Meet new Des Moines Menace Manager John Pascarella
John Pascarella became the Des Moines Menace manager in January after eight years and an MLS championship as goal keeper coach at Sporting Kansas City — also known as Wizards and The Wiz. He grew up playing in New Jersey youth leagues and then at Penn State, Sport Boys (Lima, Peru), Allianza Sullana (Peru), the USL Washington Stars and the MLS Los Angeles Galaxy.
His tenure at Sporting KC coincided with big success, five years of sold-out crowds, a new stadium, three final fours and an MLS championship in 2013. He’s been visiting the premier venues in all MLS cities to scout and coach. Why would he give that up to manage in an amateur league?
“Number one, (Menace owner) Kyle Krause impressed me so much in my interview, with his compassion for both the game and for Des Moines, plus his competitive nature. We were on the same wave length from the beginning there. And that’s despite the fact that he is a Juventus (main team in Turin, Italy) fan, and my parents emigrated from Naples. I remember Diego Maradona playing with Napoli for trophies, usually against Juventus or AC Milan.
“Secondly, I am so competitive that I really needed to be a head manager. Goal keeper coaches like myself were not being promoted in the MLS to managers. The only one I recall is Jeff Cassar at Real Salt Lake, and he’s been fired now,” he said.
Yet former goalkeepers, like catchers in baseball, tend to make good managers because they watch and manage games as players. Who were Pascarella’s favorite goal keepers?
“(Harold) Toni Schumacher, (who played for FC Koln and the German national team during the 1980s), Shep Messing at the Cosmos when I was growing up there, and a guy named Alan Mayer who was the first keeper to wear a protective helmet, as far as I know. Maybe that appealed to me because I grew up going to (Philadelphia hockey team) Flyers games with my dad. We always sat in a section that was almost entirely Italian-American and was really rabid. They came to see fights as much as hockey. “I miss the old fashioned, generational bond that sports forged. Mostly it was baseball in America where fathers took children and grandkids to games. For me it was hockey. For the rest of the world, it’s mostly soccer,” he explained.
Who does the manager most admire as role models?
“Three guys stand out to me. Pep (Guardiola, of Barecelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City); (Jose) Mourinho (of Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and now Manchester United, which is Pascarella’s favorite non-Italian team) and (Carlo) Ancellotti (AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Roma, Parma and Paris St. Germaine). They all proved they could win in multiple places. Personally, I hope to be more like Ancelotti. Wherever he managed, he worked with his talent and adjusted his style. Pep and Jose both made players fit into their styles. I also think that both Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley overachieved as coaches for the U.S. national team,” he explained.
Does Pascarella know what style or formation he will play in Des Moines?
“I have no idea yet what the talent will be. We are still filling out our roster. I need to adjust to it. I know this — I want my team to be the aggressor, to have the majority of possession in most games. I love the way Arsenal plays and Bayern Munich. However, I am going to be more like Ancelloti than Mourinho or Guardiola in that. They fit personnel around their formations. I need to be the opposite,” he said.
“Teams are almost always more or less than the sum of their parts. Leiceister City (which won the English Premier League last year at 5,000-1 odds) is case in point. That is where coaching comes into play. How can you get players to buy into a team concept?” he pondered.
The Menace will field a lot of college players. Can you keep that pipeline open?
“I think I have great connections with college coaches. I was a college coach. I scouted colleges as a Sporting coach. After my professional career ended, I had no intention of coaching. However, I had such a great four years playing at Penn State in college that University of Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski was able to talk me into coaching there for one year. I was hooked by then. After two years, he pushed me out to make me realize larger ambitions.
“I still love the college game. I am going to the Drake-Grandview game today. Last week I went to the Hastings-Nebraska Omaha and the Southern Illinois-Evansville games. I have players from all those teams, three from Omaha. College coaches trust me to not put their players in peril of injury by playing them on back-to-back days. We play several back-to-back games in this league. I rotate rosters on a Friday-Saturday turnaround. Some coaches do not.
Pascarella’s children are in school in Kansas City, so he is living out of a suitcase for now. He calls himself a big family man.
