The inaugural meeting between the Swope Park Rangers (1-4-2, 5 points) and Nashville SC (4-3-2, 14 points) will take place Saturday when the sides lock horns at First Tennessee Park. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT with a live stream on ESPN+ and additional in-game updates available on the USL Championship MatchCenter. Fans can also follow @SwopeRangers on Twitter for coverage throughout the match.
Led by second-year head coach Paulo Nagamura, the Rangers enter Saturday on a high after sinking two-time defending USL Cup champion Louisville City FC by a 3-2 scoreline on Monday at Children’s Mercy Park. SPR took a two-goal halftime lead behind strikes from Felipe Hernandez and Rassambek Akhmatov, but Louisville restored parity near the hour mark with a Magnus Rasmussen free kick and a Luke Spencer leveler. The hosts would steal all three points with a dramatic 90th-minute winner courtesy of on-loan center back Abdul Rwatubyaye, who was traded from Sporting Kansas City to the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday.
Nashville SC is looking to rebound from a 1-0 home loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in Wednesday's nationally televised clash on ESPN2. Juan David Tejada condemned head coach Gary Smith's men to a home loss with a 34th-minute strike, one of Tampa Bay's two shots on target.
MLS-bound Nashville SC has three players who previously plied their trade for SPR, including defender Liam Doyle, midfielder Lebo Moloto and forward Kharlton Belmar. The club will enter Major League Soccer next season under the guidance of technical director Mike Jacobs, who served as Sporting's Assistant Technical Director from 2015-2017.
Belmar, who has yet to open his Nashville scoring account in nine starts, is the Rangers' all-time leading scorer. The dynamic forward bagged 25 goals for SPR from 2017-2018 in addition to netting once for Sporting in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup. While he has yet to find his scoring touch in Tennessee, teammate Daniel Rios certainly has with a team-best five goals. Matt LaGrassa has notched two goals of his own, while Moloto has tallied two assists.
The Rangers have received strong performances throughout the 2019 campaign from 20-year-old Sporting KC Academy product Hernandez (two goals, two assists), pacy winger Jerome Ngom Mbekeli (two goals, one assist) and buccaneering Brazilian left back Alexsander (one goal, one assist). The trip to Nashville comes before a stretch that will see SPR play four of the next five matches at home.
USL Championship: Game 8 of 34
Date: Saturday, May 11, 2019
Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT
Location: First Tennessee Park (Nashville, Tennessee)
Live Stream: ESPN+
Swope Park Rangers: 1-4-2 (2 points, 17th place in Eastern Conference)
MLS Affiliate: Sporting Kansas City
Nashville SC: 4-3-2 (14 points, 6th place in Eastern Conference)
MLS Affiliate: None