Story used with permission from FiftyFive.One
The Open Cup is over for the Des Moines Menace before they could even get running. AFC Cleveland left Valley Stadium in Des Moines with a 3-1 win over the Menace in the 104th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Wednesday night.
The game played out as a stalemate until Cleveland broke through in the 76th minute. The Royals won a penalty that Benjamin Tux dispatched to put them up over Des Moines. But the Menace quickly responded when Hayden Partain drew them back on level terms in the 82nd with a hard strike just under the crossbar from 12 yards out. After Partain’s goal, Cleveland looked to be the better side as they pressed for chances.
The visiting legs held up long enough to produce goals in the 90th and 90th+ minutes, with Chris Cvecko putting the Royals ahead. His shot from the right side of the penalty area, about three yards off the endline, left Menace goalkeeper Kyle Ihn watching as it caromed of the far post and back across the goal line.
Reymar Klochko-Khoo added the late goal in stoppage to seal the win for AFC Cleveland.
It seemed, coming in, the Menace had a bit of an advantage. Cleveland, making its second Open Cup appearance, drew the short end of the straw again on travel. Last year, the Royals had to go to Portland, Maine, and Saint Louis for its two Cup matches — a total of 2,594 miles. This year, the trip to Des Moines nearly eclipsed the half-way mark of that, having to go 660 miles one way.
And yet, the reigning NPSL champions proved jet lag might not be as big of an issue as first thought.
For much of the game, the Menace controlled the offensive outpouring, especially in the first half. Des Moines had three shots on frame by the time Cleveland mustered its first at Ihn. Partain was part of the offensive show, nearly giving the hosts the lead in the 45th minute. His hot from the left side of the penalty area hit the outside of the post in what would to proved to be the Menace’s best chance of the first half.
Other chances from the hosts included Devyn Jambga getting in behind the defense twice — once on either side of the half — only for AFC Cleveland goalkeeper Alex Ivanov to get a hand to the ball or disrupt Jambga’s dribble enough to win the one-on-one battle each time.
This is the first time since 2011 that the Menace fail to appear in the tournament’s second round. Des Moines had a knack getting into some of the later stages for amateur teams, earning berths in the third round in three of the previous four years (2013, 2014, 2016). This is also the first loss for the Menace against an NPSL team in the tournament, coming in with a 3-0 record against the fellow fourth-tier side.
For their efforts, Cleveland will once again be on the road for the next round. This time, it will have a bit more of a rivalry match. The Royals will head four hours south next week to take on one of the top attendance-drawing teams in the USL in FC Cincinnati.
The Menace, meanwhile, will take the next week and a half to get the legs back and prepare for the PDL season opener against WSA Winnipeg on May 20 at Valley Stadium. Des Moines has dropped just two points to Winnipeg since WSA joined the PDL in 2011, and head coach John Pascarella, who made his debut Wednesday night, and the Menace will look to keep that streak alive.