“When we (Sporting KC) won the (MLS) cup and after we beat Manchester United in an exhibition game, there were big post-game celebrations with the team and coaches. Both times I snuck out early to celebrate with my family. That’s the Neapolitan in me. I love family, and when I am successful I want to be with them above all others,” he explained.
Thanks to satellite TV, Iowans can now follow most of the top European leagues. What league does Pascarella like best?
League Un (the top French league) is the most exciting to watch today. They have the best athletes and the youngest teams. Other than PSG (Paris St. Germaine), they just can’t keep their young stars. They have to sell. Yet they perpetuate the brilliance of youth and style. Look at Monaco. They can wow you,” he said.
Can new manager bring Menace another title?
The Des Moines Menace plays in the 67-team Premier Development League (PDL). This is the highest level a player can compete without losing college eligibility. Since only the top quarter of college players are good enough for this level, the league is a de facto conference of college all-star teams, with high school superstars thrown in.
The Menace uses a lot of local players. One returning star, Elvir Ibisevic, would be one year out of Johnston High School had he not graduated early to play at the University of Nebraska Omaha last season. The Menace women’s team is predominately composed of local athletes.
Since the league is not professional, players cannot be paid. The players can be given lodging, food, living expenses and jobs. There’s no cap on player benefits, but anything a team offers one player must be offered to every player. Performance bonuses aren’t allowed. The team, exceptionally, offers a chiropractor and a sports masseur. Many players work at Kum & Go, owned by the team owner.
The Menace has a loyal fan base, dubbed the “Red Army,” and has led its league in attendance in 15 of the previous 17 seasons. An average of 3,000 fans a game turn out. It’s a family-friendly event with a Kid Zone, Kick Center, Halftime Bubble Soccer, etc. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids who are 12 and younger. Parking is accessible, and fans can meet the players on the field to get autographs after the game. The team has responded to the support, as it hasn’t lost a home game since July of 2013.
The once and future stars
Local fans take great pride in the number of World Champion Chicago Cubs players who once played in Des Moines. The Menace has equally impressive numbers for player development at the highest level. The team has 34 alumni in Major League Soccer and 87 in professional soccer. Forty-five Menace players have been drafted by MLS teams. ♦
Des Moines Menace 2017 PDL Schedule
Wednesday, May 10 First round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (Opponent and site TBD)
Wednesday, May 17 Second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (Opponent and site TBD)
Saturday, May 20 WSA Winnipeg 7:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium
Saturday, May 27 at St. Louis Lions 5 p.m. at Tony Glavin Complex
Sunday, May 28 at Saint Louis FC U23 3:30 p.m. at SLSG Collinsville Complex
Wednesday, May 31 Third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (Opponent and site TBD)
Saturday, June 3 Minneapolis City SC 7:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium
Friday, June 9 at Thunder Bay Chill 6:30 p.m. at Fort William Stadium
Saturday, June 10 at Thunder Bay Chill 6:30 p.m. at Fort William Stadium
Tuesday, June 13 at WSA Winnipeg 7 p.m. at Ralph Cantafio Soccerplex
Wednesday, June 14 at WSA Winnipeg 7 p.m. at Ralph Cantafio Soccerplex
Saturday, June 17 Thunder Bay Chill 7:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium
Tuesday, June 20 at Chicago FC United 7 p.m. at Lakeside Field
Saturday, June 24 Chicago FC United 7:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium
Saturday, July 1 Saint Louis FC U23 7:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium
