INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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CEDAR RAPIDS – As the intensity of the season’s stretch run ramped up and the moments became bigger, Patrizio Paradiso locked down the goal.
With three shutouts in the last four games, the Cedar Rapids Rampage United goalkeeper is a big reason why the expansion club qualified for the four-team Premier League of America championship tournament, which begins Saturday in Springfield, Ohio.
“We know in our heads that if we play together and we keep the other team on zero, we’re going to be halfway to winning the game,” Rampage United Coach Hewerton Moreira said.
Cedar Rapids (5-1-4, 19 points) finished second in the PLA West division and will face East champion RWB Adria (7-2-1, 22) in a semifinal at 2 p.m. RWB Adria – a Chicago-based club with roots dating back to the 1950s – used a 6-0 victory Wednesday over Aurora Borealis SC to overtake Toledo United (7-2-1, 22) for the division crown by goal differential.
Toledo United will play West champion Milwaukee (6-1-3, 21) in the other semifinal. The winners will play for the league title on Sunday, while the losers will be relegated to the third-place game.
“The guys are really excited,” Moreira said. “We had a great week of practice. We feel like there is a great opportunity for us to win this tournament.”
The Rampage United will need to lean on its staunch defense Saturday against RWB Adria, which scored a league-leading 29 goals this season.
After surrendering eight goals in the first six games, Cedar Rapids has allowed just two over the final four, including the aforementioned three shutouts. With just 10 goals surrendered this season, the Rampage United rank third in the league.
“We have four defenders that’s been playing really well,” Moreira said. “The whole team has been helping defensively. They’ve been helping each other. They’ve been playing as a team.”
Paradiso and his identical twin brother – Rampage United forward Antonello Paradiso – arrived in the U.S. from Rome, Italy, last August in response to the open tryouts for the Rampage indoor team. Both players made the indoor team on the strength of their significant Italian futsal background, and have made Cedar Rapids their year-round home with their participation on the outdoor club.
For much of the season, Patrizio has been part of a rotation in the goal with Alexis Apodaca. He played all 90 minutes in a pivotal 2-0 victory over previously-unbeaten Milwaukee July 10, which earned Moreira’s trust to play him in goal full-time.
“We say in Brazil, ‘A good team starts with a great goalkeeper,'" Moreira said.
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