The Swope Park Rangers (2-8-6, 12 points) take the field against the first-place Tampa Bay Rowdies (10-1-6 36 points) at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. CT and tickets are available at SeatGeek.com or at the stadium box office beginning at 2 p.m. CT.
The Swope Park Rangers will officially reach the halfway point of their season on Sunday. Head coach Paulo Nagamura and SPR are looking to turn the corner and get back into the thick of the playoff hunt. They enter this contest coming off a big 2-1 win against rivals Saint Louis FC last Sunday. The Rangers started that match in last place in the Eastern Conference but jumped up to 16th place.
In their encounter with Saint Louis FC, the Rangers escaped with three points after Ethan Vanacore-Decker hammered home an unassisted goal in the 82nd minute. Felipe Hernandez got the scoring started in the 21st minute, sneaking the ball past Tomas Gomez from outside the box. Kadeem Dacres equalized in the 78th minute for Saint Louis, but it was all for not when Vanacore-Decker scored four minutes later. The already intense battle got heated when Hernandez and Bradley Fewo came together near midfield. Hernandez received a red card and Fewo escaped with a yellow. The Rangers held on in stoppage time, playing with 10 men, and secured three home points.
Hernandez leads all Rangers in scoring with seven goals. The Sporting KC Academy product was nominated for the USL Championship Midseason Young Player of the Year. With his game-winner, Vanacore-Decker joins Wilson Harris and Jerome Ngom Mbekeli at second on the team with two goals. Alexsander has set the bar all season with his passing. He has accumulated a team-best five assists, while Killian Colombie has three assists and Hernandez and Mbekeli have two.
Sunday will mark the second meeting between the Rangers and the Rowdies. In their first showdown, the Rowdies continued their undefeated streak on May 25, capturing a 1-0 victory after Leo Fernandes sank an 82nd minute penalty. Since then, Tampa Bay has been knocked out of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup by OKC Energy FC and suffered their first home loss to North Carolina FC. Those two losses are their only setbacks in 2019. They remain atop the Eastern Conference and lead all of the USL Championship in points. Led by head coach Neill Collins, they have not lost a USL Championship contest on the road this season.
The Rowdies are led in scoring by forward Sebastian Guenzatti, whose nine goals rank fifth on the USL Championship charts. Juan Tejada is second on the team with six goals, while midfielders Andrew Tinari and Leo Fernandes have a team-best four Goalkeeper John McCarthy and his defenders lead the league with nine clean sheets through 17 matches.
The outside backs for the Rangers have been models of consistency this season. Mark Segbers (one goal, one assist) is the only player to feature in every match and has started 15 straight games. Alexsander (one goal, five assists) has also started in 15 straight matches and leads the team in assists. Both backs provide outstanding width for the Rangers, getting forward and serving crosses into the box.
USL Championship: Game 17 of 34
Date: Sunday, June 7, 2019
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. CT
Location: Children’s Mercy Park (Kansas City, Kansas)
Live Stream: ESPN+
Swope Park Rangers: 2-8-6 (12 points, 16th place in Eastern Conference)
MLS Affiliate: Sporting Kansas City
Tampa Bay Rowdies: 10-1-6 (36 points, 1st place in Eastern Conference)
MLS Affiliate: None