Photo credit: Mike Vilez
Until recently, no Des Moines Menace Academy team had ever advanced to the finals of the U.S. Youth Soccer Region-II championships.
The Menace Academy U15 boys changed this.
In Appleton, Wis., last month, they swept their way to the final of the 2015 Region-II tournament. They had a chance to become just the second Iowa team to make it to nationals.
On the heels of four dominant wins, the team’s memorable run ended with a 3-1 loss to eventual national champion Sporting Kansas City Academy on June 24, leaving the Iowa City Alliance U17 girls (2013 in Des Moines) as the only Iowa team to move past regionals.
“I’m very proud of the team and I’m glad they are part of a history for getting this far in Regionals,” said Menace Academy director of coaching Tomas Boltnar, who has guided this group the last three years. “I’m also very excited as these guys start thinking about colleges and the large audience of coaches watching them progress. Getting second place in regionals will give us a chance to qualify for the highest level of competition available for a soccer club from Iowa.”
The three-time defending Iowa State Cup champs stormed through pool play, outscoring foes 14-3 in three matches (June 20-22). They advanced to the final with a 2-0 win over ECU Maroon (Ind.) on June 23. In these four matches, only Minot Magic (N.D.) scored against the Menace defense, and this came in a 9-3 decision on June 21.
Menace midfielder and captain Cristian Tavera, who scored the opening goal in the 2-0 semifinal win against ECU Maroon, has been with the Menace Academy for four years and reflects on his time at regionals.
“I look back at it as a dream almost come true,” said Tavera. “We obviously wanted to get through to nationals, but we have to be thankful for the experience we gained from playing at regionals. We have to keep our heads up, and focus on getting better and developing our game.”
Goalkeeper Jake Vilez, striker Julius Cooper, and midfielder Jordy Triana-Vazquez led the charge in Regionals. Vilez posted three shutouts; Cooper put away five goals – the tournament’s second highest total; Triana-Vazquez tallied four goals and assisted four more.
The U15 boys will graduate to the U16 age level, starting their fall campaign in the Alliance Premier League to take on teams from Iowa and Nebraska. In the spring, the Menace boys will compete in the competitive Midwest Regional League, which comprises teams from across the region. Teams qualify to play in the MRL based on play within their own states, as well as approval and review from their own State Associations.
With the new season almost underway and crucial experience under the Menace boys’ belts, the journey will hopefully lead to another shot at the regional title.
“I hope we get an opportunity to play in regionals again,” said Boltnar. “This team has gone to regionals three times and each time we have done better, so I hope we can keep the trend going.”
Head coach: Tomas Boltnar
Assistant coach: Matthew Olsen
Team manager: Terrisue Johnson
Menace intern Aaron Wylie, a 2012 graduate of the Menace Academy, wrote this story, which was posted in July 2015.
ABOUT THE MENACE ACADEMY: The Des Moines Menace Youth Soccer Academy provides a fun and challenging soccer environment that allows players to grow as people and reach the best of their soccer abilities. The academy includes boys and girls teams ranging in age from U9 to U18. Players are from all over the Des Moines metro area, coming from diverse backgrounds. Academy members develop by learning skills and strategies at age-appropriate levels. Youth are exposed to the very best coaching and training on a consistent basis as they grow and mature.
The non-profit Menace Academy is part of the Des Moines Menace – Iowa’s premier men’s and women’s teams. The Menace promotes healthy lifestyles through popular youth programs that also include Junior Menace, camps, clinics and tournaments.