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Independence Day Showdown

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – July 2, 2009 – Exactly one year after the Thunder Bay Chill dealt the Des Moines Menace a 3-0 loss at Valley Stadium, these arch-rivals meet on the same field for another Independence Day clash. The Menace has not lost since July 4, 2008, and it carries a 15-match unbeaten streak into Saturday’s 7:30 battle.


The Menace avenged last year’s Fourth of July loss the next night, routing the Chill, 5-1, to start its current streak. Des Moines has gone 9-0-6 during this span, including a 7-0-4 mark this year.


One of five undefeated clubs left in the Premier Development League, Des Moines also has the longest active unbeaten streak claimed by any of the 88 teams in the United Soccer Leagues’ higher-level men’s leagues. In addition to the 68-team PDL, this number includes the clubs in the USL-1 (11) and USL-2 (9).


The only other time the Menace went 15 games without losing was in 2002, when Laurie Calloway’s squad finished 15-0-3.


With a pair of wins last weekend against Springfield and Rochester, head coach Casey Mann has guided his team to sole possession of first place in the Heartland Division. Second-place St. Louis (6-2-4, 22 points) is three points behind Des Moines, followed closely by Real Colorado (6-4-2, 20 points). The division’s top three teams qualify for the playoffs.


The Menace needs 10 points to clinch the division championship and seven to guarantee a playoff berth.


Goalkeeper Sean Molony and the Menace defense have held their last three opponents scoreless, marking just the second time (2003) that Des Moines has strung together a trio of shutouts. The Menace has not allowed a goal since its 3-1 win at Thunder Bay on June 13.


RECAPPING LAST WEEKEND: By picking up victories on back-to-back nights, the Menace secured sole possession of first place for the first time since 2006. Des Moines collected a home win against the Springfield (Mo.) Demize, and gutted out a squeaker on the road against the Rochester (Minn.) Thunder.


Des Moines defeated the Demize, 3-0, on Saturday. Jack Pearson, Adam Hooi, and Armin Mujdzic scored for the Menace.


On short rest, and with its unbeaten streak on the line, Des Moines was able to pull out a late 1-0 victory on Sunday at Rochester Community and Technical College. Mujdzic assisted Drake star Garrett Webb in the 86th minute.


Mujdzic, a former standout for Urbandale High School and Grand View College, has tallied a point in all five matches since returning to the team for the trip to Thunder Bay three weeks ago. The veteran, who also played for the Menace from 2002-2007, has a team-leading 10 points.


DEFENDER NAMED TO TEAM OF THE WEEK: Pearson has earned a spot on the PDL’s current Team of the Week, the league announced yesterday. He scored in the 15th minute of Saturday’s 3-0 win, thanks to an assist from Yuki Kariya, and he set up Adam Hooi’s score that put the game out of reach in the 86th minute.


A native of Coventry, England, Pearson plays for Dayton. He has been a mainstay in a stingy Des Moines defense – also anchored by goalie Molony, Matt Dagilis, Stefan De Las, Julien Edwards and Jon Koshko – that has allowed only nine goals in 11 matches.  The Menace has held its last six opponents under two goals.


SCOUTING THUNDER BAY: The Chill won the 2008 PDL championship, finishing its banner year with a record of 18-2-1. Des Moines, the only team to defeat or tie Thunder Bay during its title run, took last year’s series, 2-1-1.


Heading into tonight’s match at Kansas City, the Chill (4-3-3, 15 points) shares a fourth-place tie with 5-6 Rochester. Des Moines marks the final stop on a four-game road trip, which the Chill opened with a 1-0 loss at St. Louis on Sunday and a 3-0 win at Springfield on Tuesday.


This is the final regular-season match between the Menace and the Chill. Des Moines has the edge this season, after earning four road points at Thunder Bay last month. The Menace came away with a 3-1 win on June 13, one day after the teams tied 1-1.


Anderson Fernandes is the Chill’s scoring leader with 18 points. His nine goals are tied for fifth in the PDL.


Tony Colistro, the Chill’s only head coach in the franchise’s 10-year history, has guided his crew to the last two Heartland Division titles. Since Mann took over as Menace head coach in 2005, Des Moines has gone 10-6-2 against Colistro’s squads.


SATURDAY’S FESTIVITIES: The Menace is celebrating Independence Day with a free picnic before the game, and a fireworks spectacular to follow it. The gate opens at 5 p.m., and all fans (with paid admission) are invited to come early for free hot dogs, chips and ice cream, while the free food lasts. The July 4 match is sponsored by Powerade.


COMING UP: After Saturday, Des Moines is down to its last four regular-season matches. The Menace has two more home dates – July 11 against Springfield and July 18 against St. Louis – and two more road trips – July 8 at Rochester and July 16 at Kansas City.

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