Photo: Connor McCourtney
Iowa’s premier soccer team, the Des Moines Menace, has been competitive since its inception in 1994. The Drake Bulldogs have the only Division I men’s soccer program in the state. Since ‘94, the two squads have built a relationship that still exists today. The Menace uses Drake players to stay competitive.
The Menace is a Premier Development League team, which is an amateur U.S. soccer league. Two steps below Major League Soccer, the PDL mainly hosts college players in the offseason who would like to obtain professional experience, but still want to maintain their NCAA eligibility.
Iowa native Adam Small, the Menace director of operations, stressed the importance of what the Menace does.
“We take a lot of pride in preparing guys for the next step,” he said. “For a lot of guys, it’s all about preparing for the next season, but ultimately, we would like to give guys the opportunity to play professionally after college.”
In creating that relationship with Drake, the Menace started off with a bang. Its first team included one of Drake’s greatest players: Ezra Hendrickson. Hendrickson is Drake’s all-time leader in goals, points and shots.
After playing for the Menace in ’94, Hendrickson went on to play for six MLS teams from 1997-2008. He even helped the Columbus Crew win the 2008 MLS Cup.
The Menace recruits players from across the world to play during the summer. The PDL teams play 16 games over the course of the summer.
Drake head coach Sean Holmes knows the pros and cons of having his players play for the Menace.
“You can be in the weight room and play pick-up games, but there is nothing like having a formal environment to play in during the summer,” Holmes said. “Except last summer, we lost our best player (senior) Matt Kuhn, who was our returning captain. We lost him for the season, so that certainly hurt.”
Holmes said that playing for Des Moines tends to be a bigger deal for the Iowa kids because they’ve grown up with the Menace. One such player is redshirt junior goalkeeper Jordan Kadlec, a native of Cedar Rapids. He has been playing for the Menace since he was 16. He has been playing on and off with Des Moines since signing with Louisville his first year of college before transferring to Drake.
Kadlec said that overall the Menace runs a very professional organization. It has helped him train to pursue something at the next level, but he is wary that it may cause wear and tear on some players.
“You may get burnt out if you play on the wrong club,” he said. “You might train too often, which might be a problem because you want to come in excited and fit for the fall.”
The Menace’s first game is scheduled for May 14 at home.