WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – July 4, 2009 – The Des Moines Menace’s year-long unbeaten streak came to a close tonight at Valley Stadium. The Thunder Bay Chill handed the Menace a 1-0 loss, exactly one year after the Chill dealt Des Moines its most recent defeat.
Between these two Independence Day losses to the Chill, the Menace reeled off a 15-match undefeated string, which was the longest active stretch among the 88 teams in the United Soccer League’s three high-level men’s circuits. This includes the 68 clubs in the Menace’s Premier Development League and the 20 teams in the professional USL-1 (11) and USL-2 (9).
“It’s disappointing any time a streak like that comes to an end,” Menace head coach Casey Mann said. “I’m proud of the run our guys made.”
Shaun Francis scored tonight’s only goal, assisted by Christian Fernandes. It came in the 21st minute, marking the first time that the Menace had trailed since the St. Louis Lions took a 1-0 halftime lead against Des Moines on May 23. Tonight was also the first time that the Menace allowed a first-half score in eight outings, going back to that same match at St. Louis.
“They came out ready to play,” said Armin Mujdzic, who was held without a point for the first time since returning to the Menace for its trip to Thunder Bay last month. “They have a lot of great players, and they knew what they needed to do to win.”
The arch-rivals combined for 34 fouls, including eight yellow cards. Three Menace players left the game due to injuries – Samuel Asante, Ben Taylor and Jack Pearson.
Mann said that Asante’s departure in the 35th minute, due to an ankle injury, proved costly.
“When he left, it changed the game,” Mann said. “We didn’t get in a flow offensively. I just don’t think we were ready for their physical presence.”
Des Moines’ record drops to 7-1-4 (25 points). The Menace awaits the outcome of Real Colorado’s home match against Rochester tonight in a battle of the Heartland Division’s expansion clubs. With a win, Real Colorado (7-4-2 entering today) takes over the division’s top spot, by a point.
The Chill improves to 6-3-3 after ending its four-match road trip on a three-match winning streak. The defending PDL champions are one point behind third-place St. Louis (6-2-4, 22 points), which hosts Kansas City tomorrow. Thunder Bay hosts St. Louis for a two-game series next weekend, seeking payback after a 1-0 loss against the Lions last Sunday.
The division’s top three teams make the playoffs, based on the points each team earns in its 16 regular-season matches.
“We’re still in a good position. We can still win the division,” Mann said, as his team prepares for its four final regular-season bouts. “We just have to regroup.”
Thunder Bay’s win savages a split in these teams’ season series, after the Menace earned a tie and a win in Canada on June 12-13.
The loss snaps the Menace’s four-match winning streak, which started with a 3-1 victory at Thunder Bay on June 13. The Menace’s last three wins came in shutout fashion.
This was the first time the Menace was held scoreless since the Chill shut out the home team in a 3-0 decision here a year ago. Des Moines bounced back the next day, starting the 15-match unbeaten streak with a 5-1 win over the eventual champs.
The recently snapped streak stands as the second-longest in franchise history. The 2002 Menace went 15-0-3 in the regular season, before a first-round loss in the playoffs. The 2003 squad picked things up by winning its first six matches.
COMING UP: The Menace plays at Rochester (Minn.) on Wednesday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on the campus of Rochester Community and Technical College.
The team returns to Valley Stadium next Saturday (July 11), hosting Springfield for the annual Susan G. Komen Kick for the Cure match. The 7:30 p.m. match is presented by Principal Financial Group. Fans get in for just $5 when wearing a pink or Race for the Cure t-shirt. Menace Kick for the Cure wristbands are available for $1, with all proceeds benefitting Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Des Moines travels to Kansas City on July 16 and closes the regular season with a home match against St. Louis on July 18.