Paul Blanchette, for the first time this season. In eight matches with the Menace, he has allowed just two goals – good for a 0.250 goals-against average.The native of Palo Alto, Calif., attends Loyola Marymount.
UP NEXT: The Menace and the Bucks square off in the Central Conference final, set for 7:30 p.m. tomorrow. The winner advances to the PDL Playoffs’ semifinals on Aug. 1.
Match: K-W United FC at Des Moines Menace
Date: Friday, June 25, 2014
Competition: Premier Development League Playoffs: Central Conference semifinal
Venue: Valley Stadium (turf) in West Des Moines, Iowa
Weather: 80s, clear skies
Scoring Summary: 1 2 OT1 OT2 F
MENACE 0 0 0 0 0 (4)
K-W 0 0 0 0 0 (3)
Misconduct Summary: MENACE cautions: Brandon Fricker 7:00; K-W United cautions: Jarek Whiteman 26:00; Ridge Robinson 69:00; Shane Keely 103:00
Stats Summary: MENACE / K-W
Shots: 13 / 12
Saves: 3 / 3
Corner Kicks: 4 / 2
Fouls: 10 / 12
Offside: 1 / 0
ABOUT THE MENACE: The Des Moines Menace provides the highest level of soccer in Iowa. In its 21st 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 playoffs, 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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