Mueng Sunday (left) and Eli Lockaby (right) jumped to the top of this celebration after Ramone Howell (10) scored the game-winner against the St. Louis Lions on July 8. Photos by Joe Sprunger
Each Premier Development League soccer season is a frenzied flurry compressed into three action-packed months.
The Des Moines Menace’s 2017 whirlwind season – blink and you missed it – could also be characterized as a roller-coaster ride.
There were highs and lows at each twist and turn of the 14-game schedule, and close results kept fans hanging on for this bumpy ride. Only one of the Menace’s matches – a 3-0 win in Winnipeg on June 14 – was settled by more than a couple goals; four of the team’s five regular-season losses were decided by a single score.
The final weeks provided plenty of drama, punctuated by the Menace’s last-gasp playoff berth and the sweet taste of postseason success against the defending league champions.
Here’s a month-by-month recap of Menace Soccer’s 24th season.
- First-year Menace head coach John Pascarella and his team launched the pursuit of a fourth straight Heartland Division championship.
- 10 days before the start of the PDL season, Pascarella’s debut ended with a 3-1 home loss to AFC Cleveland in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – snapping the Menace’s streak of five straight Cup appearances with at least one win.
- On May 20, goals from Devyn Jambga (above, left) and Hayden Partain (above, right) fueled a 2-0 season-opening win over WSA Winnipeg. Jambga (five goals) and Partain (four) would be the team’s top scorers this season.
- A loss to the St. Louis Lions and a tie with Saint Louis FC – Jambga’s score salvaged a 1-1 result – brought a rocky start to the road schedule.
- Winning three of four matches in a Canadian tour – highlighted by a 1-0 win in Thunder Bay on June 9 – lifted the Menace to first place in the division.
- This success spilled over to another 1-0 victory over the archrival Chill – with F.C. Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic (with the team, above – he’s wearing a white shirt) in attendance at Valley Stadium on June 17. The team was 5-2-1 and appeared poised for a four-peat as division champs.
- The momentum continued with a 1-1 nail-biter road finale on June 20 – Johan DePicker’s header heroics pulled out a point in the final moments of stoppage time against Chicago FC United.
- Unfortunately, the tumble began four days later. Chicago took the rematch, 1-0, snapping the Menace’s 24-match home unbeaten streak. This was Des Moines’ first regular-season home loss in nearly four years.
- The home struggles continued with a pair of 2-1 losses to Saint Louis FC, on July 1 and July 14.
- Ramone Howell’s two-goal performance rallied the Menace past the visiting St. Louis Lions on July 8. The 3-1 victory kept the Menace in the thick of the playoff race.
- Needing to win the season-closing match on July 15 to secure a postseason spot, the Menace rose to the occasion against Chicago FC United. Second-half scores by Hayden Partain and hometown hero Elvir Ibisevic (above) sealed a 2-0 win and a return to the PDL playoffs.
- For the third straight year, the Menace motored to Michigan for the Central Conference’s championship weekend. And for the second straight year, the Menace knocked out the defending league champions – this time, upsetting the host Bucks, 2-0, for Des Moines’ second playoff win in eight postseason clashes between the league’s most storied franchises.
- The next night, the playoff run ended with a 2-0 loss to the Heartland Division champion Thunder Bay Chill in the conference final on July 22.
Looking back on the season, Pascarella expressed pride in his first Menace team.
“In a short amount of time, we laid the groundwork for our culture, and for the style of how we want to play,” Pascarella said. “I feel like our guys have left a positive imprint, both in the community and on the field.
“Together, as a group, they laid a very good foundation. They adapted very quickly and got the job done. They did everything we could’ve asked. I’m extremely happy, and just hope it continues.”
Thanks to Pascarella, assistant coaches Greg Hennelly and Tiley Nunnink, their players, the Menace’s 2017 intern team, our sponsors and all those whose work behind the scenes made for another successful season.
And to our fans – Thanks for being part of the Menace!
FINAL RESULTS, 2017 DES MOINES MENACE
(7-5-2 PDL regular season: 4-3-0 home; 3-2-2 away)
Wednesday, May 10 AFC Cleveland (OC) L, 1-3
Saturday, May 20 WSA Winnipeg W, 2-0
Saturday, May 27 at St. Louis Lions L, 0-1
Sunday, May 28 at Saint Louis FC U23 T, 1-1
Saturday, June 3 Minneapolis City SC (E) W, 3-0
Friday, June 9 at Thunder Bay Chill W, 1-0
Saturday, June 10 at Thunder Bay Chill L, 0-2
Tuesday, June 13 at WSA Winnipeg W, 3-1
Wednesday, June 14 at WSA Winnipeg W, 3-0
Saturday, June 17 Thunder Bay Chill W, 1-0
Tuesday, June 20 at Chicago FC United T, 1-1
Saturday, June 24 Chicago FC United L, 0-1
Saturday, July 1 Saint Louis FC U23 L, 1-2
Friday, July 7 Sporting KC U23 (E) L, 2-3
Saturday, July 8 St. Louis Lions W, 3-1
Friday, July 14 Saint Louis FC U23 L, 1-2
Saturday, July 15 Chicago FC United W, 2-0
Friday, July 21 at Michigan Bucks (P) W, 2-0
Saturday, July 22 Thunder Bay Chill (P) L, 0-2
P = Premier Development League playoffs OC = Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup E = Exhibition
This story was posted Wednesday, July 26, 2017.