CEDAR RAPIDS — Building year-round chemistry has been a vital ingredient for the Cedar Rapids Rampage soccer franchise.
Having both a summer outdoor and a winter indoor team has made Cedar Rapids an attractive landing spot for players looking to establish roots and train throughout the year.
As the Major Arena Soccer League preseason slate begins Saturday with a 7:05 p.m. match against the St. Louis Ambush at the U.S. Cellular Center, three Cedar Rapids outdoor players are set to make their indoor debut.
“I chose to stay here just because I’m at home and I know a lot of the guys here,” said Mount Vernon native Drew Russell, who scored three goals in six games for the Rampage United summer outdoor team. “The best part about it is, we have such good team chemistry. Nobody is out there for themselves. They’re just out there to help out each other. For even a new guy like me, they want to bring me along and teach me the game.”
Russell, 26, received overtures from a number of indoor teams, including St. Louis, which is now coached by former Cedar Rapids Coach Hewerton Moreira.
A 6-foot-2, 175-pound defender, Russell hopes his size and experience — which includes a decade of professional soccer across the United States, Canada and Germany — can curtail the indoor learning curve.
“My physical presence, my foot skills and to have played at a higher level, I think that will translate into the game,” Russell said. “Some of the guys, they’ve really helped me out, pulled me along, teaching me how to properly play this game.”
Forward Alex Bradley — who played collegiately at Loras — will also make his MASL debut Saturday after a successful summer in Cedar Rapids. Like Russell, Bradley is eager to tackle the intricacies of the indoor game, highlighted by the hard plastic boards that encircle the playing surface, plus tactical elements like power plays, shift changes and field limitations.
“I think I’ve always been a pretty technical player,” said Bradley, who scored two goals for the outdoor team. “I know it’s huge for indoor. You don’t just get your big, strong, fast athletes being successful as they are in the outdoor game. Hopefully my technical side will get even better.”
MASL rookies like Russell, Bradley and former Cedar Rapids Washington, Cedar Valley Christian and Drake star Kenan Malicevic should get plenty of preseason work as much of the roster will be absent with other playing and coaching commitments.
Gordy Gurson, Taylor Bond and Joshio Sandoval will re-join the team next week as they return from playing for the United States National Arena Soccer Team in the World Minifootball World Cup in Tunisia. The Americans were eliminated in the Round of 16 by Mexico, 4-3, on Wednesday.
Cedar Rapids natives Charlie Bales and Jacob Johnson re-signed Tuesday but are not with the team yet. Bales is expected back once the Western Illinois men’s soccer season ends.
Among the other absentees is first-year coach Jonathan Greenfield, who is wrapping up a club coaching stint in Milwaukee.
General Manager Chris Kokalis will coach Saturday.
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