The Swope Park Rangers (0-2-1, 1 point) fell to Bethlehem Steel FC (2-2-1, 7 points) in a 4-3 thriller on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park.
Ethan Vanacore-Decker gave the hosts an early lead and Jerome Ngom Mbekeli struck twice as the Rangers carried a 3-1 advantage into the final 20 minutes, but Bethlehem rallied late to claim all three points in a back-and-forth affair.
Faris Pemi Moumbagna provided a first-half equalizer for Steel FC before a Benjamin Ofeimu header, an own goal and a 93rd-minute winner from Sergio Santos sealed the comeback and denied SPR their first win of the season.
Two weeks removed from a 2-2 draw with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Rangers head coach Paulo Nagamura fielded a new-look lineup against another Pennsylvania-based side. Captain Graham Smith was the lone Sporting Kansas City loanee, while 16-year-old goalkeeper Max Trejo and 17-year-old midfielder Jake Davis earned their professional debuts as Sporting KC Academy products. Rookie Camden Riley also made his first professional appearance alongside Smith in central defense.
Four minutes after firing marginally wide from the top of the box, Vanacore-Decker shot SPR ahead. Winger Killian Colombie exploited space on the left flank and recorded his second assist in as many matches, crossing low into the penalty area where Vanacore-Decker’s brilliant one-time strike into the corner left Bethlehem goalkeeper Matt Freese no chance in the 19th minute.
The visitors wasted little time responding, pulling level in the 27th minute. Trejo had produced a fine reflex save just moments earlier, but an in-swinging James Chambers corner kick created a scuffle near the goal mouth. Faris applied the finishing touch from point-blank range, the 18-year-old Cameroonian bagging his second goal of the 2019 campaign.
Right back Mark Segbers’ swashbuckling run into the attacking half culminated with a clever layoff into the path of Colombie on the left side of the box, but the Frenchman’s side-footed effort skied over the crossbar in the 32nd minute. The opportunity was quickly followed by a clean look for Bethlehem, but Trejo was equal to Mitchee Ngalina’s booming attempt from 20 yards.
SPR reclaimed their lead one minute before halftime. Felipe Hernandez trotted forward and spread the ball wide to Mbekeli on the right channel. The 20-year-old beat his defender and beat Freese inside the near post for his first tally in an SPR uniform. Hernandez picked up his eighth career SPR assist on the play, one shy of tying the all-time club record.
Mbekeli notched his second of the afternoon in sublime fashion. With 57 minutes on the clock, the Cameroonian settled Davis’ lateral pass and unleashed a stunning long-range curler into the top left corner to make the score 3-1. Trejo then did well to preserve SPR’s two goal-cushion in the 62nd minute, leaping right to push aside Chambers’ dipping free kick.
Ofeimu was credied with an assist on Bethlehem’s first goal and turned scorer in the 73rd minute to cut his team’s deficit in half. The 18-year-old Philadelphia Union academy product rose above the rest to steer a header past Trejo and open his 2019 scoring account.
The Rangers suffered an inauspicious blow five minutes later as Steel FC restored parity for the second time. Matt Real’s cross from the left wing took a wicked deflection off Segbers, looped over Trejo and nestled into the net for the fortuitous equalizer.
A final twist in the tale saw Santos hammer home from close range in the 93rd minute, cleaning up a rebound after Chambers’ initial strike through traffic was saved.
The Rangers will conclude their three-game homestand on Monday, April 15, hosting Indy Eleven in a 7 p.m. CT kickoff at Children’s Mercy Park. Ticket for the inaugural regular-season meeting between the clubs are available now at SeatGeek.com.
2019 USL Championship
Game 3 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 74 degrees and partly cloudy
|Swope Park Rangers (0-2-1, 1 point)||2||1||3|
|Bethlehem Steel FC (2-2-1, 7 points)||1||3||4|
Swope Park Rangers: Max Trejo; Mark Segbers, Graham Smith (C), Camden Riley, Alexsander; Ayyoub Allach, Felipe Hernandez, Jake Davis (Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal 60); Jerome Ngom Mbekeli, Ethan Vanacore-Decker (Wilson Harris 77), Killian Colombie (Will Little 80)
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Kaveh Rad, Rassambek Akhmatov, William Opoku Mensah
Bethlehem Steel FC: Matt Freese; Issa Rayyan, Cole Turner, Benjamin Ofeimu, Matt Real; Zachary Zandi, James Chambers (C), Chavany Willis (Sergio Santos 60), Anthony Fontana (Walter Cortes 77); Michee Ngalina, Faris Pemi Mombagna
Subs Not Used: Kris Shakes, Jamoi Topey, Steve Kingue, Patrick Bohui, Saed Diaz
SPR -- Ethan Vanacore-Decker 1 (Killian Colombie 2) 19
BST -- Faris Pemi Moumbagna 2 (Benjamin Ofeimu 1) 27
SPR -- Jerome Ngom Mbekeli 1 (Felipe Hernandez 1) 44
SPR -- Jerome Ngom Mbekeli 2 (Jake Davis 1) 57
BST -- Benjamin Ofeimu 1 (James Chambers 1) 73
BST -- Mark Segbers 1 (own goal) 78
BST -- Sergio Santos 1 (unassisted) 93+
BST -- Issa Rayyan (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 24
SPR -- Camden Riley (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 49
BST -- Anthony Fontana (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 64
BST -- Matt Real (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 68
SPR -- Mark Segbers (yellow card; dissent) 70
BST -- Matt Real (red card [second yellow card]; unsporting behavior) 91+
|Shots on Goal||7||8|
Referee: Mike Lavergne
Assistant Referee: Truman Berghall
Assistant Referee: Jack Ryan-Feldman
Fourth Official: Brian Bauer