After taking an early lead, the Swope Park Rangers could not hold off the OKC Energy FC Saturday night, falling 1-3 to the visitors.
Aryton, Swope Park's newest player put the home team on the scoreboard when Nansel Selbol performed some dribbling magic and penetrated the Energy defense. Selbol's cross bounced off a defender and found his new team mate at the back post.
Most of the first half was relatively even with both teams creating chances and having periods of possession but that changed at the end of the first. Former Sporting Kansas City player and Energy captain Michael Thomas out fought SPR defender Tommy Meyer for a ball in the air and placed the a shot just past a diving Zac Lubin.
The Energy came out of the half with purpose and the Rangers struggled to match the intensity, giving up goals to the visitors in the 64th (Wojciech Wojcik) and 74th (Daniel Gonzalez) minutes.
Swope Park did get more possession with fresh legs late in the second half but could never find the back of the net again.
Coach Dos Santos not pleased
"Our last home performance was probably our best one at home," Swope Park Rangers head coach Marc Dos Santos stated right after the match. "This was probably our worst one, no for sure it was our worst one. Even the loss that we had here against Vancouver, the performance was good, we created. But today it was probably the worst performance this season at home."
Dos Santos continued, :We were flat, when we scored the first goal we got a little bit overconfident. We did an incredible mistake at the end of the first half that got them the goal. Then they grow, they grow with it. We are giving away too many silly goals. I think that defensively we need to be better; guys need to be better in the back. It's too easy to score on us at the moment and this is something we need to fix for sure."
Rangers captain Christian Duke pointed to the goal late in the first half as part of what turned the game in favor of the Energy. "I think we came out really strong and got an early one. Just a little mistake at the end of the half helped their momentum and they came out in the second half all on top of us."
What can the Rangers do to improve?
When asked what the Rangers need to do to get back to winning, Duke replied, "We need to find that winning mentality, winning attitude again and get back on track." Duke later added, "It's an attitude thing, we need to do all the little things right. Once we do that the mistakes will stop happening and we will go from there."
Dos Santos was understandably frustrated with the performance and while saying the whole team needed to improve, he did also point out the defense. "I think as a collective we need to look back at other things and we have to make sure that we come back to certain principles but individually we have to be better. Some pieces in the back have to be better, it hasn't been good enough."
Jimmy Nielsen had a good return trip
With the Rangers having control for a good portion of the first half, Energy head coach Jimmy Nielsen gave his thoughts. "The first half we played a little too slow, I thought we did good but not great, the ball circulation was too slow and we couldn't create the space we wanted because of the slow ball circulation. I don't know if that had something to do with the sun baking down on the field or that we played 120 minutes the other day but we had a good chat about it at half time, to play with more intensity and more flow in ball circulation. I think we came out very, very strong in 2nd half and dominated."
Nielsen was happy that they got the goal late in the half but that did not change what he said to his team or how they approached the second half. "Of course that goal gave momentum but no matter if we score that goal of not, the speech would have been the same. We needed to play faster, we need to play with high intensity and get the service and get the guys in the box. In the 2nd half we did really well and created some good chances besides the two goals. I'm proud of the performance in the second half."
This was the first time the former Sporting Kansas City captain returned to coach against a Kansas City team. When asked how the reception from Kansas City fans were despite his return as the opposition, Nielsen replied, "No, I don't feel like the bad guy. I came and did my job and had an amazing time here and still feel extremely welcome here as well so this will always be a special place for me."
"I've given a lot to this team, they have given me a lot and we went through some fantastic years together," Nielsen added.