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CEDAR RAPIDS — A mere 5,444 miles from the hustle and bustle of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a different kind of international contest was held in Cedar Rapids.
In the second installment of the Major Arena Soccer League International Challenge, Mexico broke a 4-4 tie with three goals in the last six-plus minutes of the game and defeated the U.S. National Indoor Soccer Team, 7-4, in front of 2,375 spectators Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Center.
“It exposes people to arena soccer and when you pit USA vs. Mexico, USA vs. Brazil it has a broader appeal,” MASL Commissioner Joshua Schaub said. “You look out into this crowd and you see a lot of people who probably haven’t seen arena soccer, but with the Olympics going on and everything else, it kind of feeds the frenzy of going out to games.”
Two members of the MASL’s Chicago Mustangs – Jose Pacheco and Juan De La Cruz – and Brandon Escoto of Atletico Baja each scored two goals for Mexico. Gordy Gurson of the Cedar Rapids Rampage and Chicago’s Taylor Bond scored twice for the Americans. The loss was the first for Team USA in its brief two-year indoor soccer history.
Schaub, 34, was named MASL commissioner in June and was encouraged not only by host Cedar Rapids’ debut season in the league, but also the U.S. Cellular Center.
“This is the mode of facility we want to be in,” Schaub said. “What a great job by the Rampage in their first year. Tight games, were in every game. It was exciting and the league knows that this team will grow both in attendance, operational skill, corporate skill. We’re excited for Cedar Rapids.”
In addition to the formation of a lower feeder division of the MASL expected in 2017-18, Schaub expects to have an announcement within a couple of weeks that will finalize the status of franchises in Baltimore, Harrisburg and St. Louis. All three had announced the intention of leaving the MASL to join the new Indoor Professional League, but a return may be imminent.
“Both the IPL and the MASL teams believe that having one league is really critical to the health of arena soccer,” Schaub said. “During this offseason we met, we talked about that and believe that is the greater good that’s going to push us on through with the IPL. It’s not a done deal yet, but we have worked together and found that the path is really one league.”
Team USA will face Brazil Aug. 27 at Ontario, Calif.
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