It's not how you start, but how you finish.
That was the motto for Des Moines Menace on Make It OK Night in the 2022 home opener at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines.
Despite going down 2-0 to USL League Two newcomers St. Croix SC Legends, Menace found a way to retaliate and end the evening with a commanding margin of victory.
The early thorn in Des Moines' side was forward Telvin Vah, who used an individual moment of brilliance to take two touches in the box and fire past Menace goalkeeper Joey Batrouni for the opener.
With the goal from Vah, the visitors went ahead 1-0 in the ninth minute, but Vah wasn't finished.
The North Dakota native provided a second goal with 18 and a half minutes gone, again hitting the back of the net from inside the area.
"We came out really, really sloppy," Menace head coach Dean Johnson said, "and we were obviously very disappointed."
"We have a lot more talent than most teams here, but it doesn't matter if you don't work hard," Johnson said.
With St. Croix ahead by a pair, Menace were eager to cut the lead in half, and a golden opportunity presented itself just moments later. A lofted ball down the right flank from Fernando Garcia found Gianluca Fiorini at the edge of the box.
Fiorini moved around his defender and was taken down on the stroke of 20 minutes, earning his side a penalty. Midfielder Eliot Goldthorp stepped up to shoot from the spot, and his effort made the goalkeeper guess the wrong way.
Goldthorp, a former Bradford City AFC player who scored a winning penalty for his former side in the EFL Trophy, scored his second goal of the campaign to bring the score to 2-1 in favor of St. Croix.
After the goal, Menace settled and produced their best attacking soccer of the half. It took until the 43rd minute, but the home side found their equalizer before the halftime whistle was blown.
A world-class scissor kick on the half-volley from Garcia got the job done, as the Charlotte native delivered a contender for the goal of the season.
Garcia's moment of magic brought the score to 2-2 in the midway break.
SECOND HALF (Menace 2 - 2 St. Croix at halftime)
The second-half performance from Des Moines left no room for doubt, and neither would the scoreline.
Ryan Kingsford had his moment in the 58th minute, opening his scoring on the season from close range. A looping cross came from the left side of attack via Kori Cupid. The initial header from Kingsford hit the post and fell back to him, but the Heron Bay, England-born striker's second effort was rewarded with Menace's third goal of the evening.
From there, it became the Salvadego show, as substitute attacker Alessandro Salvadego came on as a substitute to score a pair of consecutive goals.
Fiorini played the ball short from the right wing, finding Salvadego with his back turned to goal. The Italian did the rest, turning and striking a laser between the sticks in the 67th minute of play.
Salvadego's second was a brilliant chipped effort from the left, deftly beating the goalkeeper for a second-half brace in minute 79.
Another substitute got his name on the scoresheet to put the nail in the coffin for Menace, as Eddie Speed's long-distance header took a deflection and found the back of the net. The 89th-minute finish was the final action from a thorough second-half performance from the home side.
"In the second half, [the players] did [what we asked them to do]; they came out and scored six straight," Johnson said.
"We changed the game around, and some of the substitutes came on and raised the level, which was great."
Menace pick up their second win from the result, staying perfect in the USL League Two Deep North Division. St. Croix drop their first-ever League Two match to stay at 0 points for the campaign.
Starting XI (3-4-1-2):
Joey Batrouni, goalkeeper; Malik Smith, Connor Langan, Alfeu Bertini, defenders; Kori Cupid, Timothy Mason, Eliot Goldthorpe, Gianluca Fiorini, Ryley Kraft, midfielders; Ryan Kingsford, Fernando Garcia, forwards
Salvadego led Menace with two goals.
Five players found the back of the net for Menace.
Batrouni conceded his first two goals of the season.
KICKS AND GIGGLES
Goldthorp and Salvadego each have a team-leading two goals so far this season.
Menace are the top scorers in the division with eight goals. Aside from the two Canadian clubs, who have not begun their season, every other club has two.
Menace's eight goals also lead USL League Two, followed by Northern Virginia FC with seven.
The winning streak for Menace now sits at nine matches, dating back to last season.
Menace begins a long away stretch with a match against Peoria City in Illinois on May 27th. The match kicks off from Shea Stadium at 7 p.m. central time.