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Menace Away for First Round Open Cup

By Des Moines Menace 02/03/2023, 4:45pm CST

Mensah & Trent Selected in MLS SuperDraft

By Des Moines Menace 12/21/2022, 4:30pm CST

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By Des Moines Menace 11/07/2022, 8:30am CST

Menace Suffer Season-Stopping Loss to Archrivals

By Danny Kotula 07/29/2022, 10:00pm CDT

SHORT STORY

A loss is a rare occasion for Des Moines Menace at Valley Stadium, but that was the harsh reality for the 2021 National Champions as they crashed out of the 2022 USL League Two National Playoffs.

Bitter rivals Flint City Bucks took home the Central Conference title 5-4 on penalties, never faltering from the spot after a 1-1 draw was the result of 120 minutes in West Des Moines.

FIRST HALF

In a complete reversal of previous fixtures, Menace got out to an early lead but struggled from then on.

Flint City's midfield kept Menace from controlling the match, but before that could play out, Eliot Goldthorp produced a moment of brilliance inside the box.

Goldthorp took a pass at the left edge of the box, put his head down and dribbled past four defenders before slotting home the opener inside three minutes.

From there, though, the Bucks buckled down and settled into the match. Amadou Cisse and Jelldrik Dallmann both struck the woodwork before the halftime whistle, but nothing found the back of the net for Flint City.

SECOND HALF (Menace 1 - 0 Flint City at half)

A physical first half manifested into a fiery second half, as both teams sensed the tension and the pressure.

Flint City again played with panache and were comfortable in possession, creating more chances for Grant Makela to deal with in the Menace goal.

It took some doing, but Flint would finally find a shot Makela couldn't stop right at the 57-minute mark.

Midfielder Harvey Slade used his six-foot-four frame to rise above Goldthorp and head in the equalizer on a corner kick from Wylie Trujillo.

The situation grew worse for the home side late on, as Menace were reduced to ten men in stoppage time.

With the match still level at 1 apiece, center back Zeron Sewell muscled a Flint City attacker off the ball. His challenge was a denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, resulting in a straight red card.

The Jamaican center back left his team down a man with the clock winding down in regular time, but Menace saw the rest of the 90 minutes out to force extra time.

EXTRA TIME (Menace 1 - 1 Flint City after regular time)

There, neither side had enough energy or creativity to create chances. Both sides defended well in the necessary moments, which left the result in the balance as the 120th minute approached.

In the 112th minute, Des Moines received a big benefit with a second yellow card shown to substitute Abdul Kuku for the Bucks.

With both teams down a man, neither side found a clinical edge to end it before penalties were required.

PENALTY SHOOTOUT

Menace #1 - Felipe D'Agostini, MISSED (0-0)

Flint #1 - Wylie Trujillo, SCORED (0-1)

Menace #2 - Brayan Padilla, SCORED (1-1)

Flint #2 - Amadou Cisse, SCORED (1-2)

Menace #3 - Kori Cupid, SCORED (2-2)

Flint #3 - Aedon Kyra, SCORED (2-3)

Menace #4 - Lance Rozeboom, SCORED (3-3)

Flint #4 - Seth Mohlmeister, SCORED (3-4)

Menace #5 - Brandon Bermingham, SCORED (4-4)

Flint #5 - Hugo Bacharach, SCORED (4-5, FINAL)

Flint wins 5-4 on penalties

WHO'S WHO

Starting XI (3-4-1-2): Grant Makela, goalkeeper; Connor Langan, Zeron Sewell, Kori Cupid, defenders; Shaft Brewer Jr., Neville Morgan, Lance Rozeboom, Luka Nedic, Ryley Kraft, midfielders; Devin Vega, Eliot Goldthorp, forwards

Vega made just his second appearance on the season for Menace and his only start.

Kraft, the captain, was the only player to appear in every match for Menace across the regular season and playoffs.

Goldthorp's goal saw him finish as Menace's top scorer, picking up nine goals on the 2022 campaign.

KICKS AND GIGGLES

The Bucks were the team to end Menace's season for the seventh time in series history.

With the loss, Menace lose an unbeaten streak at Valley Stadium dating back to 2017.

