CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Inferno believed they knew the path to the United Premier Soccer League playoffs.
The route sustained a significant bump on Saturday.
“It is frustrating, no doubt,” Cedar Rapids captain Gabe Christianson said after the Inferno lost to DeKalb County United, 2-0, in a UPSL match Saturday at Mount Mercy. “We know what was on the line today. We are looking for playoff spot today. We’re playing for that. As frustrating as it is, it is up to us to be mature in who we are and say, ‘Hey look, there is a lot to build on still.’ So we still have two games left, so we have just got to get ready for Dubuque at this point and put this out of our minds, take some of the positive and move forward with it.”
Cedar Rapids (1-3-2) could not convert four good scoring chances in the first half, beginning with a penalty kick by Christianson in the third minute that was saved by the DeKalb goalkeeper.
“To be honest, I just didn’t hit it well,” said Christianson, a former Gatorade Player of the Year at Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Kirkwood communications teacher. “Just didn’t hit it well and it comes down to that. Part of being a leader of a team is taking responsibility when you screw up and I just didn’t hit it well. Simple as that.”
DeKalb scored late in the first half when Jose Gutierrez lofted a long kick over the head of the Inferno goalkeeper. Midway through the second half, DeKalb extended its lead with a penalty-kick conversion by Legesse Lenth.
The victory lifted Dekalb (3-1-3) a full seven points over Cedar Rapids for second place and the final playoff spot in the Central Division of the Midwest Conference.
Cedar Rapids will play its final two matches without Christianson — who is departing for a family trip to France — and possibly forward Kenan Malicevic, the team owner who suffered a first-half injury to his shoulder or collarbone.
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“It hurts us mainly because Kenan is somebody who has given us everything this season,” Christianson said. “The guy started the team from scratch. He has been the coach, he has been the GM and he has been the player. To see a guy who just loves the game that much is inspiring and that is part of why this stings so bad today. To see him go down and not be able to at least get the victory for him.”
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