PONTIAC, Mich. – Saturday, July 23, 2016 – In a battle of Premier Development League powers, the host Michigan Bucks outlasted the Des Moines Menace tonight inside Ultimate Soccer Arenas.
A pair of second-half goals by Russell Cicerone sealed a 2-0 win, the Central Conference championship and a berth in the league’s final four.
Michigan – the league’s all-time winningest club – has won six of its seven postseason clashes with Des Moines – the PDL franchise with the second-most wins. The Menace was hoping to follow in the footsteps of Des Moines’ 2005 team, which eliminated Michigan on the way to the league championship.
The Bucks’ last win over the Menace – also by a 2-0 scoreline, at Valley Stadium two years ago – was a step on the way to the club’s second postseason title. The team from suburban Detroit has claimed the PDL’s last two regular-season crowns, and tonight the Great Lakes Division champions certainly appeared like they could add a third star to their logo.
“We hung in there the best we could, but they’re a good team. What are you going to do?” Menace head coach Mike Matkovich asked rhetorically.
“We did all we could,” said captain Austin Ledbetter, who anchored Des Moines’ defense all season. “We knew we could hang with the guys. We knew they would come at us in waves. We got through their first-half waves, and we got through their waves at the start of the second half. We were doing alright.”
And then Cicerone crushed the Menace’s spirits. In the 68th minute, he scored a rebound goal after David Goldsmith’s shot caromed off the cross-bar.
Cicerone, who stockpiled 12 goals in 12 regular-season appearances, struck again with the final dagger on the Menace’s season. In the 89th minute, Menace goalkeeper Nico Campbell blocked a shot by Cicerone, who was right there to poke in another rebound goal.
Including last night’s 3-0 win over Thunder Bay, Michigan (12-2-0 regular season) has dominated its league foes, 51-7 – with an eye-popping 32-0 goal differential in home matches.
The Bucks halted a successful season for the Menace (10-2-2), which won its third straight Heartland Division title and knocked out defending PDL champion K-W United FC, 5-1, last night.
“We had a lot of fight,” Ledbetter said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played with a team that was more tight-knit than this group of guys. It was a great experience.”
The Menace’s all-time postseason record is 15-15 (7-3 neutral, 1-5 away and 7-7 home).
Des Moines’ championship-clinching final against the El Paso Patriots in 2005 stands as the franchise’s only postseason win against a home team.
Tonight’s match featured the PDL’s two longest-standing franchises. In 23 seasons, the Menace has 220 regular-season wins and 14 playoff appearances – totals topped only by the Bucks, who in 21 seasons have earned 246 wins and 19 postseason berths.
The Menace is 1-3-0 in Ultimate Soccer Arenas; The Michigan Bucks defeated the Menace here in a 3-2 conference semifinal in 2011, and K-W beat the Menace 3-2 here a year ago.
David Goldsmith, who nearly scored in the 68th minute tonight, collected both goals in the teams’ previous meeting – a 2-0 Michigan win at Valley Stadium on July 26, 2014.
Michigan won the PDL title in 2006 and 2014. The Bucks also eliminated the Menace from the postseason in 1997, 2002, 2003, 2011 and 2014.
MAN of the MATCH: The whole team. Congratulations and best wishes to all who were part of the Menace’s 2016 season.
Match: Des Moines Menace at Michigan Bucks
Date: Saturday, July 23, 2016
Competition: Premier Development League Playoffs, Central Conference Championship
Venue: Ultimate Soccer Arenas (indoor, turf) in Pontiac, Mich.
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. EDT
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
MENACE 0 0 0
MICH 0 2 2
MICH: Russell Cicerone 68:00; Cicerone 89:00
MENACE CAUTIONS: Elvir Ibisevic 27:00; Sam Brotherton 53:00; Mark Heath-Preston 60:00; James Wypych 87:00
2016 FINAL RESULTS (10-2-2 PDL: 5-0-2 home; 5-2-0 away)
Wednesday, May 11 # at FC Wichita W, 2-1
Wednesday, May 18 # Tulsa Roughnecks FC W, 2-0
Saturday, May 21 Chicago Fire U23 W, 2-1
Saturday, May 28 at St. Louis Lions W, 2-0
Wednesday, June 1 # San Antonio FC L, 1-2
Saturday, June 4 Kokomo Mantis FC T, 0-0
Friday, June 10 at Thunder Bay Chill W, 2-0
Saturday, June 11 at Thunder Bay Chill W, 2-1
Tuesday, June 14 at WSA Winnipeg W, 6-0
Saturday, June 18 St. Louis Lions W, 2-0
Friday, June 24 WSA Winnipeg W, 7-0
Saturday, June 25 WSA Winnipeg W, 9-0
Tuesday, June 28 at Chicago Fire U23 L, 0-1
Friday, July 1 at Kokomo Mantis FC L, 0-2
Saturday, July 2 at Kokomo Mantis FC W, 2-0
Saturday, July 9 Thunder Bay Chill T, 1-1
Friday, July 15 ^ Toledo United FC W, 4-3
Saturday, July 16 St. Louis Lions W, 2-1
Friday, July 22 vs. K-W United FC* W, 5-1
Saturday, July 23 vs. Michigan L, 0-2
*All game times are central # = Exhibition OC = Open Cup * = PDL Playoffs
ABOUT THE MENACE: The Des Moines Menace provides the highest level of soccer in Iowa. In its 23rd season, the Menace men’s team competes in the Premier Development League (PDL). In its fifth season, 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 six and older), and youth tournaments, camps and clinics.
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