CEDAR RAPIDS — With five of seven matches decided by two goals or less, the late-game stakes have been awfully high this season for the Cedar Rapids Rampage.
The Major Arena Soccer League club has slammed the goal shut and not allowed a score after the third quarter three times in the current four-game win streak.
“I think halftime has been a good thing for us, just to refocus,” said Rampage Coach Jonathan Greenfield, who will lead Cedar Rapids (4-3) into a Central Division contest against the Kansas City Comets (2-4) Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Center. “A lot of the video that I’ve been watching, game tape, we’ve struggled even closing a half. … We’ve been like a boxing match. We’ve been getting punched and we’d be losing on points a lot and then, all of a sudden, we can get into a timeout or halftime and adjust things and have a conversation and get some level heads.”
This is the third meeting in a row between Cedar Rapids and Kansas City. The Rampage won in overtime at Kansas City on Dec. 3, then routed the Comets at home six days later. After Saturday, Cedar Rapids travels to St. Louis for a Sunday afternoon tilt against the winless Ambush (0-7).
“It’s going to be a big weekend,” Rampage defender Joshio Sandoval said. “The hardest thing is beating a team three times. They’re going to want to come out and get one out of those three. … Again, sticking to the plan and everyone taking care of their one-on-one matchups but more than anything, playing as a team. Offensively, defensively and making sure that everybody stays healthy and everybody follows our system.”
Sandoval, 28, has been instrumental on both ends of the field during the Rampage win streak. Known for his dogged defense, Sandoval has twice been named to the MASL team of the week and has posted four goals and an assist during the last four triumphs, including long scoring strikes of 35 and 70 feet.
“Since I was a little kid my dad has always harped on, ‘Shoot more, shoot more,’” Sandoval said with a laugh. “I’m more of a player pass-first, shoot second, but gaining more confidence little by little, more and more throughout the season and taking my opportunities, taking my chances. But it’s always team first.”
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Midfielders Gordy Gurson and Bobby Hurwitz have scored five goals apiece during the win streak. Only Milwaukee, Monterrey and San Diego — the only remaining unbeaten MASL teams — have longer stretches of victories.
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