CEDAR RAPIDS — Kenan Malicevic admits he probably underestimated the amount of work that was required to bring a semipro soccer franchise to Cedar Rapids.
Obtaining sponsors, completing paperwork and fulfilling various requirements of the United Premier Soccer League were just few of the tasks managed by the leader of the first-year Cedar Rapids Inferno.
To hear Malicevic say it, those challenges only have him better prepared to tackle year two.
“It was a great experience,” Malicevic said. “Now that we are sort of familiar with how things are being run, we are looking forward to next season.”
The process was a bit of a whirlwind for Malicevic, 31, who founded the franchise and serves as its owner, coach and even player. In a span of less than four months, the UPSL announced the addition of Cedar Rapids (Jan. 14), the club held tryouts (March 17 and 24) and the season began (April 27).
On the field, the Inferno benefited from a pair of late-season forfeits and finished with a record of three wins, three losses, two draws and were just one standings point away from a second-place finish in the Central Division of the Midwest Conference.
“It was interesting to say the least,” Malicevic said. “It was definitely a challenge, not only on the field to put the new players together and build up the chemistry and make us all realize that we are part of one team and we have some big challenges ahead of us, playing teams that have played together for so long.”
The Inferno roster was heavy on former area preps, including Hussin Al-Yassiri (Cedar Rapids Jefferson), team captain Gabe Christianson and Sho Takaoka (Kennedy), Kimu Kasha (Washington), Jackson Meyer and Fernando Pacheco (Iowa City High), Zach Serovy (Iowa City West) and a trio of former Xavier Saints in Thomas Bean, Will Hanigan and Luke Duball.
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Both Pacheco and Pat Kelly were also members of the Cedar Rapids Rampage United franchise during the 2016 and 2017 Premier League of America seasons.
Malicevic expects many of the players to return to the Inferno for the 2020 campaign.
“It was definitely a great experience, personally for myself to just see the level of play that we are going to be facing and to see the level of play that our local kids can compete on,” Malicevic said. “Moving forward, obviously now I a little more familiar with certain players and what they can do and give us on the field. Moving forward in preparation for the next season, now I can focus more, a little bit extra on what they can do individually to help us as a unit.”
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