With the stands empty and workers clearing debris at Fort William Stadium, members of the Des Moines broke into song that can be heard outside their dressing room.
The Menace defeated their longtime rivals, the Thunder Bay Chill, 3-0 to position themselves in prime territory for the playoffs, if not first place, at 6-0-1. The Chill fell to 3-3-1, nine points back, with seven games left in their Heartland Division schedule. First-place Kaw Valley FC has an 11-point lead on the Chill.
Only two teams make the cut, meaning time is running out on Thunder Bay.
“We knew they were tough, but we never actually got into the game,” said Chill head coach Giovanni Petraglia. “They are tough. They are a good team, but we never challenged them. The score is well-deserved. We need to change our attitude. Yes they’re good but we never challenged them.”
Ignacio Goya de Anca’s header in the 12th minute on a pass from Nicolas Perea opened the scoring.
Thunder Bay’s Marco Kuemmerle had a grade A chance from point blank range on Des Moines keeper Jordan Bell in the 26th minute that he couldn’t bury. In the 34th minute, Neville Morgan powered a shot wide on a pass from Sullivan Silva for another Thunder Bay opportunity.
Matthew Mozynski made a great diving save for Thunder Bay in the 37th minute to keep the Chill close. Zachary Waitman’s low shot in the last minute of the first half on a pass from Gerber Chavez essentially put the game away.
The Menace have not allowed a single goal in seven USL League Two games.
Marek Weber scored in the 86th minute for the Menace, who owned the play throughout the second half.
“It was fairly open in the first 20-25 minutes,” said first-year Des Moines coach Mark McKeever. “I think it could’ve went either way. Thunder Bay caused us a lot of problems. They had some chances. Our goaltender (Bell) made some good saves at that point. I think there were chances at both ends. The opening goal gave us a little bit of an emotional advantage. We pushed on from there.
“Our first objective as a unit is to win the football match, to get the three points” added McKeever. “The second objective is to keep a clean sheet. Everybody’s invested in that, even the attacking players are invested in the clean sheet.”
Kuemmerle reflected on the loss that puts the Chill in a very precarious position.
“I thought in the first half we were in the game,” said Kuemmerle. “We had our chances, they had their chances. They finished theirs. The goal before half killed us.
“The chance I had in the first half, need to finish it,” added the German midfielder.
“It’s 1-1. We start from there. It’s an open game book. We have to come out with more effort tomorrow. Regroup, and work our butts off (tonight) to be honest.”
Petraglia realizes the Chill’s collective backs are against the wall.
“We had a couple of good chances, even if they were occasional,” he said. “We’re going to re-focus, get together, think about the game tomorrow. It doesn’t look good (playoff chances). But still, it leaves us the opportunity to rely on ourselves only, with the games left.”
Chill defender and captain Mattia Rolli went down late in the second half and will be assessed for availability in tonight’s rematch set for 7:30 p.m.