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CEDAR RAPIDS — For the second year in a row, the outdoor soccer season ended one step from the championship match for the Cedar Rapids Rampage United.
While Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League of America tournament semifinal loss to Carpathia FC again denied the second-year club a shot at a league title, it would be difficult to deny that significant advancements were made on the field.
“From when we started last year to the end of this very last game, we improved a lot,” Rampage United Coach Hewerton Moreira said. “(We went) from a season that obviously nobody really knew us last season to be one of the most respected teams in the PLA.”
Last year, Cedar Rapids finished 5-2-4 with a semifinal loss to RWB Adria. The club moved to Kingston Stadium for the 2017 season and stormed through the first two months with an 8-0 record, which included four shutouts and a 29-4 scoring advantage.
While a July 21 loss at eventual PLA champion Milwaukee ended the Cedar Rapids unbeaten streak, the Rampage United entered the tournament with a 9-1 record and a West Division title.
Much like the Milwaukee loss, Cedar Rapids was undone by a goal in the 90th minute by Carpathia.
“Sometimes sports is not fair,” Moreira said. “It is not every time that the best team wins. I strongly believe that we had the best team in the league, but unfortunately we were unable to pull it out.”
Team captain Gordy Gurson led the team with 11 goals, while former Cedar Rapids Washington, Cedar Valley Christian and Drake player Kenan Malicevic tallied six in seven games.
With the outdoor season in the rearview mirror, the franchise’s focus shifts to the upcoming Major Arena Soccer League indoor campaign. For Moreira, who will turn 38 on Halloween, that means a significant shift in responsibilities from coach-only with the outdoor team to indoor player-coach.
“I’m going to play. I miss playing,” Moreira said. “For me, I’m getting a little older and I need my rest a little bit longer than the other players, but I absolutely look to play. Starting today, I’m already starting to get back in shape in order to be focused on the indoor season.”
The club has submitted a contract proposal for Moreira to resume both roles, where he was quite productive last season. The Brazil native played all 20 games and was second on the team in goals (22) and assists (14). As a coach, Moreira led the squad to 12 victories, a seven-win improvement from the 2015-16 expansion season.
Moreira credits the year-round chemistry that developed by virtue of the franchise having a summer outdoor team and a winter indoor team.
“I really wish, for the sake of the level of the MASL, it would be perfect to have every team have an outdoor season,” Moreira said. “That’s when you engage your players. That’s when you continue to have players in shape. You have players building chemistry. For the Cedar Rapids Rampage, to add the Rampage United, really helps the squad be stronger for the indoor season.”
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