The Swope Park Rangers (1-5-2, 5 points) took a 5-1 loss to Nashville SC (5-3-2, 17 points) on Saturday night at rainy First Tennessee Park. Midfielder Felipe Hernandez bagged his third goal of the season with a stunning long-range strike in the second half, but Nashville surged to victory behind a Daniel Rios brace and additional goals courtesy of Alan Winn, Kharlton Belmar and Cameron Lancaster.
The 17-man squad assembled by SPR head coach Paulo Nagamura included eight Sporting Kansas City Academy products, including 2019 debutant and 17-year-old Jahon Rad who started in midfield after signing an Academy contract with the club one day earlier. Goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas was the lone Sporting KC loanee, donning the captain’s armband in his third USL Championship appearance of the 2019 campaign.
Rios vaulted Nashville ahead after just six minutes on a well-worked set piece. Justin Davis’ searching ball into a crowded penalty area was cushioned back across the face of goal by former Rangers defender Liam Doyle. Rios was on hand to steer home from point-blank range for his team-leading sixth goal of the season.
The hosts were quick to add a second and a third. SPR suffered the sting of another ex-player in the 14th minute when Belmar, the Rangers’ all-time leading scorer, swung in a cross for Rios to head past Zendejas. Two minute later, Rios turned provider by assisting Winn on a close-range strike to make the score 3-0.
Lebo Moloto, the third former Ranger in Nashville’s starting lineup, nearly did damage of his own when he forced a strong Zendejas save in the 34th minute. Shortly thereafter, a terrific defensive intervention from Camden Riley prevented Nashville from extending their lead.
Belmar heaped misery on the visitors 10 minutes into the second period, racing onto Matt LaGrassa’s long ball over the top and finishing low for his first goal in a Nashville uniform.
A pair of native Tennesseans almost put SPR on the scoresheet in the 57th minute. Hernandez weaved into the box and picked out Will Little, whose low drive dragged just wide of goalkeeper Matt Pickens’ right-hand post.
Hernandez, who grew up in Nashville, marked his hometown return with an absolute piledriver in the 61st minute. The 20-year-old embarked on a swashbuckling run into the attacking third and pulled the trigger from 30 yards, beating Pickens for his third goal of the season and the eighth of his SPR career.
Nashville substitute Lancaster broke SPR hearts in the 2017 USL Cup Final, tallying the lone goal of the match in a narrow Louisville City FC triumph, and he almost put SPR to the sword again in the 76th minute only to see his 15-yard shot carom off the post.
At the opposite end, a flowing move from the Rangers saw Jerome Ngom Mbekeli thread the needle to substitute Wilson Harris, who beat a defender and prompted a sprawling save from Pickens. The Nashville gloveman was called to action again seconds later when he tipped Hernandez’ audacious attempt over the bar. Lancaster then rounded out the scoring on an opportunistic tap-in after Zendejas blocked an initial attempt from LaGrassa.
SPR will have a full week to recover and prepare for a two-game home swing that begins next Sunday, May 19, versus Atlanta United 2 at Children’s Mercy Park. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. CT and tickets are on sale now at SeatGeek.com.
2019 USL Championship
Game 8 of 34
First Tennessee Park | Nashville, Tennessee
Weather: 69 degrees and rainy
|Swope Park Rangers (1-5-2, 5 points)||0||1||1|
|Nashville SC (5-3-2, 17 points)||3||2||5|
Swope Park Rangers: Adrian Zendejas (C); Mark Segbers, Camden Riley, Mo Abualnadi (Kaveh Rad 60'), Alexsander; Jahon Rad, Felipe Hernandez, Rassambek Akhmatov; Will Little (Killian Colombie 65'), Ethan Vanacore-Decker (Wilson Harris 73'), Jerome Ngom Mbekeli
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Jake Davis, Josh Chong
Nashville SC: Matt Pickens; Kosuke Kimura, Kenneth Tribbett, Liam Doyle, Justin Davis; Matt LaGrassa, Michael Reed (C) (Boluwatife Akinyode 72'); Kharlton Belmar (Ropapa Mensah 69'), Lebo Moloto, Alan Winn; Daniel Rios (Cameron Lancaster 62')
Subs Not Used: Connor Sparrow, Bradley Bourgeois, Tucker Hume, Taylor Washington
NSH -- Daniel Rios 6 (Liam Doyle 1) 7'
NSH -- Daniel Rios 7 (Kharlton Belmar 1) 14'
NSH -- Alan Winn 1 (Daniel Rios 1) 16'
NSH -- Kharlton Belmar 1 (Matt LaGrassa 1) 55'
SPR -- Felipe Hernandez 3 (Jerome Ngom Mbekeli 2) 61'
NSH -- Cameron Lancaster 2 (unassisted) 89'
SPR -- Jerome Ngom Mbekeli (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 42'
NSH -- Kenneth Tribbett (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 65'
SPR -- Camden Riley (yellow card; dissent) 70'
NSH -- Lebo Moloto (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 79'
|Shots on Goal||4||9|
Referee: Calin Radosav
Assistant Referee: Benjamin Hall-Volpenhein
Assistant Referee: Zach McWhorter
Fourth Official: Jody Lautigar