The home fans at Valley Stadium were made to wait over 50 minutes, but the three goals they were treated to from Des Moines Menace were well worth it Saturday night in a 3-0 win over FC Manitoba.
Menace found a way to break a stubborn back line from their Canadian visitors, clinching a playoff spot in the process and sitting one win away from locking up the Deep North Division title.
After a 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture between Manitoba and Menace, the home side was seeking to score against the boys from Winnipeg for the first time in 2022.
In the first half, however, Menace couldn't quite accomplish that goal.
Plenty of chances found their way into the box, especially from wing back Neville Morgan on the left side of attack. Getting the better of his marker all night long, Morgan found enough space to play crosses into the area on multiple occasions.
Despite the plethora of chances, though, Des Moines were unable to get many clean shots away.
Manitoba, meanwhile, created a few chances of their own with clever counter-attack play. Striker Diego Reveco managed to win a pair of free kicks as the half wore on, both of which resulted in dangerous moments for the Menace faithful, but no costly goals.
With no goals to show for either team's efforts in the first 45, everything was left to play for going into the second half.
SECOND HALF (Menace 0 - 0 Manitoba at half)
Never content with a draw, Menace came out hungry as ever for an opening goal. In the end, it was a defensive error from Kevin Garic that gifted the home side their breakthrough goal.
A back pass from Garic towards goalkeeper Evan Barker found the feet of striker Alessandro Salvadego, who happily slotted the ball home from the left side of the box.
Salvadego's fourth goal of the year put Menace ahead in the 53rd minute, but it wouldn't be their last time finding the back of the net.
Substitute striker Brandon Bermingham continued a run of scoring, grabbing a goal in his third consecutive match with a great individual effort.
On the stroke of 75 minutes, Bermingham picked up the ball in midfield and created a chance all by himself, cutting from the left side of the box towards the middle and slotting home from 10 yards away.
The third and final goal belonged to attacking midfielder Ryley Kraft, but the bulk of the work came on Eddie Speed's assist.
The English outside back worked hard to win possession on the right flank and had the presence of mind to play a square ball across the face of goal to Kraft. The pass took the Manitoba goalkeeper out of the play, leaving the Roseville, California native to slot home Menace's third of the evening in the 86th minute.
quotes from Menace head coach Dean Johnson
"[In the] first half, we didn't move the ball quick enough. Had a bit of a go at them in the locker room to get them going, but in the second half, we bossed it."
"The subs made a great impact. The depth of our team is great right now, and we're lucky we can rest a few guys and still pick up wins!"
Starting XI (3-4-1-2): Grant Makela, goalkeeper; Connor Langan, Zeron Sewell, Malik Smith, defenders; Narciso Cervantes, Neville Morgan, Luis Maestre, Kori Cupid, Brayan Padilla, midfielders; Edoardo Degl'Innocenti, Alessandro Salvadego, forwards
Salvadego scored his fourth goal of the season, making him Menace's new leading scorer this season.
Bermingham now has three goals in a week, scoring once each against St. Croix on June 18, against Peoria City on June 22, and in tonight's home match against Manitoba.
Speed picked up his second assist on the year to go along with one goal.
KICKS AND GIGGLES
Menace have now beaten every team in the Deep North Division this season.
Dating back to their time as WSA Winnipeg under different ownership, Manitoba has never beaten Menace in over a decade as a club.
Menace are now 16 matches unbeaten and have two clean sheets from their last three contests.
Menace have won each of their last three matches by exactly three goals.
Menace host a Canadian foe for the second straight match when Thunder Bay Chill, the only remaining team who could beat Menace to the division crown, comes to town. That contest kicks off Friday, July 1 at 7 p.m. from Valley Stadium in West Des Moines and can also be watched live on YouTube via CISN.