Nick Smith

Game Preview: SPR hosts Sacramento Republic FC in clash of USL Western Conference’s top teams

The Swope Park Rangers will welcome a USL champion to Children’s Mercy Victory Field in Swope Soccer Village for the first time when Sacramento Republic FC step on the pitch at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday.

The matchup features the top two teams in the Western Conference from a year ago as Sacramento earned a first-place finish in the regular season campaign and the Rangers lifted the Western Conference Championship postseason trophy en route to reaching the USL Cup Final.

Tickets for the marquee match-up are available online at SeatGeek.com or at the venue box office prior to kickoff and all ticket holders can win prizes by participating in an Easter egg hunt at 5:45 p.m. CT. The match will also be streamed live on SportingKC.com and can be followed online via the USLsoccer.com MatchCenter.

SPR was boosted earlier on Friday with the news that goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra and forward Cameron Iwasa – who spent two seasons with Sacramento – have been added on loan from Sporting KC. The duo joins defenders Erik Palmer-Brown, Tyler Pasher and Colton Storm as players on loan to the Rangers from Sporting KC.

The Rangers will put a seven-game home winning streak on the line and will look for a third straight victory to open the 2017 season on Saturday. After defeating OKC Energy FC and Portland Timbers 2 in a span of five days, SPR will return to action for the first time in over two weeks against a Sacramento side playing its third road game in an eight-day stretch.

Former USL Rookie of the Year Kharlton Belmar is off to a hot start in 2017, scoring for SPR in each of the team’s two victories, as is Sacramento Republic FC striker Sammy Ochoa. The former U.S. youth international was signed by Sacramento after contributing 20 goals and nine assists over two seasons in Tulsa, and now leads the league with three goals and two assists in 2017.

Sacramento, 2014 USL champions and the league’s top-performing team since their inaugural season, also feature USL All-League First Team selection Danny Barrera. The club captain leads all USL players with 12 chances created in 2017 and was second on the USL assists chart last year.

While the Republic will be without defender Chris Christian due to a one-game suspension, the Rangers will be boosted by the return of the team’s 2016 Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year as Mark Anthony Gonzalez and Amer Didic return from international duty with the Canada Under-23 Men’s National Team. In addition, SPR playmaker Kevin Oliveira will be available for selection for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last June.

Oliveira was ranked second on the USL’s “20 under 20” chart last season with three goals and four assists in 13 appearances, including a goal in the team’s lone meeting with Sacramento Republic FC on May 28. That match ended in a 1-1 draw with Sacramento scoring an equalizer through Iwasa, who signed with Sporting Kansas City in January after scoring a club-record 12 goals for Sacramento in 2016.

Game 3
 Saturday, April 15, 2017
Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT
Location: Swope Soccer Village (Kansas City, Mo.)

Swope Park Rangers: 2-0-0 (6 pts.), 4th in Western Conference.

Sacramento Republic FC: 3-1-0 (9 pts.), 1st in Western Conference.

Live Stream:
 The game will be broadcast on SportingKC.com and YouTube.com/USL
Talent: Dave Borchardt (play-by-play), Patrik Bergabo (analyst)

Game-specific hashtag: 

Swope Park Rangers
Twitter: @SwopeRangers
Instagram: @SwopeParkRangers

Sacramento Republic FC
Twitter: @SacRepublicFC
Instagram: @SacRepublicFC