(April 15, 2017) – Three matches. Three wins. The Swope Park Rangers are the only perfect team in the USL after a 1-0 victory over Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Victory Field in Swope Soccer Village.
Mark Anthony Gonzalez, the team’s leading scorer in 2016, scored the game-winning goal in the 70th minute of his season debut to extend the club’s regular season winning streak to seven games, second longest in USL history.
USL Winning Streaks (regular season)
8 games: Orlando City SC (2014)
7 games: Swope Park Rangers (2016-17)
7 games: Orlando City SC (2011-12)
7 games: New York Red Bulls II (2016)
The reigning USL Western Conference champions have also now won eight consecutive home matches when including postseason competition, which ranks third best in the USL’s all-time record book.
USL Home Winning Streaks (incl. playoffs)
13 games: Orlando City SC (2014)
11 games: Rochester Rhinos (2015-16)
8 games: Swope Park Rangers (2016-17)
SPR welcomed the team’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, Gonzalez, and Defensive Player of the Year, Amer Didic, back into the lineup after their two-game absence due to international duty. The team was also boosted by the return of 20-year-old playmaker Kevin Oliveira, who came off the bench at halftime to make his first appearance since suffering a torn ACL last June.
Along with five players on loan from Sporting Kansas City, the Rangers lineup largely controlled the first half with two-thirds of the possession and a remarkable 91% passing accuracy against the 2014 USL champions and last year’s top team in the Western Conference.
Though the two sides were held without a single shot through the opening 20 minutes, Rangers’ goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra was then called into action in the 22nd minute with a kick save to deny Wilson Kneeshaw’s shot from the right side of the penalty area. Dykstra recorded his second save of the half seven minutes later, diving low to his left to hold onto Sammy Ochoa’s header before subsequently beginning a build-up out of the back that concluded with Cameron Iwasa and Mark Anthony Gonzalez both having shots blocked on the opposite end.
The Rangers again threatened to break the deadlock less than a minute later as Gonzalez was twice turned away from close range and Christian Duke’s follow-up effort was cleared out of danger, but the match remained scoreless at its midway point.
Gonzalez, who scored 12 goals in his rookie season in 2016, provided the game’s pivotal moment in the 70th minute on a play made possible by fellow forward Kharlton Belmar. After scoring in each of the team’s first two games, Belmar was looking for a third and tested Sacramento goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek with a well-struck shot from a tight angle. The ensuing rebound fell invitingly for Gonzalez to head home at the top of the six-yard box.
The Rangers defense would do the rest to see out the 1-0 victory, not allowing the Republic a single shot on goal in the game’s final 60 minutes of play. Swope Park and Sacramento now sit in a share of second place in the Western Conference with nine points apiece and will meet again on August 23 to conclude the season series.
- The Swope Park Rangers will travel to play Phoenix Rising FC, whose roster is headlined by former MLS All-Stars Didier Drogba and Omar Bravo, at 9 p.m. CT on Sunday, April 23 at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in Arizona. The match will be streamed live on SportingKC.com and in-game updates will be available through the team’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels.
Swope Park Rangers vs. Sacramento Republic FC
April 15, 2017 – Children’s Mercy Victory Field (Kansas City, Mo.)
Swope Park Rangers 1, Sacramento Republic FC 0
SPR – Mark Anthony Gonzalez 1 (unassisted) 70
SPR – Kevin Oliveira (caution; reckless foul) 52
SPR – Amer Didic (caution; reckless foul) 57
Swope Park Rangers: Andrew Dykstra; Colton Storm, Tyler Pasher (Parker Maher 71), Erik Palmer-Brown, Amer Didic; Christian Duke ©, James Musa, Felipe Hernandez (Kevin Oliveira 46); Robert Mirosavic (Kharlton Belmar 59), Mark Anthony Gonzalez, Cameron Iwasa
Substitutes Not Used: Darrin MacLeodWan Kuzain Wan Kamal, Lebo Moloto, Dakota Barnathan
STATS: Shots 11, Shots on Goal 3, Corners 3, Fouls 10, Possession 59%
Sacramento Republic FC: Dominik Jakubek; James Kiffe, Elliot Hord, Emrah Klimenta, Jeremy Hall; Tyler Blackwood (Trevin Caesar 68), Adam Moffat (Lamin Suma 84), Dan Trickett-Smith (Harry Williams 78), Danny Barrera, Wilson Kneeshaw; Sammy Ochoa
Substitutes Not Used: Enrique Montano, Gabe Gissie, Julius James, Evan Newton
STATS: Shots 11, Shots on Goal 2, Corners 5, Fouls 11, Possession 41%
Referee: Dule Djurasevic
Assistant Referees: Jack Feldman and Devin Blazek
Fourth Official: Ricardo Gutierrez
Weather: Windy and 76 degrees