MOUNT VERNON — By all accounts, the Cedar Rapids Rampage United had a surprisingly successful outdoor soccer debut last summer in the Premier League of America.
Just one loss in 10 regular-season games and a berth in the PLA Championship Tournament was more than expected from a group of guys fresh off a grinding indoor season.
“We had a great season last year, but we didn’t know what we were putting ourselves into,” Rampage United Coach Hewerton Moreira said during the second day of team tryouts Saturday at Cornell College. “We had some indoor soccer players that were coming and playing, but we didn’t have all of the outdoor (experience). We had some young college kids. We weren’t completely sure about the caliber of team we were going to have. It ended up that we had a great team, and now it’s just supplementing what we had last year.”
The club returns over a dozen players between the outdoor and indoor rosters, led by forward/midfielder Gordy Gurson, defenders Bobby Hurwitz, Jonatan Santos and former Cedar Rapids Washington, Cedar Valley Christian and Drake player Kenan Malicevic.
“After being here for two years now, I’d say we’ve been through it all,” Gurson said. “We’re all hungry for the same goal, and it’s just going to keep growing and growing until we get it.”
Former area preps Jacob Bjornsen (Cedar Rapids Washington) and brothers Alejandro and Fernando Pacheco (Iowa City High) are expected back once their semester at Western Illinois concludes. Current college players are allowed to play in the PLA provided they are not financially compensated.
“It helps the players to maintain a good shape for the upcoming (college) season. It makes the players stronger, smarter,” Moreira said. “You only play two and a half months out of the year. It’s not a lot, so you need the harder competition, the high-level competition for players going to the next step.”
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NCAA guidelines do prevent Cedar Rapids Xavier graduate Charlie Bales from returning for a second season, as he is currently a graduate assistant coach at Western Illinois. Former Washington and Coe player Jacob Johnson is healthy again after an Achilles injury robbed him of the indoor season.
Expected roster additions include Mount Vernon native Drew Russell, Alex Bradley of the Madison 56ers and Cornell College players Pietro Amado, Brett Harris and Abubakar Shehu.
“Tryout level has been good,” Moreira said. “We have some talented players that we are looking to bring to the first and second week of the preseason along to see how they’re doing along with the players that are coming back.”
Training camp begins the first week of May, and the first preseason game is May 20 against Chicago’s CKS Warta at Cornell College.
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