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The Battle for The Heartland

By Juan Mendez, 06/29/23, 9:45PM CDT



Des Moines, Iowa. – The most anticipated regular season match-up in the entire USL League Two environment is near.

An unusual occurrence but a widely welcomed sight – it’s a Heartland Division up for grabs. 

Chicago City SC versus Des Moines Menace. Saturday July 1st, 7PM Central Time, Valley Stadium.  


Familiar Foe 

It is not often that the number one and number two seeds face off during the regular season, though it happened in recent times. 

When League Two champions in 2021, Des Moines suffered a midseason defeat that plagued a spotless record. On Wednesday, June 30th, Menace lost 0-2 against Chicago FC United. 

Since then, Menace had not lost another regular season match.  

That was until the night of May 28th this year, on a Sunday, when Des Moines suffered a gut-wrenching 1-3 defeat against – Chicago City SC. 

Not a charming sight for Des Moines, but that is not the end of the story. 

Following the 0-2 loss, Chicago FC United visited a steadfast Menace at the confines of Valley Stadium, where the home side scored four unanswered goals – and as mentioned, later won the championship. 

Des Moines is currently on 30 regular season games unbeaten at Valley Stadium, where a new, but oddly familiar challenger has stepped to the plate.  

Historical, is this manuscript begging for new ink. 


The Now, and the How

Out of over 120 teams, in 18 divisions and four conferences, Chicago City SC is the only perfect side remaining. Zero points dropped. 

With a new infrastructure, system, and assets, it has proven from the core what it takes to become number one.  

Not only has it brought players from around the country and abroad, but it centers and prides itself on homegrown talent, and the ability to tie both together under one roof.  

Head coach Charlie Latshaw III recognizes this accomplishment, providing local players with a team they are proud to represent, a city.  

Many of these athletes stand out from a roster glaring in confidence, several from local colleges including Loyola University Chicago, displaying the lights of Julian Cisneros, Marc Torellas, amongst other top performers in their respective positions.  

Similarly, a defense rich in experience and vast on physicality, centered on protecting yet another experienced player in goal, Jackson Weyman.  

A frightening ‘newcomer’ against a historical giant, Des Moines, which post-defeat has proven its maturity in get back on track. 

Dean Johnson presents confidence, and a complete trust in his tactics.  

Alongside Matt Caley, the balance between a polished progression of the ball and high standard of fitness explain why Menace is difficult to stop.  

Eliot Goldthorp, returning from last year, poses a threat on and off the ball on every attack, as is Lagos Kunga up front with his pace and magnetic touch.  

Des Moines has been able to walk past opponents on several matches, granted by its solid back three and a steady work rate from every pair of lungs. 

Some goals arrive late, some early. It's an engine hard to neutralize.

Things can be expected from both sides, but when the stakes are high, nothing is a routine, even for the very two best.  

It’s a tale of two cities, it's a battle for the Heartland.


Tale of the Tape

Des Moines Menace (8-1-0)

Staff: Dean Johnson (Head Coach), Matt Caley (Assistant Coach), Juan David Cediel (GK Coach)

Goal Difference: +29

Last Five: LWWWW

Goals per Game: 3.67

- Eliot Goldthorp (6 goals, 5 assists), Lagos Kunga (4 goals), Kori Cupid (2 goals, 3 assists), Leroy Enzugusi (4 goals)


Chicago City SC (8-0-0)

Staff: Charlie Latshaw III (Head Coach), Troy McKerrell (Assistant Coach), Tom Paparounis (GK Coach)

Goal Difference: +22

Last Five: WWWWW

Goals per Game: 3.50

- Marc Torellas (5 goals), Sydney Warden (2+ goals), Ernest Bawa (2+ goals)