The red card to Sewell was Menace's second sending-off of the season, the other one shown to Makela in the season opener at Minneapolis City SC on May 14.

The loss also voids a 21-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

ON DECK

Flint City advance to the National Semifinal Sunday, where they will meet up with Ventura County Fusion from the Western Conference on Sunday, July 31 at 7 p.m. That match will be hosted at Valley Stadium.

The season comes to a close for Des Moines after the loss. Menace will next be in action in the 2023 US Open Cup in spring of 2023. Follow menacesoccer.com for more updates as the 2023 Open Cup and League Two seasons approach!

Menace host three more matches at Valley Stadium as they inch closer to a second straight title

SHORT STORY

The opening weekend of the 2022 USL League Two National Playoffs saw Menace progress to the Central Conference Final in style.

After beating Kaw Valley FC 4-0 in the first round and Kings Hammer FC 4-1 in the conference semifinal, they’ll set their sights on the second weekend of action, one which will lead all the way up to the National Final on August 6.

Menace keep the right to host, winning a bid to hold another Friday doubleheader on July 29 and a national semifinal match on July 31. Let’s take a look at what it will take to survive another weekend in West Des Moines.

THE BRACKET 

Overview

Two rounds of action across the country cut a 32-team field down to just eight, with two teams remaining in each of USL League Two’s four conferences.

The teams that are still alive are as follows:

  • Des Moines Menace - Central Conference, Deep North Division

  • Flint City Bucks - Central Conference, Great Lakes Division

  • Ballard FC - Western Conference, Northwest Division

  • Ventura County Fusion - Western Conference, Southwest Division

  • Long Island Rough Riders - Eastern Conference, Metropolitan Division

  • Seacoast United Phantoms - Eastern Conference, Northeast Division

  • One Knoxville SC - Southern Conference, South Central Division

  • North Carolina Fusion U23 - Southern Conference, South Atlantic Division

After each conference crowns a champion, the Central and Western winners will meet in West Des Moines, while the Eastern and Southern representatives will contest the other national semifinal in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Weekend Schedule

This Friday, July 29, the action continues with all four conference championship matches taking place on the same day.

The first matchup of a busy Friday afternoon sees Ballard FC take on Ventura County Fusion for the Western Conference title, a match which kicks off from Valley Stadium at 3 p.m. Central time.

Soon after, things kick off in Knoxville, where Seacoast United and Long Island will play out the Eastern Conference Final at 3:30 p.m. Central time.

The second leg of the doubleheader in Tennessee is slated to start at 6:30 Central, when the hosts One Knoxville will look to keep their inaugural season alive against last year’s runners-up, North Carolina Fusion.

The Central Conference will follow suit at 7 p.m. Central when Menace play host to Flint City.

The Matchup

There is no love lost between Menace and Flint, two age-old rivals in the league who can each call on over 25 years of experience in what is now known as USL League Two.

Despite only being division opponents for one year in 1996, the clubs have met 11 times in total leading up to Friday’s contest. The Bucks have the edge over Menace in the all-time series, leading 7-4 and holding a 6-3 edge in playoff matches.

In recent seasons, though, the rivalry has been split more evenly. Menace have won two of the last three meetings, with the only loss coming on penalties. The most recent match was just last season, when Menace dispatched Flint City in the Central Conference semifinal by a score of 1-0.

On top of being storied, long-lasting franchises in the league, Menace and Flint City are also two of the most successful clubs USL League Two has ever seen.

The Bucks are the winningest club in league history, with four national titles to their name. Menace, meanwhile, are defending champions and bring two national championships into Friday’s heavyweight fight.

While it’s impossible to know who will take the cake in this edition of the long-standing rivalry between these two, it’s safe to say that a closely-contested and hard-fought battle will be the expectation from both sides, and each club will want to win at all costs.

Bracket Facts

If Menace and Ventura County both win their respective Friday matches, they will meet for the first time in club history despite playing in the same league since 2007.

Menace are hoping to be the first-ever club to win two consecutive championships since 2003, when the feat was accomplished by the Cape Cod Crusaders.

Flint City Bucks have been the club to end Menace’s summer on six occasions, more than any other club.

