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Feature Story

Spring Sports Preview

5/1/2024

If you are looking for fast-paced sporting action this spring and summer, you are in luck. The Des Moines Menace soccer team and the Iowa Barnstormers arena football team, although being quite different, provide a similar atmosphere for their current and soon-to-be fans.  On the following pages, we share some background and a peak at this year’s teams along with schedules of upcoming games. 


Menace soccer team is Des Moines’ connection to the world

Winning and celebrating are Menace traditions. Photo courtesy of Des Moines Menace

Soccer love is for life. 

By Jim Duncan

It’s called “the beautiful game.” Soccer has been known as joga bonito since 1970 when Brazil’s national selection won the World Cup with “total football” teamwork that has been emulated ever since. 

Interestingly, the Portuguese term joga bonito is used all over the world but not in Brazil, where the same style is called futbol-arte. Beauty or art, no other sport is loved world-wide like soccer. And with its 90 minutes of constant movement, no other sport is as creative. 

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Soccer is also the most accessible of all sports. Football and basketball favor those with extraordinary size. Baseball demands rare hand-eye coordination. Track and field distinguishes sprinters from distance runners. No one can be both. People marvel when a 100-meter champion can also compete at 400 meters. Running further than that is a dream too far. 

But soccer players at the highest levels run up to 8.5 miles over 90 minutes in a game in which pace (soccer speak for sprinting speed) is what usually separates winners from losers. 

2024 Des Moines Menace schedule

  • May 15 at Chicago Dutch Lions
  • May 25 Chicago City SC in Mediacom Stadium
  • May 30 at River Light FC
  • June 1 at Sueno FC
  • June 12 at Chicago City SC
  • June 15 St. Charles FC in Valley Stadium
  • June 22 Sueno FC in Valley Stadium
  • June 29 River Light FC in Valley Stadium
  • July 2 at St. Charles FC
  • July 6 at Peoria City FC
  • July 13 Chicago Dutch Lions in Valley Stadium

Americans are turning more and more to soccer because parents love that kids do not have to be “stronger, faster, higher” or bulk up like in other popular sports. They just have to be willing to run, run, run and wait for elusive opportunities to do something simple, but simply magnificent, with the ball. 

If soccer wasn’t already a sport, someone would have to invent it to comply with “equality, diversity, inclusion” angst. It is the world’s game. Last year’s Menace roster included players from Spain, Liberia, Chile, Costa Rica, England, Canada, Libya, Jamaica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Trinidad and Tobago, plus Japan. The locker room was the most cosmopolitan place in the metro, with the possible exception of the Windsor Heights Walmart on a Sunday.

 

Now and forever

Soccer love is for life. One does not choose new teams to support like football and basketball fans often do. I witnessed a bar fight between middle-aged fans of Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday, both decked out in team colors and paraphernalia. That was in Guayaquil, Ecuador. 

Bloodied, those two rival fans then had a beer together and united in their shared appreciation of the English national team. Soccer biographies always include both club and national teams. Soccer clubs, like the Menace, recruit supporters at very young ages. 

 

Divine connectivity

The most loveable facet of soccer’s design is its overlapping connectivity. The Menace plays in an amateur league with rivals Chicago City, Chicago Dutch Lions, Peoria, Sueno (Joliet), St. Charles and River Light (Kane County). At the same time, they also play in a knockout tournament that can match them against professional teams of the highest order in the U.S. 

Players and managers usually experience both promotion and relegation in their careers. The Menace roster this year includes Roger Espinoza, a Honduran national who played for Wigan Athletic FC in 2013 when that English team won the fabled FA Cup and the same week suffered relegation from the EPL, the world’s richest league. 

Soccer is designed to test one’s highs and lows, even within a single minute. Up or down, movement is blessed with connectivity that one finds in no other sport. Espinoza played with Sporting Kansas City of the MLS, America’s top professional league. Former Menace manager John Pascarella came to Des Moines from Sporting KC and left for Minnesota United, another MLS team. Former Menace and Drake superstar Ezra Hendrickson managed the Chicago Fire in the MLS until last year. He’s now managing in his native St. Vincent. Last year, Sydney Tatam was director of operations for the Menace. This year, she has the same title for USL, the women’s super league, in its inaugural season. 

The Menace is connected to the highest level of world soccer by just one degree of separation. Menace ownership is the same as that of Parma Calcio, one of Italy’s most storied clubs, particularly in the 1990s when they won four European trophies and several world hall of famers wore their colors.

Gianluigi Buffon, arguably the greatest goalie of all time, came out of retirement to play for Parma last year and wept on his knees when they lost a promotion playoff. This year, the club was on course to win promotion without a playoff. (At press time, they were eight points up with five games to go.) 

There will be parties in Des Moines when that happens. Parma and Des Moines are connected in other ways. Both are in the capitals of agricultural wonderlands. Both honor the oak tree, la quercia in Italian and the name of America’s premiere charcuterie producer in Norwalk. 

 

Success breeds more success 

The Menace has been built on success. They won a national championship in 2021 in front of 7,342 fans in Valley Stadium. They have only lost one regular season home game since 2017. Then they hired away the only manager who beat them, Troy McKerrell. 

