CEDAR RAPIDS — Kenan Malicevic started a semipro soccer team in order to give local talent some valuable exposure.
Saturday, that vision comes to fruition for the owner and coach of the Cedar Rapids Inferno, who begin their stint in the United Premier Soccer League with a home match against Union Dubuque F.C. at 7 p.m. at Clark Field on the Coe College campus.
“I’m excited to start, excited to begin,” Malicevic said. “I know the fans are, as well. The guys are obviously there, too, every day. They are super excited to begin, too. A couple of returning guys from the Rampage days, couple guys coming from different clubs, but mostly just the local kids excited for an opportunity to compete in this league. We’re excited to begin.”
The roster features a collection of area college players, former preps and a few that were part of the Cedar Rapids Rampage and Rampage United indoor and outdoor clubs that competed professionally from 2015-18.
Former Iowa City West prep Zach Serovy is expected to get the nod at goalkeeper, while current Mount Mercy player Nikola Petrovic will be one of faces on the backline. The midfield will include former Metro graduates Gabe Christianson (Cedar Rapids Kennedy) and Hussin Falah Al-Yassiri (Cedar Rapids Jefferson), while ex-Rampage player Pat Kelly and former Cedar Rapids Xavier standout Will Hanigan will lead the way at forward.
“Very excited,” Al-Yassiri said. “Looking forward to it. We have a lot of talent here that is pretty hidden, so I am excited to see what we can do and bring to the game.”
During the preseason, Malicevic insisted that all players who attended the open tryouts would be given an honest look. Nearly 40 players saw action in a Monday scrimmage against the Mount Mercy men’s team, and the surprise of camp is the emergence of 14-year-old eighth-grader Mitchell Frahm, who impressed enough to earn a roster spot.
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The selection of second-year club Union Dubuque F.C. as the opening-night opponent was a tribute to its coach and founder Cliff Conrad, who also coaches the Western Dubuque boys’ soccer team. Conrad was instrumental in assisting Malicevic with the admission of the Inferno in the UPSL. In addition, Malicevic — a Cedar Valley Christian grad who played college soccer at Drake — played for Conrad last season with Union Dubuque F.C.
“A lot people will say it is rivals here, but I actually see them as our sister team,” Malicevic said. “We can create a rivalry later on, however this first game is going to be pretty special for me because I got to play there last year and experience an amazing atmosphere and very well-run organization.”
After tonight, the remaining four Inferno matches will be played at Mount Mercy.
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