Jim Launder saw plenty of positives from the Madison 56ers in their season opener Wednesday night.
A victory, however, wasn't one of those things.
Jamaican striker Jimmy Tulloch sent a header just over 56ers goalkeeper Ryan Onwukwe in the 50th minute as the Des Moines Menace got past Madison 1-0 in a first-round match of the 100th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, Iowa.
"We played hard – I've got no problems about our effort," said Launder, whose team advanced to the second round of the Open Cup in 2011. "We had a couple decent chances. They had more good chances than us, they looked more dangerous, but we could have snuck the game out, too.
"The good part of it is we got a good experience playing a good game in the Cup. The bad part is we don't get to play another one."
It's the second straight year the Menace, who play in the USL Premier Development League, ousted a National Premier Soccer League side from Wisconsin in the first round: last season, they knocked off the Milwaukee Bavarians 3-1 after extra time.
Des Moines advances to play at Minnesota United FC of the North American Soccer League in the second round Tuesday in St. Paul, Minn., and the winner of that game will play at defending U.S. Open Cup champion Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer in Round 3 of the fourth-oldest cup competition in the world.
Onwukwe turned in a solid, nine-save performance between the posts for the 56ers, including big stops on Tulloch in the 38th minute and Michael Thaden in the 53rd.
"I thought overall Ryan played really well," Launder said of the 6-foot-3 Onwukwe, who transferred to UW-Milwaukee during the winter after playing for Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis last fall.
"(On the goal), the guy got in behind and just kind of nudged the ball over Ryan. He got caught coming (off his line) – and he almost got it as it was."
While the Menace enjoyed the balance of play, the visitors certainly had their chances to get on the board.
One of their best opportunities came in the 33rd minute, when a long, switched ball sent UW-Milwaukee midfielder Patrick Ruhland (Mount Horeb) in on goal. Ruhland took the lofted ball down out of the air, but his shot was just wide of Des Moines keeper Scott Angevine.
Minutes later, the 56ers looked to have sprung striker Carlos McCrary, but the reigning NPSL Player of the Year was called offside. Midfielder Jack Keeling had a good shot in the second half only to see his drive from the top of the box end up on the wrong side of the post.
Launder brought on forward Jed Hohlbein (Middleton/UW) and UW's Ryan Buda (Stevens Point) in the 85th and switched into a 4-2-4 formation in a last-ditch attempt to find an equalizer, to no avail.
"We almost got something going twice off of that," Launder said, adding that he didn't make those moves earlier because "being only down a goal, I wanted to save it for closer to the end, because I thought we could get something without throwing everybody over there."
The 56ers don't have much time to dwell on the loss: They'll make the 4½-hour bus ride home from Iowa on Thursday, then play host to Eau Claire Aris FC in an NPSL opener Friday night at Breese Stevens Field.
"We can't really sit around and moan about it, because we've got our home opener Friday and we've just got to get ready," said Launder, whose team won the Midwest Region Central Conference last summer.
"Some new guys are going to have to come in; some of our guys are pretty shattered. We'll have to bring in a couple new people, but we've got good people to bring in."
The four players who were on the bench Wednesday but didn't get into the game – forwards Maximiliano Campos and Jade Johnson and midfielders Claudiu Aionesei and Luke Jenner – likely will play Friday.
Earlier in the week, Launder said that UW midfielder Derek Pitts (Middleton) and keeper Max Jentsch (Hartland Arrowhead) and UWM defender Andrew Stone (Green Bay Preble) and midfielder Luke Goodnetter (Brookfield East) would be available for the Aris match.
From the touchline
It was the first 1-0 match out of 20 Open Cup games this season. ... The 56ers didn't have a backup goalkeeper on the bench, as none of their other keepers were able to make the trip. ... Taylor Diem (Middleton) played the full 90 minutes on the backline for the Menace. ... It's been a rough Open Cup for the NPSL: The league's teams are 2-6-2 in the tournament and only the Georgia Revolution advanced to the second round.
Des Moines – Jimmy Tulloch 50
DES MOINES MENACE: Scott Angevine; Albert Edward, Taylor Diem, Brandon Fricke, Shadow Sebele, David Santamaria (Nico Wright 73), Chris Harmon (Sean Hoek), Michael Thaden, Jimmy Tulloch, James Vollmer, Dylan Lax. Substitutes not used: Mark Pais (GK), Husref Jupic, Charlie Bales, Karl Chester, Jeffrey Barrenchea.
MADISON 56ERS: Ryan Onwukwe; Carl Schneider (Ryan Buda 85), Matt Balshaw, Stacy Terry, Dominic O'Connor; Laurie Bell (Chris Brown 65), Jack Keeling, Keenan Newallo, Patrick Ruhland (Jed Hohlbein 85); Anthony Santaga, Carlos McCrary. Substitutes not used: Maximiliano Campos, Jade Johnson, Claudiu Aionesei, Luke Jenner.
Saves: DM (Angevine) 5, M (Onwukwe) 9. Shots: DM 10, M 5. Corner kicks: DM 11, M 4. Fouls: DM 6, M 12. Offsides: DM 4, M 1. Discipline: M – Schneider 52 (yellow, foul); M – Balshaw 71 (yellow, foul).
1988: Region II semifinals – Busch SC (Mo.) def. Madison 56ers, score not available
1989: Region II semifinals – Michelob SC (Mo.) 2, Madison 56ers 1
1990: Region II semifinals – AAC Eagles (Ill.) 1, Madison 56ers 0
1991: Quarterfinals – RWB Adria (Ill.) 4, Madison 56ers 4 (RWB Adria advances 7-6 on penalty kicks)
2011: First round – Madison 56ers 4, AAC Eagles (Ill.) 0. Second round – Chicago Fire PDL 2, Madison 56ers 0
2013: First round – Des Moines Menace 1, Madison 56ers 0