The Swope Park Rangers went all the way to the 2016 USL Championship game representing the Western Conference in their first season in the league. Their 2017 squad includes a lot of new faces as is common with the USL, but seems to have the same winning mentality. They won their first three games at home in Children’s Mercy Victory Field extending their regular season winning streak to seven games before losing to Arizona Rising in their first road game last Sunday.
The USL affiliate of Sporting Kansas City, the Rangers have had numerous players from the parent squad make appearances this season.
Erik Palmer-Brown, the captain of the 2017 CONCACAF Championship U-20 squad and teammate of many RSL players has made three appearances at center back. Colton Storm has also gone the full ninty minutes in all four matchs at right fullback. Kevin Ellis played the full match in a fitness start last week in Phoenix.
Forwards Cameron Iwasa, Latif Blessing, and Daniel Salloi have all also made appearances, but the bulk of the Ranger’s goals have all come from players under USL contracts. Forward Kharlton Belmar and midfielder Kevin Oliveira have two goals a piece while forward Mark Gonzalez and defensive midfielder Christian Duke each have a single goal.
The Monarchs have been prolific goal scorers so far this season with eight different players have at least a single goal. Chandler Hoffman leads the team with three, followed by Nick Besler, Jose Hernandez, and Sebastian Velasquez who each have two goals.
The Monarchs have also seen guest appearances from a number of RSL players and may see Beltran in a bid for fitness or Sunday and Hernandez again. The length of the injury list at the parent club seems to argue against a number of guest appearances however.
The Rangers and Monarchs have only a single previous meeting on August 13th, 2016 at Rio Tinto. The Monarchs came away victorious 1-0 on an early 9th minute goal by Emilio Orozco to end a four game game undefeated streak by the Rangers.
What to watch for
The Rangers thrive on possession, content to move the ball around the back and build up into the attack. They have seemed very content to take a lead and then play with possession to preserve the victory. Two of the home victories, against Timbers II and Sacramento, ended with a 1-0 scoreline. In their sole loss at Phoenix Rising last week they gave up three quick goals in the first half and, although they came back with several late goals, never really recovered their composure and style.
So far this season the Monarchs have been at their best when playing high and pressing in the attack. The Monarchs have recorded an average of 24 touches per game in opposition penalty areas this season, the most of any side in the USL. Their 13 goals are tied for second in the league, but they have also shown a tendency to leak goals especially at the end of matches. It will be important for the home squad to come out strong and find chances in the first half and then effectively finish off the match.
The Rangers and the Monarchs have not been shut out yet this season, so the team that manages to score first will take a giant stride toward imposing their style and mark upon the match. It looks to be shaping up as an exciting undercard for the Sporting KC - RSL match later that evening in Kansas City as two top five USL teams meet early in the season.
Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Putna; Curinga, Moberg, Orozco, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Brody, Velasquez, Minter; Hoffman
Swope Park Rangers: (4-3-3): Zendejas; Pasher, Didic, Palmer-Brown, Storm; Duk, Musa, Oliveira; Gonzalez, Belmar, Iwasa
When: Saturday, April 29, 4:00pm MT
Where: Rio Tinto — Sandy, UT
Weather: 53 degrees, Sunny but windy