A repeat of the 2021 USL League Two National Final is still possible, as Menace and North Carolina Fusion could both still advance to the final.

The return of former Menace head coach Mark McKeever could also be on the cards, as McKeever is currently managing One Knoxville SC. Striker Sebastian Andreassen is one of several players from the 2021 Menace roster who have also spent their summer in Knoxville.

SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION

Now that we know who’s on our side of the bracket, let's take a moment to get to know who we’re hosting this weekend.

Flint City Bucks - Flint, Michigan

Founded in 1995 as Mid-Michigan Bucks, 26th season in USL League Two

Record: 8 wins, 3 draws, 3 losses

How they qualified: second-place finish in Great Lakes Division

Playoff journey: 3-1 over South Bend Lions; 2-1 over Chicago FC United

Player to watch: Jelldrik Dallmann (12 goals, 1 in playoffs)

Ventura County Fusion - Ventura, California

Founded in 2006, 14th season in USL League Two

Record: 8 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses

How they qualified: second-place finish in Southwest Division

Playoff journey: 3-2 over Flatirons Rush, 2-1 over Southern California Seahorses

Player to watch: Sergio Villalpando (2 goals in playoffs, Fusion academy graduate)

Ballard FC - Seattle, Washington

Founded in 2022, 1st season in USL League Two

Record: 8 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses

How they qualified: second-place finish in Northwest Division

Playoff journey: 2-1 over Project 51O; 3-2 after extra time over San Francisco Glens

Player to watch: Alex Mejia (2 goals in playoffs)

GET INVOLVED!

Now that you know all about the Central Conference playoffs, it's time for you to become a part of it! Tickets are available now for Menace's first-round match against Kaw Valley on July 22.

Click here to get your playoff tickets!

Menace Score Four, Set Up Flint City Faceoff

By Danny Kotula 07/24/2022, 9:30pm CDT

The longtime rivals will meet in the playoffs for the third straight season

SHORT STORY

In the same fashion as they've done it all year, Des Moines Menace picked up a victory in a high-octane offensive showing against Kings Hammer FC in the 2022 USL League Two Central Conference semifinal round Sunday evening.

Valley Stadium once again saw Des Moines win a crucial playoff battle, as two late first-half goals took the wind out of their opponents to set up a simpler second period.

FIRST HALF

As with their 4-0 win over Kaw Valley FC in the opening playoff round on Friday, Menace struggled to respond to early pressing from their opponents.

Fresh off an emotionally-charged win on penalties, Kings Hammer were raring to go at the start, chasing Menace off the ball early in midfield.

The first thirty minutes saw limited chances for both sides, but each goalkeeper had a pair of efforts to deal with before 30 minutes were up.

Keeping their patience, however, Menace broke through in the 40th minute with a brilliant individual effort from captain Ryley Kraft.

The California-born attacking midfielder found himself in space on a missed pass and did the rest himself. Kraft dribbled 15 yards forward before launching a low effort to the goalkeeper's left, beating him at his far post and scoring his fifth of the season.

Menace weren't done in the first half, though; an erroneous back pass fell fortuitously to striker Eliot Goldthorp, who happily latched onto the ball and slotted it into the Kings Hammer net on the stroke of 45 minutes.

Goldthorp's eighth of the season followed a brace on Friday, giving him three goals in three days and giving Des Moines a 2-0 lead to bring into the break.

SECOND HALF (Menace 2 - 0 Kings Hammer at half)

Following the familiar script of 2022's home matches for Menace, the second half was a brighter start for the defending champions than the first.

The home fans at Valley Stadium were only made to wait 16 minutes for the third goal of the match, coming via a pair of pinpoint passes from midfielder Luka Nedic and wing back Gianluca Fiorini.

It was Fiorini's cutback from the right edge of the box that found Brandon Bermingham lurking, and the Irish striker scored off the bench for the second straight match.

With Bermingham's seventh goal of the campaign in the back of the net, Menace grew more comfortable and dominant on the ball.

Kings Hammer, for their part, sent on attacking substitutions and kept up a high work rate to try and affect the final result.

Their effort would pay off with under 10 minutes to play, as a throw in from right back Quinn Thompson was met by Ben Damge's head at the near post.

