The Swope Park Rangers (3-9-6, 15 points) travel to the Great White North to take on Ottawa Fury FC (7-3-8, 29 points) for another USL Championship Eastern Conference battle on Saturday. The match begins at 6 p.m. CT with a live stream on ESPN+ and in game updates posted on the USL Championship MatchCenter. Fans can also follow @SwopeRangers on Twitter for live updates throughout the contest.
Hot off one of their best performances of the year, the Rangers hit the road for one game. Paulo Nagamura, coaching in his second year, has his squad playing some in-form soccer at the moment. They have won two of their last three and are beginning to show signs of excellent progress. This will be a good test for the Rangers, as Ottawa has lost only three games this season and just one at home.
The Rangers have not traveled to Canada for a match since July 12, 2017. SPR was still in the Western Conference and traveled to Vancouver for a clash with Whitecaps FC 2. SPR prevailed 1-0 off Kharlton Belmar’s 65th-minute goal. All-time, the Rangers are 4-2-0 against Canadian teams including a win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 in the 2016 USL Western Conference Finals.
In their last match on Wednesday, SPR came out firing against Hartford Athletic and scored three first half goals. Felipe Hernandez grabbed his eighth goal of the season in the seventh minute, Kelyn Rowe fired a “Rowelazo” from 30 yards out in the 27th and then secured his brace three minutes later. Things got interesting when Hartford scored out of the gate in the second half, but Tyler Freeman regained some momentum for SPR when he scored his first professional goal. Hartford would score two more, but SPR held on to capture a 4-3 victory.
Hernandez remains the leading scorer for the Rangers and has scored in three straight appearances for the second time this season. Brazilian left back Alexsander still sets the pace for the Rangers in the assists category with five.
This is the inaugural meeting between the sides and serves as a reunion between SPR and Ottawa head coach Nikola Popovic, who previously led the Rangers to the 2017 USL Western Conference title. Prior to serving as SPR's head coach in 2016, Popovic was an assistant for the club in 2016 when current Vancouver Whitecaps FC manager Marc Dos Santos was at the helm.
Leading the Fury with seven goals is forward Mour Samb, a first-year player who has scored in half of his appearances. Behind him is Wal Fall with six goals. The midfielder is also in his first year with the Fury after playing with Saint Louis FC for a season. Ottawa is a team that likes to share. Three different players have four assists. Samb is one, Christiano Francois and Carl Haworth are the others. Charlie Ward is another key figure for the Fury, leading all USL Championship payers with 1,175 passes on the season.
The Swope Park Rangers are coming into this one with a newfound energy. In their last match, they fielded their oldest starting XI with an average age of 22. This youthful energy could pay off as the long USL Championship season winds down. With some wins under their belt and growing confidence, the Rangers are looking to climb the ladder and make a push for the playoffs.
USL Championship: Game 19 of 34
Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2019
Kickoff: 6 p.m. CT
Location: TD Place Stadium (Ottawa, Ontario)
Live Stream: ESPN+
Swope Park Rangers: 3-9-6 (15 points, 15th place in Eastern Conference)
MLS Affiliate: Sporting Kansas City
Ottawa Fury FC: 7-3-8 (29 points, 7th place in Eastern Conference)
MLS Affiliate: Montreal Impact