The Swope Park Rangers kicked off the 2017 season with a 3-1 come-from-behind victory over regional rival OKC Energy FC on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Victory Field in Swope Soccer Village. After going a goal down in the first half, the Rangers rallied with goals from Kharlton Belmar, Latif Blessing and Daniel Salloi for a sixth straight home win dating back to last season.
The Rangers – playing without the team’s 2016 Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year due to international call-ups for Mark Anthony Gonzalez and Amer Didic -- started the match on the front foot and threatened in the game’s seventh minute as two players making their professional debuts combined on the right side. Colton Storm, a first round MLS SuperDraft selection out of the University of North Carolina, cut the ball back to 18-year-old Sporting KC Academy product Felipe Hernandez, whose shot skimmed dangerously through the penalty area and wide of net.
However, it was the visitors that opened the scoring in the 23rd minute through Shawnee, Kansas native Coady Andrews. The Rangers had escaped unscathed a minute earlier when Adrian Zendejas did well to thwart Philip Rasmussen and the follow-up effort was sent into the post by Miguel Gonzalez, however the ensuing corner kick from Jose Barril was headed home by Andrews.
The Rangers nearly responded in the 28th minute as a pair of one-touch passes from Storm and Blessing put Belmar on the doorstep only to see his attempt at an equalizer blocked by Richard Dixon.
Belmar would not be denied in the 42nd minute and pulled the Rangers level at 1-1 with a first-time finish from eight yards out. Fellow newcomer Parker Maher beat his mark on the left flank and played a pass back from the endline for the 2015 USL Rookie of the Year to bury his 16th career USL goal.
The Rangers carried the momentum into the second half and took a 2-1 lead as a pair of forwards on loan from Sporting Kansas City combined for the go-ahead goal. Salloi picked off a pass from Michael Daly and then put a perfectly-placed pass into the path of Blessing for the clinical game-winner.
Salloi, who scored in the Rangers’ season opener a year ago, once again put himself on the scoresheet in the 71st minute. Club captain and fellow Academy product Christian Duke split the OKC Energy FC backline with a well-weighted through ball that Salloi slotted confidently past Cody Laurendi for the 3-1 lead.
The back-and-forth action between two of the Western Conference’s top teams from a year ago was on full display in the 79th minute with chances for each side. Zendejas was called into action for the Rangers to turn away Alex Dixon in a one-on-one situation. On the opposite end, Blessing continued to cause problems for OKC Energy FC as he clipped the ball over Laurendi before Daly came to the rescue for the Energy with a sliding clearance near the goalline.
Before the final whistle would blow, both teams would have a final scoring opportunity in stoppage time courtesy of second-half substitutes. OKC Energy FC forward Danni Konig first forced a fingertip save from Zendejas then Swope Park Rangers’ Lebo Moloto pushed a shot narrowly wide of the post on a counter attack moments later.
- The Swope Park Rangers open the 2017 season with three consecutive home matches and will return to action at 7:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Children’s Mercy Victory Field in Swope Soccer Village against Portland Timbers 2. Tickets are available to purchase online at SeatGeek.com and at the venue’s box office on gameday.
Swope Park Rangers vs. OKC Energy FC
March 25, 2017 – Children’s Mercy Victory Field (Kansas City, Mo.)
Swope Park Rangers 3, OKC Energy FC 1
OKC – Coady Andrews 1 (Jose Barril 1) 24
SPR – Kharlton Belmar 1 (Parker Maher 1) 42
SPR – Latif Blessing 1 (Daniel Salloi 1) 62
SPR – Daniel Salloi 1 (Christian Duke 1) 71
OKC – Cody Laurendi (caution; tactical foul) 15
SPR – Felipe Hernandez (caution; reckless foul) 47+
OKC – Philip Rasmussen (caution; reckless foul) 47
OKC – Jose Barril (caution; dissent) 91+
OKC – Jose Barril (caution; unsporting behavior) 94+
OKC – Jose Barril (ejection; second caution) 94+
Swope Park Rangers: Adrian Zendejas; Parker Maher, Dakota Barnathan, Kevin Ellis, Colton Storm; Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal (Oumar Ballo 75), Christian Duke (c), Felipe Hernandez (Lebo Moloto 56); Daniel Salloi, Kharlton Belmar (Nansel Selbol 86), Latif Blessing
Substitutes Not Used: David Greczek, Liam Doyle, Max Rugova, Will Little
STATS: Shots 9, Shots on Goal 4, Corners 2, Fouls 11, Possession 60%
OKC Energy FC: Cody Laurendi (c); Kyle Hyland, Coady Andrews, Mickey Daly, Richard Dixon; Alex Dixon, Philip Rasmussen, Alejandro Covarrubias (Luis Martinez 74), Miguel Gonzalez (Coy Craft 70); Wojciech Wojcik (Danni Konig 70), Jose Barril
Substitutes Not Used: Juan Pablo Guzman, Daniel Jackson, Anthony Wallace, C.J. Cochran
STATS: Shots 18, Shots on Goal 6, Corners 7, Fouls 18, Possession 40%
Referee: Jon Freemon
Assistant Referees: Kyle Atkins and Ryan Cook
Fourth Official: Elvis Mahmutovic
Weather: Cloudy and 53 degrees