The Swope Park Rangers (0-3-2, 2 points) and Saint Louis FC (4-1-2, 14 points) will renew their rivalry on Saturday when the clubs square off at Toyota Stadium in Fenton, Missouri. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT with a live stream available on ESPN+.
SPR and Saint Louis FC have experienced differing levels of success since their respective launches as USL Championship clubs. The Rangers were crowned Western Conference champions in 2016 and 2017 before falling in the Conference Semifinals last year, while Saint Louis missed the postseason in their first three years of existence prior to breaking through with a Conference Quarterfinal exit last October.
The early stages of 2019, however, have seen Saint Louis enjoy a far better start near the top of the Eastern Conference table. Second-year head coach Anthony Pulis has guided his side to a 4-1-2 record, good for second place behind the unbeaten Tampa Bay Rowdies. Defender Sam Fink, now in his second stint with the club, has a team-best three goals this season and has anchored a backline whose five goals allowed are the second-fewest in the East. Forward Russell Cicerone has provided two goals of his own, while Kyle Greig—a native of nearby Olathe, Kansas who led the team with 13 goals last year—has scored once in 2019.
The Rangers have yet to enter the win column this season but are coming off an encouraging road draw at Birmingham Legion FC last week. Head coach Paulo Nagamura’s side conceded just three shots on target, none of which came after the 30th minute, and SPR nearly grabbed all three points only for Jerome Ngom Mbekeli and Ayyoub Allach to see their stoppage-time strikes denied by goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel.
Nagamura has reshuffled his starting lineup through the first month of the campaign, spreading playing time across a youthful roster that has blended Sporting Kansas City loanees, USL Championship youngsters and promising players from the Sporting KC Academy. Saint Louis, meanwhile, wields more experience in a squad that looks capable of competing at or near the top of the league for the next several months.
SPR went 0-2-1 against Saint Louis FC last season, settling for a 1-1 draw almost a year ago to the day before taking a 2-0 road loss in June and falling in a 4-3 thriller last September at Children’s Mercy Park. Greig made his mark in the first and third meetings, scoring goals to help his team secure valuable results. The clubs split their first five meetings from 2016-2017, each recording one win and three draws. SPR are 0-2-1 in three all-time visits to Toyota Stadium.
Saint Louis FC will be pleased with their position in the standings but also eager to snap a two-game winless skid. A 3-2 home loss to Birmingham on April 13 was followed by a scoreless stalemate at Pittsburgh Riverhounds FC last Saturday.
USL Championship: Game 6 of 34
Date: Saturday, April 27, 2019
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. CT
Location: Toyota Stadium (Fenton, Missouri)
Live Stream: ESPN+
Swope Park Rangers: 0-3-2 (2 points, 17th place in Eastern Conference)
MLS Affiliate: Sporting Kansas City
Saint Louis FC: 4-1-2 (14 points, 2nd place in Eastern Conference)
MLS Affiliate: None