Equal efforts patience and staying cool, calm, and collected led the Swope Park Rangers to their first playoff win against LA Galaxy II at Children’s Mercy Victory Field in Swope Soccer Village on Friday.
A key factor in Friday’s win was keeping all 11 players on the field. With two team biding for a chance to go further into the postseason, tempers tend to flare and SPR head coach Marc Dos Santos felt that keeping emotions low would give his team the result.
“We wanted to make sure we kept 11 because the game could’ve finished 0-0 and then you go overtime,” Dos Santos said. “With 30 minutes with a man up, LA becomes more and more tired and we had to finish with 11.”
A tight and frustrating first half left both teams goalless. LA Galaxy II was shown two yellows in the first half – shown to Adonis Amaya in the ninth minute and Jose Villarreal in the 34th.
Following in the second half, Alejandro Covarrubias was booked in the 59th minute after his studs found the back of Ayrton’s leg. Villarreal committed his second serious offense when he placed his elbow into the jaw of Tommy Meyer in the 65th minute and was sent off, leaving the Rangers with a man advantage.
A well-placed header by Tyrpak in the 76th minute gave SPR the lead they had been looking for and Children’s Mercy Victory Field breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Shortly before the goal, Dos Santos made his first change of the game, and again it was centered on the aim of keeping a complete side on the field as Mark Anthony Gonzalez replaced Ayrton.
“We spoke about in the beginning of the game that we need to finish the game with 11 players and one of the reasons also that we took Ayrton off is we felt that he was a little bit getting emotional,” Dos Santos said.
With one goal in the books and the Rangers still up a man on Galaxy II, more opportunities presented themselves in the attacking third. Dos Santos believes the loss of a man for LA opened up the field and set a new tone for the rest of the game.
“I thought that once it was 11 v 11 it was a very tight game, it’s two very good teams. LA in the last two years have advanced far in the tournament and have always been very competitive. We knew that when it was 11 v 11 it was very, very tight and either of the two teams could’ve won. The 10-man advantage against 11 – it conditioned a lot of the game.”
The Rangers backline still needed to be on guard as LA poured numbers forward looking for an equalizer in the closing stages. Goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas offered four saves for the night – including two key saves in the first half – while Oumar Ballo and Amer Didic snuffed out any half chances in and around the area.
“This is what you need from your ‘keeper, he makes one or two saves to keep you in the game, when you’re not doing that well or they have a little bit more of the pressure on us and they score, right, then it changes the game, but Adrian did those two saves that kept us in it,” Dos Santos said.
With just four minutes of added time remaining, the Rangers capitalized on LA’s defensive gaps as the visitors went in search of a game-tying goal with two goals courtesy of Mark Anthony Gonzalez, making the final score 3-0.
With SPR’s very first playoff victory in the books, they await the outcome of the Sacramento Republic FC vs. Orange County Blues FC showdown on Saturday night. Dos Santos is optimistic regardless of who the Rangers will face in the Western Conference Semifinals.
“In one year you’re able to do the first of everything. I think that there’s no doubt that before the game I told you that I would never judge the team based on the playoffs, I would base my judgment on the 30 games and the growth, but this is just a continuation of the growth and of what this team is capable of. At this moment we believe, and I think that nothing is impossible. Absolutely nothing is impossible, now we dream and to dream is good and it’s healthy and we dream we could go all the way.”