After a debut season in which they went all the way to USL Cup before losing to Red Bulls 2 from the Eastern conference, the Swope Park Rangers traveled to Rio Tinto on March 29th and became the second team to fall during the Monarchs record nine game winning streak. While unable to keep pace with the Monarchs and San Antonio during the first half of the season, the Rangers have maintained a strong third place and even moved into second place at times during a seven game winning streak of the own in the middle of the season.
With a 7-2-2 record so far this season at Children’s Mercy Victory Field the Rangers have lost only to San Antonio and high scoring Reno 1868. The only two home games in their last five were the 4-1 loss to Reno 1868 and a 1-1 draw with Orange County last Saturday.
The 32 goals scored so far this season by the Rangers are good for 5th place in the Western conference, but their real success lies in the 20 goals conceded which is second to only San Antonio’s 13. This defensive strength relies upon great team defense and an ability to possess the ball for extended periods more than fouls or physical play present in other Western Conference teams.
Offensively the Rangers are led by leading scorers Kharlton Belmar and Mark Gonzalez with James Musa as the center midfielder until his recent promotion to Sporting Kansas City. How well Wan Kuzain or another player steps up to fill his shoes will be a major area to watch.
Defensively, the Rangers play a four man back line led by Liam Doyle, Tyler Pahser and Parker Maher. Eric Palmer-Brown, the U-20 teammate of many young RSL stars saw a lot of time for the Rangers early in the season, but has recently spent more time with Sporting KC.
The Monarchs come into this match following a resurgent 2-0 victory over the Colorado Springs Switchbacks at Rio Tinto with Chandler Hoffman only a single goal behind golden Boot leaders Romario Williams and Dane Kelly. Connor Sparrow leads the defense from the back and has a perfect records of 0-5 on penalty kicks this season after stopping four and seeing the other go wide. The Monarchs are will be looking to continue their pursuit of USL records for the most wins and highest total points in a single season.
This will be only the third meeting between the Monarchs and Rangers. Both previous meeting were are Rio Tinto and found the Monarchs victorious by a single goal 1-0 and 2-1. This is the first visit of the Monarchs to Kansas City and Children’s Mercy Victory Field.
What to watch for
The Rangers play in a traditional 4-3-3 formation and seek to possess the ball and drive play especially while at home. Their top 6 are drilled to press quickly on possession changes and quickly win the ball back, but it frequently goes back to allow a reset before moving forward to goal. The bulk of their goals come from a slow build up and set pieces rather than quick strikes or lobs over the top.
As mentioned above the loss of James Musa to Sporting KC has left a hole in the center of the offense and no heir apparent has emerged. It will be interesting to see if he returns to the Rangers lineup for this match.
Sebastian Velasquez will return to be the focus of the Monarchs attack after serving his suspension but Chase Minter will be suspended following his red card last week against the Switchbacks. This match may also see the debut of Danny Cruz the new right winger signed from the SF Deltas where he was a regular starter. How he will fit into the right side of the offense with Andrew Brody and Kyle Curinga , a recent weakness of the Monarchs, will be a major point to watch early in the match.
Both sides have a great deal to play for and the match should be well worth your time and effort to watch. These are leaders in the standings and have pride if nothing else to motivate them. The Monarchs to continue their undefeated record against the Rangers and the Rangers who hope to defend their home field and get an initial win over the Monarchs.
Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Sparrow; Dunk, Moberg, Peay, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Minter, Velasquez, Cruz; Hoffman
Swope Park Rangers: (4-3-3): Zendejas; Maher, Ballo, Doyle, Pasher; Duke, Kuzain, Moloto; Seibol, Gonzalez, Belmar
When: Friday, August 18, 6:30 pm MDT
Where: Children’s Mercy Victory Field — Kansas City, Missouri
Weather: 83 degrees, Scattered Thunderstorms