Damge flicked the ball behind him across the face of goal, and there to knock it home was Sam Robinson in the 84th minute.

With the game still in the balance but time running thin, Menace made sure to secure the result with one final dagger.

This time, a fourth goalscorer appeared on the evening. Brazilian attacker Felipe D'Agostini caught a Kings Hammer defender in possession. With no one in front of him, he sauntered down the left-hand side and beat the goalkeeper at the far post for the finishing touch in the 88th minute.

DEAN'S DIALOGUE

"We've kind of realized now that whenever anyone comes to play us, it's a massive game for them. Everyone comes out really fast with us, and we just have to get through those first twenty minutes before we can settle down and play our game.

"Survive and advance; we're really happy with the result and hopefully we can keep the trophy here in Des Moines."

- comments from Menace head coach Dean Johnson

WHO'S WHO

Starting XI (3-4-1-2): Grant Makela, goalkeeper; Connor Langan, Zeron Sewell, Kori Cupid, defenders; Gianluca Fiorini, Neville Morgan, Luka Nedic, Lance Rozeboom, Ryley Kraft, midfielders; Eliot Goldthorp, Shaft Brewer Jr., forwards

Leading goalscorers Goldthorp and Bermingham combined to contribute five goals across the two playoff matches this weekend.

Bermingham has now scored in seven of his last eight matches despite coming on as a substitute in his last three appearances.

With his goal, Kraft becomes the first and only Menace player to reach five goals and five assists on the season.

KICKS AND GIGGLES

Flint City Bucks won the opposite semifinal in the Central Conference earlier Sunday, setting up a third playoff meeting in three years between the League Two mainstays.

Menace have scored four goals on seven occasions this season, five of which have come in home matches and two of which were playoff matches.

With Kings Hammer's goal, Menace lost the potential for a three-match clean sheet streak.

Menace assistant coach Adam Kay received a yellow card in the second half. After a sending off directed at Kaw Valley head coach Alex Nichols Friday, Menace have now played in two straight matches that featured a booking for a staff member.

ON DECK

In a repeat of last season, Menace will host the Central Conference Final, bringing Flint City Bucks to town this time around.

The Western Conference final will also take place in West Des Moines and will be contested by 4-seed Ballard FC of Washington and 5-seed Ventura County Fusion.

Ballard and Ventura County will do battle at 3 p.m. on Friday, July 29 before Menace and Flint City fight for the Central Conference crown that night at 7 p.m.

The winners of the two matches will meet for the national semifinal on Sunday, July 31 at 7 p.m. All matches will be held at Valley Stadium and streamed live on YouTube and Eleven Sports via CISN.

Menace Start Playoff Weekend With Wild Win

By Danny Kotula 07/22/2022, 10:00pm CDT

A trio of red cards for the visitors and four Menace goals

SHORT STORY

A dramatic state of affairs went decisively the way of Des Moines Menace in their 4-0 win over Kaw Valley FC Friday night in front of thousands of fans at Valley Stadium.

While Kaw Valley deserved better than the scoreline showed, a pair of sending-offs left them unable to compete closely with the Central Conference's top seed.

FIRST HALF

Kaw Valley were the better side early, creating the majority of chances and controlling possession in the opening half-hour.

A pair of clear chances were dealt with by Menace's back line, which allowed the home side to go 1-0 up shortly after the first-half hydration break.

A quick counter attack was fruitful for Menace, with Eliot Goldthorp being the benefactor. He was able to run down the left-hand side of the box, dispatch a defender, and slot a cool finish into the back of the net.

With a 1-0 advantage, Menace used their momentum to keep creating chances, but the Cranes held firm on the scoresheet.

They did, however, lose central midfielder Aaron Keita as well as their head coach, Alex Nichols, in the dying embers of the first half. Without those two at Kaw Valley's aid, it was a rough prospect ahead for the visitors to keep their season alive in West Des Moines.

SECOND HALF (Menace 1 - 0 Kaw Valley at half)

Indeed, Des Moines were ruthless and effective in front of goal in the second period of play, scoring a second early in the second half through new striker Shaft Brewer Jr. The former LAFC player scored on his Menace debut to put the home side 2-0 ahead.

