The Swope Park Rangers (17-8-7, 4th place) concluded their 2017 USL regular season campaign with a 2-1 comeback victory over Seattle Sounders FC 2 on Wednesday at Swope Soccer Village. Lebo Moloto and Nansel Selbol scored six minutes apart in the second half to erase the team’s halftime deficit and put the Rangers in position to host the opening round of the USL Cup Playoffs.
Wednesday’s win lifts the Rangers three points clear of likely quarterfinal opponent Phoenix Rising FC for fourth place in the USL’s Western Conference. Phoenix hosts Portland Timbers 2 on Saturday in their regular season finale needing to win by a minimum of eight goals in order to move past the Rangers via the goal differential tiebreaker.
The visiting Sounders FC 2 opened the mid-week match-up on the front foot with Kansas City native Ray Saari coming close with a shot in the game’s opening moments and Aaron Kovar twice forcing saves from Darrin MacLeod inside the first 25 minutes. The pressure would pay off in the 28th minute when Zach Mathers gave S2 the lead with his 11th goal of the season off a well-place free kick.
The Rangers weren’t without scoring chances of their own as Moloto led all players with four shots in the first half, including two that struck the woodwork. Moloto would finally break through less than three minutes after the halftime break when Felipe Hernandez’s free kick was saved superbly by Tyler Miller and kept alive by Christian Duke to set up the South African’s seventh goal of the year on the club captain’s team-leading seventh assist of the season.
Hernandez played a pivotal role in the Rangers second goal, as well, latching onto a clever backheel from fellow Sporting KC Academy product Nansel Selbol and earning a penalty on a challenge from Steve Whyte. Selbol, who came off the bench at halftime, stepped to the spot and buried his shot from the mark for the 20 year old’s ninth goal of the campaign.
Miller, on loan from Sounders FC, would make five saves in the second half and see two additional shots strike the post as SPR threatened to expand the lead on Fan Appreciation Night at Children’s Mercy Victory Field. On the opposite end, the Swope Park Rangers defense – led by USL Rookie of the Year candidate Colton Storm – did not allow a single shot on goal after MacLeod was beaten in the 28th minute.
Following a fourth-place finish and subsequent run to the USL Cup Final in the club’s inaugural season, the Rangers will now look to defend the club’s Western Conference championship in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs. The Rangers’ 17 wins are second most in the USL this season and SPR led all 30 USL teams in passes (16,599) and passing accuracy (83%) in 2017.
Swope Park Rangers vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
October 11, 2017 – Swope Soccer Village (Kansas City, Mo.)
Swope Park Rangers 2-1 Seattle Sounders FC 2
SEA – Zach Mathers 11 (free kick) 28’
SPR – Lebo Moloto 7 (Christian Duke 7) 48’
SPR – Nansel Selbol 9 (penalty kick) 54’
SPR – Colton Storm (caution; persistent infringement) 66’
SEA – Zach Mathers (caution; reckless foul) 79’
SPR – Dakota Barnathan (caution; reckless foul) 80’
SEA – David Olsen (caution; dissent) 88’
Swope Park Rangers: Darrin MacLeod; Tyler Pasher, Colton Storm, Dakota Barnathan, Oumar Ballo; Felipe Hernandez, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal, Christian Duke ©; Robert Mirosavic (Parker Maher 46), Max Rugova (Nansel Selbol 46), Lebo Moloto (Cameron Iwasa 92+)
Substitutes Not Used: Liam Doyle, Will Little, Joe Amico, David Greczek
Seattle Sounders FC 2: Tyler Miller; Jordy Delem, Steve Whyte, Rodrigue Ele, Sam Rogers; Zach Mathers, Harry Shipp (Henry Wingo 46), Ray Saari ©, Aaron Kovar (Guy Serge Edoa 71); David Olsen, Seyi Adekoya (Felix Chenkam 58)
Substitutes Not Used: Francisco Narbon, Denso Ulysse, Brian Nana-Sinkam, Cody Lang
Referee: Tim Wagner
Assistant Referees: Ryan Cook and Shane Kennard
Fourth Official: Ricardo Gutierrez
Weather: Partly cloudy and 61 degrees