More than 50 Menace players have been signed by professional teams since 2018. They have won five regular season championships and two national titles since 2003. Menace alumni move on to coach big league pro clubs — Hendrickson (Chicago Fire), Mike Jeffries (Charlotte Independence), and Alen Marcina (San Antonio FC).

 

Plug in

Menace games are a family-friendly bargain. Tickets are only $10 for adults and $8 for ages up to 18. Season tickets are $70. People show up early and tailgate. Two fan clubs sit together and sing — the DSM Society and the Red Army. 

The Menace has been practicing the Caitlyn Clark magic, too. 

“Our players stay around after games to meet everyone, sign autographs, take photos. We give away posters then, too,” General Manager Charlie Bales explained. 


Iowa Barnstormers look to turn the ship around

Photo by Jasey Michelle/Picture Iowa

Team is led by six returners from last season including quarterback Darius-James Peterson and linemen Toryque Bateman and Joe Bastante.

It’s that time of the year once again: time to bang some heads, Iowa Barnstormer style. 

Barnstormer Head Coach Dave Mogensen and his club entered the season looking for a rebound after a 3-13 performance by the Indoor Football League team in 2023.

Time will tell if that success comes. What the Barnstormers do know is they have the players to turn the ship back around, led by six returners from last season’s team including quarterback Darius-James Peterson and linemen Toryque Bateman and Joe Bastante. Tyrell Pearson returns at defensive back, as does linebacker Ian McBorrough and kicker Gabriel Rui. Also on the roster this season are former University of Northern Iowa wideout Deion McShane and Iowa State wide receiver Darren Wilson.

The squad got off to an 0-2 start in the 2024 campaign, losing to the Green Bay Blizzard in the season opener, 35-24, before dropping a close one to the Tulsa Oilers the following week, 39-31. 

2024 Iowa Barnstormers Schedule 

  • March 23 6:05 PM Away Green Bay Blizzard Green Bay, WI 
  • April 6 7:05 PM Away Tulsa Oilers Tulsa, OK 
  • April 12 6:05 PM Away Massachusetts Pirates Worcester, MA 
  • April 20 7:05 PM Home Arizona Rattlers Des Moines, IA 
  • April 26 6:05 PM Away Green Bay Blizzard Green Bay, WI 
  • May 4 7:05 PM Home Quad City Steamwheelers Des Moines, IA 
  • May 11 7:05 PM Home Massachusetts Pirates Des Moines, IA 
  • May 17 7:05 PM Away Quad City Steamwheelers Moline, IL 
  • May 24 7:05 PM Home Green Bay Blizzard Des Moines, IA 
  • June 1 7:05 PM Away Sioux Falls Storm Sioux Falls, SD 
  • June 15 7:05 PM Home Quad City Steamwheelers Des Moines, IA 
  • June 22 7:05 PM Home Tulsa Oilers Des Moines, IA 
  • June 29 8:05 PM Away Arizona Rattlers Phoenix, AZ 
  • July 6 7:05 PM Home Jacksonville Sharks Des Moines, IA 
  • July 13 7:05 PM Home Sioux Falls Storm Des Moines, IA 
  • July 20 7:05 PM Away Frisco Fighters Frisco, Texas

The game

For the uninitiated, the Indoor Football League (IFL) is a professional indoor American football league created in 2008 out of the merger between the Intense Football League and United Indoor Football and has 14 teams in two conferences with each team playing a 16-game season. With the closure of the Arena Football League in 2019, the IFL is the oldest active professional indoor football league in North America.

The Indoor Football League is similar to outdoor football in many ways. Teams work to score touchdowns while playing four 15-minutes quarters. That said, it’s different, too, beginning with the fact the game is played indoors in what basically is a hockey rink, complete with the boards. IFL fields are 50 yards long, as opposed to 100 yards in outdoor football, and also have rebound nets along the sidelines, fostering a game that has continuous action and more points. Goal posts are 10 feet wide with a crossbar height of 10 feet.

Whereas the outdoor game is 11 vs. 11, indoor football is 8 vs. 8, with four offensive players lining up on the line of scrimmage. Three defensive players must be down linemen, and one linebacker may blitz on either side of the center. Defensive linemen must line up no wider than shoulder to shoulder on the offensive lineman in front of them. In scrimmage kick formation, the defensive linemen must align head-up on the offensive lineman. The defensive linemen may not stunt or twist, except when in scrimmage kick formation. Offensively, two receivers may go in forward motion before the snap.

Scoring is as follows:

• Touchdown: Six (6) points

• Field Goal by Placement: Three (3) points

• Field Goal by Drop Kick: Four (4) points

• Safety: Two (2) points

• Safety on Two Point Conversion Attempt: One (1) point

• PAT by Running/Passing: Two (2) points

• PAT by Drop Kick: Two (2) points

• Returned PAT by Defense to Team A’s End Zone: Two (2) points

• PAT by Place Kick: One (1) point

• Deuce (Kickoff That Passes Through Uprights): Two (2) points

• Rouge (Kickoff Downed in End Zone): One (1) point

Terms to know:

Alley: The area between the two outside offensive linemen, and it is bordered by their outside shoulders.

