Nico Campbell came up big for the Menace, which has not lost a regular-season home match since 2013. Photo credit: Antonio Rodriguez
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Saturday, May 21, 2016 – For a while in tonight’s Premier Development League season opener at Valley Stadium, it looked like the Des Moines Menace’s home streak might be in jeopardy.
Fortunately for the Menace, it lives on, thanks to second-half goals by Christian Okeke and Ricky Hoegg in a 2-1 victory over Chicago Fire U23. Going back to July 2013, Des Moines is undefeated in its last 16 regular-season matches at home.
The Menace will look to extend this streak on June 4, when the expansion-side Kokomo Mantis FC comes to town. Earlier in that week, on June 1, Des Moines hosts a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against San Antonio FC (professional United Soccer League). The winner advances to fourth-round match with Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo.
Like in its two U.S. Open Cup wins (2-1 at FC Wichita on May 11 and 2-0 over Tulsa at home on Wednesday), Mike Matkovich’s squad scored twice after a scoreless first half.
Goalkeeper Nico Campbell kept the Menace in the match with eight saves, including five after halftime, when play intensified between these Heartland Division rivals.
“We started out a bit slow but picked it up in the second half,” Campbell said. “Our cohesiveness is not quite there yet. A couple more games together, and we’ll get there. A good victory for our team. We keep going, keep fighting.”
In a shuffled lineup full of new faces, Okeke and Hoegg found their first Menace goals in their first action of the season.
Newcomer Okeke’s rocket to the far post put the Menace up 1-0 in the 57th minute, but the Fire’s Elliot Collier knotted the match 13 minutes later.
In the 79th minute, Chicago was whistled for a foul when Des Moines’ Anthony Brown was brought down in the box. Hoegg stepped up to the mark and calmly converted his penalty kick against goalkeeper Andrew Putna, who – like Hoegg – was a member of the 2015 Menace.
The result brings back memories from June 9 last year, when the host Fire scored two PK’s in a 2-1 win of their own. The Menace found decisive redemption in a season-closing doubleheader at Valley Stadium, outscoring the Fire 13-0 and clinching a repeat division title.
Tonight's win gives the Menace the all-time series lead (5-4-2). These teams will see each other just one more time this season, when the Menace visits Chicago on June 28.
The.Menace is undefeated in its last eight PDL openers and 16 of its last 17. Since 1999, Des Moines has lost just once to start league play (a 2-1 loss to Saint Louis in the team’s Valley Stadium debut, on May 10, 2008).
Des Moines’ last regular-season home loss was on July 13, 2013 (a 2-1 setback to Real Colorado).
Captain Hoek: Wearing the captain's band for the first recorded time in his three-year Menace PDL career was Sean Hoek, who went the full 90 minutes tonight after scoring the game-winner as a sub against Tulsa on Wednesday.
Reunited: First-year Fire U23 head coach Logan Pause played for Chicago's MLS team for 12 seasons (2003-2014), including four years when current Menace field general Mike Matkovich was an assistant coach for the Fire (2009-10 and 2012-13).
Mascot News: At halftime, the Menace unveiled the much-anticipated, stronger version of Maniac, who burst through from a huge box delivered to the field.
MAN of the MATCH: Nico Cambpell for his eight saves. The Menace’s second-year goalkeeper is a native of Kingston, Jamaica who attends Valparaiso. He is the Horizon League’s reigning Goalkeeper of the Year.
UP NEXT: Des Moines sees its first PDL road action next Saturday, taking on the St. Louis Lions at 5 p.m.
Match: Chicago Fire U23 at Des Moines Menace
Date: Saturday, May 21, 2016
Competition: Premier Development League regular season
Venue: Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, Iowa (artificial-turf field)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. CDT
Weather: 70s, sunny
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
MENACE 0 2 2
FIRE 0 1 1
MENACE – Christian Okeke 57:00; Ricky Hoegg PK 80:00
FIRE – Elliott Collier 70:00
FIRE CAUTIONS: John Freitag 77:00; Andrew Gutman 79:00
MENACE / FIRE
Shots: 9 / 11
Saves: 8 / 3
Corner Kicks: 7 / 6
Fouls: 2 / 9
Offside: 1 / 1
ABOUT THE MENACE: The Des Moines Menace provides the highest level of soccer in Iowa. The Menace men’s team competes in the Premier Development League (PDL) and is set to begin its 23rd season in 2016. Starting their fifth season this year, the Menace women’s team is part of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL). With loyal support, the Menace men’s and women’s teams play their home games at the Valley Stadium in West Des Moines to provide family-fun entertainment. The Menace organization provides the growth of the game of soccer in Iowa with their youth soccer programs, including Junior Menace (ages 3-9), Menace Youth Academy (ages 10+), and other various youth tournaments, camps and clinics.
FOLLOW THE MENACE: