Jacob Bjornsen, C.R. Rampage United in thick of Premier League of America race

Cedar Rapids hosts undefeated Milwaukee Bavarians Sunday at 3:05 p.m. at Clark Field

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CEDAR RAPIDS – The prize has been laid at their feet, now it’s up to the Cedar Rapids Rampage United to boot it into the net.

The Premier League of America announced Wednesday that the league champion will be crowned during a four-team tournament July 30-31 in Springfield, Ohio. The top two teams in each division will qualify, and the first-year Rampage United (3-1-3, 12 standings points) are in the thick of a three-team battle in the PLA West.

“Normally when you have a first-year franchise come into the league, you don’t know what to expect,” said Coach Hewerton Moreira, who leads the Rampage United into their PLA home finale against the Milwaukee Bavarians Sunday at 3:05 p.m. at Clark Field. “You have a lot of players who have a lot of potential, but sometimes in the first season you don’t click. Surprisingly, these players jelled so wonderful. The combination of being technical and being physical and being smart on this team, it was out of my expectations.”

One player who has exceeded Moreira’s expectations has been right defender Jacob Bjornsen, a former Cedar Rapids Washington prep and one of three Rampage United players who play collegiately for Western Illinois University.

“A lot of college players when playing in a higher level sometimes they still have their college mindset,” Moreira said. “But Jacob adapted really well for the system that we like. To keep the ball possession, he’s a very technical player. His strength is amazing, his physicality, so he’s a very complete player playing the right side.”

The 5-foot-7, 160-pound Bjornsen scored his first goal of the season in a June 25 tie against the Croatian Eagles. The elevated summer competition should prove valuable once he returns to school in the fall for his junior campaign.

“This is my first summer of actually playing,” Bjornsen said. “I think getting touches on the ball all throughout the summer will definitely help me at Western. I won’t have that rust that I’ll have to shake off.”

Sunday the Rampage United face the veteran Milwaukee Bavarians (3-0-3, 12 standings points), the only undefeated team in the PLA. A 2-1 defeat in the May 14 season-opener at Milwaukee remains Cedar Rapids’ only loss this season.

“We’ve made a lot of progress since then, so I think it will be a very good game,” Bjornsen said. “Us both being in first place, it’s a big game and the three points are huge for both teams. I think we’ve prepared well and I think we’ll be ready to play.”

The Rampage United close their inaugural PLA season with road games at Minneapolis City SC and Minnesota United Reserves.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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