The Swope Park Rangers (2-9-6, 12 points) fell 3-1 to the first-place Tampa Bay Rowdies (11-1-6, 39 points) on Sunday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park. SPR forward Ethan Vanacore-Decker scored for the second time in as many games, slotting home midway through the second half, but Tampa Bay had already built a 3-0 cushion amidst stifling temperatures in the midsummer Kansas City sunshine.
The Rowdies showed their table-topping credentials early and landed the first punch in the 14th minute. Yann Ekra was afforded space on the right wing and whipped a cross into the penalty area for Juan Tejada to head past Rangers goalkeeper Eric Dick. The goal was Tejada’s seventh of the campaign and put SPR behind the proverbial eight-ball within the opening quarter-hour.
Rassambek Akhmatov conjured SPR’s first attempt at an equalizer in the 22nd minute, unleashing a sizzling free kick from 30 yards that bent over the Tampa Bay wall and forced a fingertip save from Rowdies gloveman Macklin Robinson.
Four minutes later, Sporting Kansas City Academy product and first team loanee Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal nearly bagged a Goal of the Year contender with a sweetly struck left-footed volley near the top of the box, but the leaping Robinson was again up to the task and touched the dipping drive over the crossbar.
Having survived the scare from Kuzain’s audacious piledriver, Tampa Bay doubled their lead in the 39th minute on an impeccably placed Sebastian Guenzatti penalty kick. The Rowdies had drawn the penalty following a costly SPR giveaway that culminated with Tejada toppling to the turf inside the box. Guenzatti’s conversion gave him his 10th goal of 2019, tied for fourth most in the USL Championship.
Dick produced a sublime stop in the 52nd minute to deny substitute Kwado Poku on the edge of the six-yard area, but Malik Johnson had better luck and made in 3-0 six minutes later by finishing inside the near post at a tight angle.
The Rangers would salvage a consolation goal on 71 minutes when Vanacore-Decker won his side a penalty kick after running onto Dick’s long outlet throw and bursting 50 yards downfield. Johnson was punished for his foul from behind, and although Vanacore-Decker’s spot kick was saved by Robinson, he promptly slotted the loose-ball rebound into the corner for his third tally of 2019.
Jerome Ngom Mbekeli nearly made the dying embers very interesting in the 84th minute, sprinting onto a long ball and squeezing a shot under the advancing Robinson, but Tampa defender Tarek Morad had retreated to sweep the ball off the goal line.
SPR is off next weekend and will look to bounce back on Wednesday, July 17, hosting last-place Hartford Athletic (2-12-4, 10 points). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT as former Sporting Kansas City great and Hartford head coach Jimmy Nielsen returns to Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets for the match are now available at SeatGeek.com.
2019 USL Championship
Game 17 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 88 degrees and partly cloudy
|Swope Park Rangers (2-9-6, 12 points)||0||1||1|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies (11-1-6, 39 points)||2||1||3|
Swope Park Rangers: Eric Dick; Mark Segbers (Tyler Freeman 78'), Kaveh Rad (Jake Davis 65'), Graham Smith (C), Alexsander; Ayyoub Allach, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal, Rassambek Akhmatov; Will Little (Killian Colombie 54'), Ethan Vanacore-Decker, Jerome Ngom Mbekeli
Subs Not Used: Brooks Thompson, Jahon Rad, Wilson Harris
Tampa Bay Rowdies: Macklin Robinson; Tarek Morad, Caleb Richards, Abdoulaye Diakite; Yann Ekra, Zach Steinberger (Kwadwo Poku 49'), Leo Fernandes (David Najem 87'), Malik Johnson (Shawn Barry 73'); Sebastian Guenzatti (C), Dominic Oduro, Juan Tejada
Subs Not Used: John McCarthy, Jordan Doherty, Lucky Mkosana, Leon Taylor
TBR -- Juan Tejada 7 (Yann Ekra 2) 14'
TBR -- Sebastian Guenzatti 10 (penalty kick) 39'
TBR -- Malik Johnson 1 (Sebastian Guenzatti 2) 58'
SPR -- Ethan Vanacore-Decker 3 (unassisted) 72'
SPR -- Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 37'
SPR -- Graham Smith (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 38'
TBR -- Zach Steinberger (yellow card; persistent infringement) 45+1'
SPR -- Mark Segbers (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 45+3'
TBR -- Malik Johnson (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 54'
TBR -- Abdoulaye Diakate (yellow card; persistent infringement) 62'
|Shots on Goal||6||4|
Referee: Mark Allatin
Assistant Referee: Benjamin Hall-Volpenhein
Assistant Referee: Truman Berghall
Fourth Official: Ricardo Gutierrez