MOUNT VERNON — In preparation for his second season as coach of the Cedar Rapids Rampage United, Hewerton Moreira discovered an overriding area of need.
Moreira hopes an influx of a new faces will bolster the fortunes of the Premier League of America outdoor soccer team, which begins its second season with a preseason game against Chicago’s CKS Warta Saturday at 7 p.m. at Cornell College.
“We are having a lot of new players come in this season,” Moreira said. “But the quality overall with the players, I would say that they are similar or higher than what we had last season. I’m thinking that we are going to have a great season.”
Notable newcomers to emerge from training camp include Mount Vernon native Drew Russell, who has played for a number of teams both in the United States and abroad, and Connor Ramlo, a Cedar Rapids Xavier graduate that currently plays collegiately at Creighton.
Both will play large roles along the back wall of the defense.
“He’s very physical,” Moreira said of Ramlo. “But he doesn’t only bring the physicality to the team, he’s very comfortable on the ball. That helps us a lot.”
Forward Andrew Bradley joins the team after playing last season with West Division rival Madison 56ers.
“The kid can rope the ball from yards out,” Moreira said. “He can really shoot, but also he’s very technical. Against us last year, he was able to score two fantastic goals, one on a bicycle kick and one from half field. I’m excited to see him play with us instead of against us.”
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Players like Sam Guernsey, Gordy Gurson, Bobby Hurwitz, and former Cedar Rapids Washington, Cedar Valley Christian and Drake player Kenan Malicevic return after helping lead the team to a 5-1-4 record and a berth in the PLA championship tournament in its first season in the outdoor league.
Gurson arrives after collecting eight goals and four assists in three games last weekend in California as captain of the United States National Arena Soccer team.
“It’s always a great experience and to captain the team this weekend was a huge honor for me,” Gurson said.
Jacob Johnson, who played at Washington and Coe, is healthy again after an Achilles injury kept him out of the Rampage indoor season.
“He’s a great defender and a fantastic forward,” Moreira said. “His last pass for the forwards to create the opportunity for us to score is huge, so having a healthy Jacob Johnson on the team, it gives me a relief about the last pass. His technical ability is fantastic.”
Former Iowa City High preps and current Western Illinois collegians Alejandro and Fernando Pacheco are also back for another season with the team.
The goalkeeper position is currently a three-way battle between returners Rainer Hauss, Alexis Apodaca and newcomer Piotr Sliwa, who played in the PLA last season with RWB Adria.
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