Since I started getting back into soccer about a decade ago, I have enjoyed going to watch the Des Moines Menace. Sure they are only an amateur Premier Development Club, but the team is professionally run and is essentially a college all star squad. Players come from schools around the country to spend their summer playing for the Menace. Quite a few former players have advanced to the professional ranks, including some becoming starters on Major League Soccer teams.
I have watched the Menace achieve some pretty amazing things. When they had their best season ever in 2005, I had full season tickets. I watched as the USL-2 Pittsburgh Riverhounds went down on penalties. A few family members joined me when the Menace beat the heavily favored USL-1 Charleston Battery in a tight game. When the Menace traveled to Atlanta and destroyed the USL-1 Silverbacks 5-1, I followed the online text feed. I was one of many that took the bus ride to Kansas City to watch the Menace play the MLS Wizards in a historical fourth round match. The ride home following the 6-1 loss was a long and stinky one (it was around 100 degrees in KC that night).
That same season, the Menace qualified for the Central Conference playoffs by finishing second overall in the Heartland Division. After defeating the number one seeded Chicago Fire Premier 4-0, they beat the Michigan Bucks 4-1 to win the conference championship. In the PDL semifinals, they hosted Orange County and stayed alive with a 2-1 victory. They then traveled to El Paso, TX to face the Southern Conference champion Patriots. The game was televised nation-wide on Fox Soccer Channel. Mediacom carried it on channel 22 and we watched it at my in-laws' house. After both full and extra time finished with no goals being scored, the teams advanced to penalties. Outstanding efforts by Andy Gruenebaum (now with the MLS Columbus Crew) saw us take the edge in penalty kicks and win the League Championship.
The following year I cut my ticket package down to a partial season flex pack due to a busy schedule. Over the last couple of seasons I continued with the flex packs as they allowed me to make it to many games and still have a life outside of soccer. Unfortunately this year I did not purchase a flex pack. I had a feeling that I would not be able to make even that much of a time commitment and I was right. Still, I figured that I would at least make it to a couple of games.
With only two home games remaining, it looks like this will be the first time since I started following the Menace that I will not have made a single game. I have commitments on both next Saturday (7/11) and the following Saturday (7/18) that prevent me from attending. Saying I am sad at missing my favorite local summer sports team's entire season is not exactly right. It is more that I am disappointed with myself for not making the time to go. My only remedy, which does me no good this year, is to be sure to purchase a 2010 flex pack. At least then I know I will be a better fan next season...
In the meantime, if you are looking for something to do over the next two Saturdays, I strongly encourage you to hit a game. Even though Valley Stadium sucks for soccer, the on field product is top notch!