Des Moines kept pushing for more goals, and that's exactly what they came up with as the second half wore on.

It was Goldthorp again for goal number three on the night, scoring from close range and beating the keeper at his far post from the left side of the box.

From there, it only grew worse for the Cranes, who saw a second player sent off with a straight red card. This time, center back Tiago Dias was the guilty party in the 84th minute.

With the game mostly secured, a final nail in the coffin came from Irish forward Brandon Bermingham, who picked up his sixth goal of the year for Menace on a breakaway once Kaw Valley were down to nine men.

WHO'S WHO

Starting XI (3-4-1-2): Grant Makela, goalkeeper; Connor Langan, Zeron Sewell, Kori Cupid, defenders; Neville Morgan, Gianluca Fiorini, Lance Rozeboom, Luka Nedic, Ryley Kraft, midfielders; Eliot Goldthorp, Shaft Brewer Jr., forwards

Brewer Jr. scored on his debut for Menace after joining from Fram Larvik in Norway.

Goldthorp picked up his second brace of the season, improving his total to a team-leading seven goals on the year.

Both of Menace's leading scorers coming into the match, Goldthorp and Bermingham, added to their totals against Kaw Valley.

KICKS AND GIGGLES

With the win, Menace continue their perfect all-time record against Kaw Valley, sporting five wins and two draws in seven meetings with the Cranes.

Menace have now won seven consecutive playoff matches and have not lost any match at home in their last twenty appearances.

Menace were the only 1-seed across the USL League Two National Playoffs to win their opening match and stay alive in the national title race.

After Kings Hammer FC defeated Kalamazoo FC at Valley Stadium earlier Friday, the Kentucky-based outfit will now be Menace's next opponent in the Central Conference semifinal.

DEAN'S DIALOGUE

"Up until the first hydration break, it looked like from out side that Kaw Valley just wanted it more than us, but I think the boys reacted well."

"The sending off helped us because it opened up a little bit more space for us in the middle."

"We executed in the second half and controlled the game really well; a win is a win and we move on to Sunday where hopefully we can get a result against Kings Hammer."

- comments from Menace head coach Dean Johnson

ON DECK

Menace continue their playoff run with another home match at Valley Stadium, this time facing 5-seed Kings Hammer FC. The match will kick off at 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 24.

The match will be streamed live on YouTube and Eleven Sports via CISN.

Menace will host three matches in a 3-day span to kick off the 2022 edition of the USL2 playoffs

SHORT STORY

Since the official announcement Saturday, Des Moines Menace fans have known their club will part of the 2022 USL League Two Central Conference playoffs.

But if you've been wondering who Menace will host, how the playoffs are structured, and what to expect from Menace's potential opponents, we've got you covered.

Read on for every detail you need to be prepared for Friday's first-round match!

THE BRACKET 

Overview

Across the nation, 32 clubs qualified for the 2022 USL League Two Playoffs, eight coming from each conference.

The first order of business is the Conference Playoffs, where the Eastern Conference, the Western Conference, the Southern Conference, and Menace's Central Conference will each whittle their eight clubs down to just one.

From there, the four conference champions will advance to the National Semifinal, where two finalists and a champion will eventually be crowned.

Where Menace Fit In

The eight teams who qualified for the Central Conference playoffs are as follows, in order of seeding:

1. Des Moines Menace

2. Chicago FC United

3. South Bend Lions

4. Kalamazoo FC

5. Kings Hammer FC

6. Kaw Valley FC

7. Flint City Bucks

8. Peoria City

Clubs were seeded based on their overall points-per-game total with priority given to division champions.

From there, first-round matchups were set, taking into account the following rules:

1. Teams cannot play opponents in the same division in the first round.

2. The two clubs who won bids to host cannot play in the first or second rounds, as they will each host their first- and second-round matches in separate locations.

