Preview: Swope Park Rangers open 2019 USL Championship season Saturday at Red Bulls II

Two perennial contenders square off in Week 1 of the 2019 USL Championship campaign as the Swope Park Rangers visit New York Red Bulls II on Saturday at MSU Soccer Park in Montclair, New Jersey. Kickoff is set for noon CT with a live stream on ESPN+ and additional in-game updates available via the Match Page.

Led by second-year head coach Paulo Nagamura, the Rangers have advanced to the playoffs in each of their first three seasons of existence, including appearances in the 2016 and 2017 USL Cup Finals. On the opposite sideline, head coach John Wolyniec has steered Red Bulls II to four straight playoff trips as well as the 2016 USL Cup title, secured with a 5-1 win over SPR in the lone meeting between the clubs to date.

The 2019 season marks SPR’s first as a member of the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference. Nagamura’s men will look to go further than last year’s conference semifinal stage where they lost to Phoenix Rising FC, while Red Bulls II will aim to build off a 2018 campaign that ended in a conference final loss to eventual league champion Louisville City FC.

A new-look Rangers side features several fresh faces going into the new year. Ayyoub Allach, Alexsander, Killian Colombie, Jerome Ngom Mbekeli, William Opoku Mensah, Camden Riley, Mark Segbers and 16-year-old goalkeeper Brooks Thompson—who on Thursday became the youngest professional signing in club history—will look to make positive impacts in their debut seasons with the club.

Nagamura will also lean on a handful of experienced returnees, including Sporting KC Academy product Felipe Hernandez, former Red Bulls defender Justin Bilyeu, playmaker Rassambek Akhmatov and forward Ethan Vanacore-Decker.

Like in years past, SPR will have the luxury of calling upon Sporting KC loanees, with the likes of Sporting KC Academy products Gianluca Busio, Tyler Freeman, Jaylin Lindsey and Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal all potential candidates to get time at the USL Championship level.

SPR is fresh off a wintry and frigid preseason campaign that saw the club record three wins and a loss, outscoring opponents 12-3 in the process.

The Rangers and Red Bulls II previously locked horns in the 2016 USL Cup Final, contested at Red Bull Arena on Oct. 23, 2016. New York claimed a 5-1 victory behind a Brandon Allen hat-trick and additional strikes from Derrick Etienne and Vincent Bezecourt, while SPR were given a momentary lifeline in the second half when Tomas Granitto’s goal made the score 2-1. No players on the present SPR roster took part in the contest, although current Sporting KC goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas did start the game for his first career USL defeat after going a perfect 8-0-0 in his first eight league appearances.

Match Information

USL Championship: Game 1 of 34
Date: Saturday, March 9, 2019
Kickoff: Noon CT
Location: MSU Soccer Park (Montclair, New Jersey)

Swope Park Rangers: 15-11-8 in 2018 (53 points, 7th place in Western Conference)
MLS Affiliate: Sporting Kansas City

New York Red Bulls II: 13-8-13 (52 points, 5th place in Eastern Conference)
MLS Affiliate: New York Red Bulls

Game Notes: Click here

Live Stream: ESPN+

Game-specific hashtag: #NYvSPR

Swope Park Rangers
Twitter: @SwopeRangers
Instagram: @SwopeParkRangers

New York Red Bulls II
Twitter: @NYRBII
Instagram: @NYRB2