Cedar Rapids Rampage name Ante Cop coach in time for visit from league champions

Rampage (6-4) host two-time defending MASL champion Baltimore Blast Sunday at 3:05 p.m. the U.S. Cellular Center

New Cedar Rapids Rampage Coach Ante Cop, 43, will make his coaching debut against the Baltimore Blast on Sunday, Dec. 31,, 2017 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedr Rapids, Iowa. (Photo submitted by Ante Cop)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Rampage have their man, and not a moment too soon.

Friday, the Major Arena Soccer League franchise named Ante Cop, 43, the fourth head coach in the three-year history of the franchise.

After a lengthy indoor playing career and a host of assistant coaching stops at the indoor, club and collegiate levels, Cop now takes the reins as head man.

“I’ve been the perennial bridesmaid as far as coaching goes,” said Cop, who will make his coaching debut against the two-time defending league champion Baltimore Blast (6-2) Sunday at 3:05 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Center. “For this to be my first head coaching job, I’m super excited. I think the core is there to really do well. I know the boys. I know a lot of them. … I think it’s going to be an exciting next two and a half months.”

Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Cop played goalkeeper for indoor franchises in Arizona, Chicago, Rockford (Ill.) and was on the 2011-12 Milwaukee Wave team that won the Major Indoor Soccer League title.

After a pair of goalkeeper coaching stints with the Chicago Riot and the Rockford Rampage, he was on the staff at Robert Morris University when current Rampage players Gordy Gurson and Bobby Hurwitz played there. Cop also recruited Rampage players like Joshio Sandoval and Taylor Bond.

“He’s a legend back in Chicago,” Bond said. “All of us look up to him, we’ve seen what he can do and we’re excited to see what he can bring to the coaching table. He’s very familiar with a lot of us and he is absolutely familiar with the league. … His attitude of aggressiveness towards this game is really going to suit the way that we play.”

Cedar Rapids (6-4) has won six of seven games and remains three games clear of Kansas City (2-6) for the second playoff spot in the MASL Central Division. With 12 games left in the regular season, Cop has been tasked with maintaining the hot streak with a talented roster.

“Obviously, this is a unique situation in which we’re in the middle of the season now and in a pretty good position for a playoff spot,” Cedar Rapids General Manager Chris Kokalis said. “I’m not looking for someone to come in here and change a lot of things. I’m looking for someone to kind of manage what we already have, tweak what we need to work on in the areas that we need to work on from a technical standpoint and I think he’s the guy that does that.”

New Year’s Eve pregame festivities begin at noon with a host of activities for children on the field, plus a balloon drop at halftime.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com