Playing two pivotal matches in the next four days, the Des Moines Menace will try to keep its hold of first place in the Premier Development League’s Heartland Division and secure a playoff spot.
Down to its last four regular-season opportunities, the Menace (7-1-4, 25 points) visits the Rochester (Minn.) Thunder today and welcomes the Springfield (Mo.) Demize to Valley Stadium on Saturday. Tonight’s matchup kicks off at 7 o’clock on the campus of Rochester Community and Technical College; Saturday night’s home contest begins at 7:30.
Casey Mann’s squad looks to bounce back from its first loss in a year. The Menace’s league-best 15-match unbeaten streak met its end at Valley Stadium on Saturday, when the defending PDL champion Thunder Bay Chill downed Des Moines, 1-0. The setback came exactly one year after the Chill dealt the Menace its most recent loss.
Des Moines remains alone atop the divisional standings, thanks to weekend draws by the second- and third-place clubs. Real Colorado and St. Louis each had an opportunity to climb to first place with a win. Colorado (7-4-3, 24 points with two matches remaining) tied Rochester on Saturday and St. Louis (6-2-5, 23 points, three matches left) drew with Kansas City on Sunday.
The Menace needs six points (two wins) to reach the playoffs and nine points to win the Heartland Division, depending on the outcomes of Friday and Saturday matches between St. Louis and Thunder Bay (6-3-3, 21 points, four matches left), on the Chill’s home turf.
The division’s top three teams at the end of the regular season will march on to the PDL playoffs.
SCOUTING ROCHESTER: The fifth-place Thunder (5-7-1, 15 points) is coming off a 2-2 draw at Real Colorado last Saturday, in a battle of the division’s expansion clubs. Teal Bunbury finished twice in the last 10 minutes of the match to equalize the score.
Tonight’s match is the last of three meetings between the two teams, who opened their seasons at Valley Stadium on May 9. Des Moines won the opener, 2-1, and eked out a 1-0 win at Rochester on June 28, when Garrett Webb placed one in the back of the net with five minutes left in the game.
Neil Cassidy’s team has dropped several close ones in its first year, with six of its seven losses coming by a single goal. The Thunder knocked off Real Colorado and St. Louis in the first half of the season.
Bunbury leads the team with 12 points, coming from five goals and two assists. Like Menace defender Matt Dagilis, Bunbury is entering his sophomore season for Akron this fall.