Friday, July 7 Sporting Kansas City U23 7:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium
Saturday, July 8 St. Louis Lions 7:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium
Friday, July 14 Saint Louis FC U23 7:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium
Saturday, July 15 Chicago FC United 7:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium
Friday, July 21 Premier Development League Playoffs
Saturday, July 22 Premier Development League Playoffs
Saturday, July 29 Semifinals, Premier Development League Playoffs
Saturday, Aug. 5 Premier Development League Championship
Des Moines Women’s Menace 2017 WPSL Schedule
Saturday, May 20 Menace Red vs. Menace Black 4:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium
Sunday, June 4 Kansas City Courage 4:30 p.m. at Grimes Soccer Complex
Sunday, June 11 Minnesota TwinStars 4:30 p.m. at Indianola Stadium
(at the Indianola Middle School)
Saturday, June 17 at Kansas City Courage 4 p.m. at Rockhurst University
Sunday, June 18 at GSI Pride (Kansas City) 1 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas HS
Wednesday, June 21 at Minnesota TwinStars 3:30 p.m. at Minnetonka HS Stadium
Saturday, July 8 at Chicago Red Stars Reserves 4 p.m. at Oak Brook Polo Field
Saturday, July 15 Chicago Red Stars Reserves 4:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium
Sunday, July 16 GSI Pride (Kansas City) 4:30 p.m. at Johnston Soccer Complex
Menace alumni in Major League Soccer
Player Menace College Most Recent Professional Team(s)
Mark Pais 2013 Tulsa
Daniel Johnson 2015 Louisville; Maryland 2017 Chicago Fire
Brent Kallman 2012 Creighton 2017 Minnesota United FC;
Justin Davis 2007-08 New Mexico 2017 Minnesota United FC;
Lamar Neagle 2007-08 Nevada-Las Vegas 2016-17 D.C. United; 2013-15,
Kalen Ryden 2010 Midwestern State (Texas) 2015 Columbus Crew; 2017
Trevor Spangenberg 2011 Missouri State 2015 New England Revolution; 2014 Chivas USA; 2016-17 Puerto Rico NASL
Deshorn Brown 2011 Central Florida; Mobile (Ala.) 2013-15 Colorado Rapids;
Danny Cruz 2008 Nevada-Las Vegas 2012-15 Philadelphia Union; 2012 D.C. United; 2009-11 Houston Dynamo
Larry Jackson 2013 Santa Clara 2014 New England Revolution;
Andy Gruenebaum 2005 Kentucky 2014 Sporting KC; 2006-13 Columbus Crew
Erich Marscheider 2014* None 2012-13 Houston Dynamo;
Kyle Zobeck 2009 Valparaiso 2013 FC Dallas;
Andrew Duran 2011 Creighton 2012-13 Seattle Sounders;
Lance Rozeboom 2007-09 New Mexico 2012 D.C. United; 2016-17
Scott Angevine 2013* Coastal Carolina 2012 Sporting KC, Columbus Crew, Portland Timbers; 2014-16 Finland clubs
Edson Edward 2008 Graceland (Iowa) 2010-11 FC Dallas
Jason Griffiths 2009 Kentucky
Josh Wick 2003 Cal-Bakersfield 2009-10 D.C. United; 2014-17 Sweden clubs; Pro since 2005
Mike Graczyk 2007 New Mexico 2009 San Jose Earthquakes; 2008 with 3 MLS teams
Kevin Souter 2007 Graceland (Iowa) 2008-09 Kansas City Wizards
Michael Kraus 2005 Creighton 2007-09 Kansas City Wizards
Leo Krupnik 2002, 2004 California-Berkeley 2009 New York Red Bulls; 2005-15 Israel clubs; Pro since 2002
Joe Germanese 2006 Duke 2008 New England Revolution; 2008 Western Mass.USL-2
Chase Wileman 2009* Southern Methodist 2008 FC Dallas
Ezra Hendrickson 1994 Drake 2006-08 Columbus Crew; 1997-2008 with 6 MLS teams
Corey Farabi 2005 Drake 2006 Kansas City Wizards
Stephen Shirley 2003 Virginia Commonwealth 2006 Kansas City Wizards; 2009-10 Scotland club
Matt Nickell 2002-03 Drake 2005-06 D.C. United
Tighe Dombrowski 2002 Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2004-05 San Jose Earthquakes; 2008 Minnesota USL-1
Chris Brunt 2000 Missouri State 2002-04 Kansas City Wizards; 2006 Charleston USL-1
Neathan Gibson 2002* Lynn (Fla.) 2001 Colorado Rapids; 2001 Rochester USL-1;Pro 1994-2001
Kirk Wilson 1998 Drake 1999-2000 Dallas Burn; 2006 Montreal USL-1;Pro 1999-2006
John Jones 2002-03* Sacramento State 1999 LA Galaxy; Pro 1996-2002 and 2006
* = Appeared in MLS before playing for the Menace