With those rules in mind, this is how the Central playoffs break down:

Quarterfinals

#5 Kings Hammer FC (Valley) v #4 Kalamazoo FC (Great Lakes)

Friday, July 22 at 4 p.m. | West Des Moines, Iowa

#1 Des Moines Menace (Deep North) v #6 Kaw Valley FC (Heartland)

Friday, July 22 at 7 p.m. | West Des Moines, Iowa

#2 Chicago FC United (Heartland) v #8 Peoria City (Deep North)

Friday, July 22 at 4 p.m. | Flint, Michigan

#3 South Bend Lions (Valley) v #7 Flint City Bucks (Great Lakes)

Friday, July 22 at 7 p.m. | Flint, Michigan

Semifinals

Menace/Kaw Valley v Kalamazoo/Kings Hammer

Sunday, July 24 at 7 p.m. | West Des Moines, Iowa

Chicago/Peoria v South Bend/Flint City

Sunday, July 24 at 5 p.m. | Flint, Michigan

Bracket Facts

Des Moines' first-round matchup will be the eighth all-time meeting with Kaw Valley, who has never beaten Menace since they began play in 2018.

If Menace and Kalamazoo advance to the Central Conference semifinal, it would be a repeat of last year's Central Conference final, where Menace won 2-1 at Valley Stadium.

If they win the league title, Menace will be the first-ever club to win two consecutive championships since 2003, when the feat was accomplished by the Cape Cod Crusaders.

The only team with more league titles than Menace is Flint City Bucks, who have won the league four times.

SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION

Now that we know who we might match up against, let's take a moment to get to know the rest of the field in the Central Conference.

Chicago FC United - Bridgeview, Illinois

Founded in 2017, 5th season in USL League Two

Record: 11 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss

How they qualified: winners of Heartland Division

Recent form: 5 wins in last 5 matches

Player to watch: Pablo Palacin Serra (10 goals, 1 assist)

South Bend Lions - South Bend, Indiana

Founded in 2019, 2nd season in USL League Two

Record: 10 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses

How they qualified: winners of Valley Division

Recent form: 4 wins, 1 draw in last 5 matches

Player to watch: Kainan Dos Santos (10 goals, 2 assists)

Kalamazoo FC - Kalamazoo, Michigan

Founded in 2015, 2nd season in USL League Two

Record: 8 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses

How they qualified: winners of Great Lakes Division

Recent form: 4 wins, 1 draw in last 5 matches

Player to watch: Matt Whelan (10 goals, 2 assists)

Kings Hammer FC - Alexandria, Kentucky

Founded in 2020, 2nd season in USL League Two

Record: 10 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses

How they qualified: second-place finish in Valley Division

Recent form: 5 wins in last 5 matches

Player to watch: Taylor Rhinehart (8 goals, 2 assists)

Kaw Valley FC - Lawrence, Kansas

Founded in 2018, 4th season in USL League Two

Record: 8 wins, 2 draws, 3 losses

How they qualified: second-place finish in Heartland Division

Recent form: 3 wins, 2 draws in last 5 matches

Player to watch: Theo Klein (5 goals, 3 assists)

Flint City Bucks - Flint, Michigan

Founded in 1995 as Mid-Michigan Bucks, 26th season in USL League Two

Record: 8 wins, 3 draws, 3 losses

How they qualified: second-place finish in Great Lakes Division

Recent form: 4 wins, 1 loss in last 5 matches

Player to watch: Jelldrik Dallmann (11 goals)

Peoria City - Peoria, Illinois

Founded in 2020, but played first season in 2022

Record: 6 wins, 3 draws, 3 losses

How they qualified: second-place finish in Deep North Division

Recent form: 3 wins, 2 losses in last 5 matches

Player to watch: Adria Sabater Olivas (6 goals)

MENACE IN THE PLAYOFFS

Menace have been one of the most consistent clubs in making it to postseason play, especially in recent memory. Here's how Menace have fared in each of the past five editions of the USL2 playoffs:

2021 - National Champions

defeated North Carolina Fusion U23 1-0 in the final

2019 - Conference Semifinalists

lost 3-3 (2-4) on penalties to Flint City Bucks in the first round

2018 - Conference Finalists

lost 1-0 to Chicago FC United in the second round

2017 - Conference Finalists

lost 2-0 to Thunder Bay Chill in the second round

2016 - Conference Finalists

lost 2-0 to Flint City Bucks in the second round

GET INVOLVED!

Now that you know all about the Central Conference playoffs, it's time for you to become a part of it! Tickets are available now for Menace's first-round match against Kaw Valley on July 22.

