CEDAR RAPIDS — The frigid temperatures and snow on the turf did nothing to lessen an encouraging debut for the Cedar Rapids Inferno semipro soccer team.
“The first one is out of the way,” Cedar Rapids Owner/Coach Kenan Malicevic said after the Inferno battled to a 2-2 draw with Union Dubuque F.C. in a United Premier Soccer League match Saturday night at Clark Field. “It is good to have it out of the way. Guys are starting to click. We are implementing some ideas that we are talking about in practice. Slowly starting to click.”
The draw earned both teams one point in the UPSL Midwest Conference standings.
A host of former area prep players started the first match for the Inferno, including Hussin Al-Yassiri (Cedar Rapids Jefferson), Gabe Christianson (Kennedy), Will Hanigan (Xavier), Jackson Meyer (Iowa City High), Zach Serovy (Iowa City West) and Sho Takaoka (Kennedy).
“It felt good,” Hanigan said. “There is a lot for us to build on there. I think we were easily the superior team in that game. We made two mistakes, they scored two goals, so credit to them. For a pretty new team, I think we are pretty happy with how we played. We are only going to get better and that was a pretty good start.”
Hanigan was a three-time selection to the Class 3A all-state team while at Cedar Rapids Xavier, but played in just 18 matches over his final two seasons due to back injuries. Back surgery before his senior season caused Illinois-Chicago to reconsider its scholarship offer. Hanigan is nearing the end of his first year at the University of Iowa, where he plays for its club team.
“It feels really good to be able to get back out here because I feel like I did not really get to finish my career like I wanted to,” Hanigan said. “I just was not ever 100 percent, so I am feeling really good out there.”
After Union Dubuque got the scoring started with a goal in the 26th minute, former Cedar Rapids Rampage indoor and Rampage United outdoor player Pat Kelly tied the match at 1-1 for the Inferno just seconds before the halftime whistle.
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Union Dubuque went ahead with a goal in the 71st minute, but Al-Yassiri tied the match again with a penalty kick just five minutes later.
The amount of ball possession indicated that the Inferno were in control for much of the match, but were unable to convert enough scoring chances.
“We were so close to making things happen,” said Kelly, who has played outdoor soccer in England and indoor with the Kansas City Comets since his time with the Rampage. “We fix those issues and we are probably winning.”
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