Belt: The area five yards beyond the defensive line of scrimmage. It runs sideline to sideline and disappears at the snap.

Blitzer: If a player is going to blitz, he must identify himself to the offense and the officials by raising his hand if there are two linebackers in the box. At the snap, he must be located in the Alley and behind the Belt. 

Drop kick: A player drops the ball towards the ground and kicks the ball simultaneously as it hits the ground. If a player can make a field goal using this technique, it’s worth four points.

There’s more, but that’s the nuts and bolts. Those who know the outdoor game — and even those who don’t — will have little trouble adapting. 

IFL players earn between $250 to $500 per game played with a $25 bonus given to the players on the winning team each week. 

 

The past

The Barnstormers have a rich history that began in 1995 when the new team and head coach John Gregory qualified for the playoffs in their inaugural season, following it up with trips to the arena football Super Bowl equivalent — ArenaBowl X — in 1996 and another in 1997.

With the opening of Wells Fargo Arena in 2005, the team had a new home and facility in place and eventually returned for the 2008 season. From there, the team played as members of the Arena Football League and the Indoor Football League (2015). The team captured its first ever championship in 2018 with a 42-38 victory over the Sioux Falls Storm in the United Bowl.

2024 Roster

  • 1 – Tre Long, WR
  • 2 – Deion McShane, WR
  • 3 – Quian Williams, WR
  • 4 – Darius-James Peterson, QB
  • 5 – Ian McBorrough, LB
  • 6 – Taeyler Porter, RB
  • 7 – Tyrell Pearson, DB
  • 8 – Darren Wilson, WR
  • 9 – Simeon Gatling, DB
  • 10 – Gabriel Rui, K
  • 11 – Robert Washington, RB
  • 12 – Jefferson Fritz, DB
  • 15 – J’Von France, DB
  • 17 – Kyle King, QB
  • 18 – Ty Tate, DL
  • 20 – Christian Russell, LB
  • 21 – Victor Hampton, DB
  • 22 – Mark Carter, DB
  • 33 – Arthur Randall, DL
  • 44 – Kaleb Brewer, DL
  • 54 – Joe Bastante, OL
  • 72 – Toryque Bateman, OL
  • 77 – Richard Gaskins, OL
  • 78 – Kristopher Stroughter, OL
  • 93 – Chuckwumeka Manning, DL

The event

Going to a Barnstormers game is more than watching some great football; it’s an event. As always, the team has a number of specialty nights and offerings beyond the gridiron that are sure to entice fans this 2024 season. The Barnstormers will host eight home games at Wells Fargo Arena during the regular season, and each will have its own theme, beginning with the home opener on Saturday, April 20 when the team hosted the Arizona Rattlers. Fans had the opportunity to purchase two tickets to the game and an autographed football for $100.

Saturday, May 4 will be a big one: Star Wars night. The team will don specialty Star Wars-themed jerseys in the contest against the Quad City Steamwheelers. The first 1,000 kids ages 12 and younger will receive a free light saber. An online jersey auction will be held, and exclusive limited edition merchandise will be available for fans to purchase as well. 

Saturday, May 11 is Billy’s Birthday Bash. Fans are invited to come meet the Barnstormer mascot as well as all of his friends. The Barnstormers will be taking on the Massachusetts Pirates that night, and the first 1,000 fans will receive a Billy the Barnstormer campaign button. Hot dogs will be a measly $1 during the first half of the game. 

Military Night will be held on Friday, May 24 during the team’s game against the Green Bay Blizzard. The evening will be dedicated to honoring and recognizing our veterans and active-duty military personnel.

Saturday, June 15 will be deemed Summer Kickoff and feature the Animal Rescue League of Iowa’s Halftime Corgi Chase during the Barnstormers’ contest against the Quad City Steamwheelers.

Saturday, June 22 will be First Responders Night as the Barnstormers take on the Tulsa Oilers. The first 500 kids will receive a super hero cape courtesy of Scrap Processors, Inc. The evening will be dedicated to honoring and recognizing local heroes including police, fire, EMS and hospital workers. Specialty jersey and locker plate auctions will take place as well. 

Take a step into the past during the Barnstormers’ game against the Jacksonville Sharks on Saturday, July 6 for their Annual 90s Night. The game will feature throwback music, trivia and more from the decade that started it all for the team. Beer will be $2. Fans can enjoy 12-ounce Busch Light and Coors Light through the first half of the game.

Saturday, July 13 will be Fan Appreciation Night as the Barnstormers take on the Sioux Falls Storm in the final regular season home game of the season. The team will be highlighting fans throughout the game, and beer will be $2.

Fans may purchase Iowa Barnstormers single-game tickets for the 2024 season online at www.hyveetix.com or at www.theiowabarnstormers.com.
Individual game tickets are $18-$70 for regular season games. Season ticket packages are available for as low as $128 per seat and will include a ticket to all eight regular season home games. For more information, call 515-633-2255, or  visit  www.theiowabarnstormers.com. ♦

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