Click here to get your playoff tickets!

Sewell Scores, Menace Endure Fiery Finale

By Danny Kotula 07/16/2022, 9:00pm CDT

Two second-half goals were enough to see Menace through on the final day of the regular season

SHORT STORY

It took some doing, but a second-half surge from Des Moines Menace was enough to see them over the line for a 2-0 win over Peoria City Saturday night at Valley Stadium.

Despite both teams having clinched a spot in the USL League Two National Playoffs, it never felt like a match with nothing to play for.

FIRST HALF

From the first moment, it was evident that Menace would face a formidable challenge from the second-best side in the Deep North Division.

After two previous wins for Menace against Peoria on the year, the visitors were intent on picking up a result this time around.

Both sides traded early half-chances, but neither team could take control of the central areas of the pitch. End-to-end long balls and quick counters were the story of the first half, with Peoria creating the bulk of the positive movement.

Off the ball, frustrations always seemed one errant move away from boiling over. 

SECOND HALF (Menace 0 - 0 Peoria at half)

In the second half, Menace came out with a vengeance. Peoria stayed stingy defensively, but Des Moines found the opener in the 58th minute.

Jamaican center back Zeron Sewell rose for a header on a corner kick from attacking midfielder Ryley Kraft. The shot was deflected but fell back to Sewell perfectly, and his rebounded strike was too powerful for Peoria goalkeeper Edgar Vargas.

With a 1-0 advantage, Menace pressed on for a second goal but were met by further resistance from Peoria.

Neither side budged an inch, and tiring legs made for difficult work in the attacking third.

Tiring legs also made for rising emotions, which led to a double red card from an incident inside the box.

Midfield veteran Lance Rozeboom and Adria Sabater Olivas, Peoria's leading goalscorer, were both given their marching orders after a scuffle in the box that ended with Sabater Olivas kicking out at Rozeboom multiple times.

Unless a reversal of either decision occurs, both Rozeboom and Sabater Olivas will be ineligible for the first round of the USL League Two playoffs this Friday.

With three points still in the balance, substitute midfielder Devin Vega was able to claim the ball in attacking territory with acres of space.

Vega calmly took a 1v1 opportunity while Peoria committed numbers forward, and his finish beat the keeper for an insurance goal.

WHO'S WHO

Starting XI (3-4-1-2): Joey Batrouni, goalkeeper; Connor Langan, Zeron Sewell, Kori Cupid, defenders; Gianluca Fiorini, Lance Rozeboom, Luka Nedic, Neville Morgan, Ryley Kraft, midfielders; Eliot Goldthorp, Brandon Bermingham, forwards

Menace's only goals came from first-time goalscorers for the first time since May 31.

Vega scored a goal on his debut match for Menace despite coming on as a second-half substitute.

Sewell is the second center back to score for Menace this season and the first to do so on a non-headed goal.

KICKS AND GIGGLES

Tonight's result marks the sixth clean sheet of the season for Menace and their first in three matches.

Menace have now earned 9 points from both teams they played on three occasions this season; after beating St. Croix SC Legends for the third time last week, they do so again with Peoria City.

All three of Peoria's losses on the season were at the hands of Menace.

DEAN'S DIALOGUE

"We're happy with the win and the clean sheet was the big thing for us today. I think in the first half, we were a little bit sloppy, [but in the] second half, we were able to pick it up a bit.

"Devin [Vega] is a really, really good player, so there was no real surprise when he made that impact.

"Peoria City are a very good team, so it's a good test before we go into playoffs. It's full focus on playoffs now; we'll see who we play next week."

comments from Menace head coach Dean Johnson

ON DECK

Menace will host their Round of 32 contest at Valley Stadium on Friday, July 22 against an opponent to be determined. Updates on playoff structure and the official playoff bracket will be available early next week at uslleaguetwo.com.

Menace's first-round contest will take place at 7 p.m. Friday in West Des Moines. A second Round of 32 match will be held at Valley Stadium Friday at 4 p.m., with the two winners meeting for a Round of 16 contest at Valley Stadium on Sunday, July 24 at 7 p.m.

Eliot Goldthorp touches the ball in the center of the field

Goldthorp Shines, Menace Return to Winning Ways

By Danny Kotula 07/09/2022, 9:00pm CDT

The central midfielder-turned-striker put away two goals to help Menace to their ninth win of the year

SHORT STORY

A 1-0 lead at half ballooned into a 4-1 win for Des Moines Menace on Saturday, marking their third victory over St. Croix SC on the campaign.

Eliot Goldthorp, Brandon Bermingham, and Leroy Enzugusi all found the back of the net in the second-to-last match of the regular season.

FIRST HALF

In a typical display this season, Menace started brightly in attack but were without a finishing edge inside the first twenty minutes. 

Des Moines did find a remedy through Irish striker Brandon Bermingham in the 25th minute.

Bermingham scored his fifth goal in as many matches with some style, slicing to his right from the left side of the box before drilling a shot into the top right corner.

Bermingham, a native of Drogheda, Ireland, took the outright lead in goalscoring with the match opener, but another player would go on to level his scoring record.

No more goals came in the first half, however, despite a pair of counterattacking chances for St. Croix and more balls forward from Menace.

SECOND HALF (Menace 1 - 0 St. Croix at half)

The Menace faithful at Valley Stadium could hardly have dreamed up a better start to the second 45, as a goal was banged in before a single minute had gone by.

Goldthorp used a high work rate to win the ball off of Ethan Anderson and did the rest himself, carrying the ball from the right side of goal into the box and putting the 1v1 chance away.

The central midfielder appeared at striker for the first time on the year, coming into the match with three goals on the year.

He wasn't done on the evening, though, grabbing a brace 12 minutes later. His 57th-minute strike from 25 yards away found the back of the net by virtue of pure power, beating goalkeeper Jack Morris.

From there, both teams settled down with the result seemingly done and dusted.

In the 77th minute, though, youth product Asher Ozuzu pounced on a bad error at the back from Menace, using one of his first touches off the bench to rocket a shot off the crossbar and in.

The goal lifted St. Croix's spirits, but it couldn't lift them to any more goals. Instead, it would be Menace to find a final goal to bookend the contest.

An 89th-minute strike from close range found the back of the net off the foot of Enzugusi, a Kenya-born midfielder who grew up in Marion, Iowa.

Enzugusi created chances galore in his ten minutes on the pitch, and until his late strike, it looked like he wouldn't be rewarded for his efforts. In the end, the Drake University product and former MLS SuperDraft pick got his third goal of the year.

DEAN'S DIALOGUE

"We were a little disappointed with the goal. Obviously, we wanted the clean sheet, but I do think we dominated the game.

"The new boys came in and [did] the job we asked them to. Leroy [Enzugusi] is always going to be a threat with his pace, and we're glad he got his goal."

"We're happy overall and ready to move on to next week."

quotes from Menace head coach Dean Johnson

WHO'S WHO

Starting XI (3-4-1-2): Joey Batrouni, goalkeeper; Connor Langan, Zeron Sewell, Malik Smith, defenders; Gianluca Fiorini, Luka Nedic, Kori Cupid, Neville Morgan, Ryley Kraft, midfielders; Eliot Goldthorp, Brandon Bermingham, forwards

Bermingham and Goldthorp both reached five goals on the season, leading the team in that category.

Bermingham now has a goal in each of the last five matches.

Nedic made his return to central midfield after a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation.

Aleksandar Gluvaçevic picked up an assist in his first match of the campaign for Menace after joining mid-season from Orlando City B.

Allexon Saravia, a wing back with experience in USL Championship at Loudoun United, also made his Menace debut as a substitute.

KICKS AND GIGGLES

Menace were scheduled to play against St. Croix and Peoria City three times on the season; after winning all three against St. Croix, they can now do the same against Peoria City next week.

Des Moines are now undefeated in their last 17 matches.

Menace scored four or more goals for the fifth time this season, three of which came against St. Croix.

ON DECK

Menace now pivot to Peoria City in one final regular season match in 2022. They take on the Deep North Division's second-place team for the third time on the year and for the first time at home at 7 p.m. on July 16 at Valley Stadium.

The match can also be streamed live on YouTube via the Central Iowa Sports Network.