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Swope Park Rangers: Three Reasons to Watch

Swope Park Rangers had a great 2016 season, but here is why you should be even more excited for the 2017 season.

Mark Anthony Gonzalez lifting the USL Western Conference trophy
Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City may have the week off for World Cup Qualifying, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t soccer in Kansas City this weekend. Swope Park Rangers will be kicking off their 2017 season this Saturday. With a very successful season in 2016 behind them why should you be even more excited for this 2017 season?

First Dividends Being Paid

Yes, Amer Didic and Nansel Selbol were called up for CONCACAF Champions League last year, but this year could be the first time we actually see some dividends from the Rangers in MLS play.

Although he hasn’t featured yet for the SKC, Daniel Salloi has been in the 18 for all three of SKC’s first three games. Salloi spent the first part of last year with the Rangers tallying four goals and three assists in just ten appearances. Salloi spent the rest of 2016 on loan in Hungary, but it appears that it will only be a matter of time before we see the homegrown get his shot.

Do not forget that Tyler Pasher and Adrian Zendajas were both signed to Sporting KC contracts this offseason and while both had great seasons with SPR last year both might struggle to find time with SKC this year.

MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-Sporting Kansas City at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Amer Didic, Mark Anthony Gonzalez and Kevin Oliveira (he may have just come for the rehab) were also invited to SKC preseason in Tucson this spring. Kevin Oliveira is still recovering from that torn ACL that cut his 2016 season short prematurely, but if he picks right where he left off last season it is highly possible we see him in a U.S. Open Cup match or two.

Didic’s rise has come quite rapidly from a trialist at the beginning of SPR’s season, to starter, to even appearing for SKC in a few CONCACAF Champions League matches last season. While he appears to still be a ways down in the center back depth line depending on USMNT call-ups for Eric Palmer Brown and Matt Besler could we see Didic get a first team contract so he can actually appear in MLS regular season games instead of just US Open Cup call ups.

MAG also led the Rangers with 12 goals in 2016 (regular season and playoffs) while splitting time with Dane Kelly. Now that he appears to be the out and out starter, it should only get better.

Year of the Academy

With 11 Sporting KC academy products currently on the 2017 roster it’s safe to say that the SKC’s Academy will have a strong say in how well the Rangers do well this season. Most of the academy products were used as depth pieces for the Swope Park Rangers’ inaugural season. This year appears to be the beginning of some change.

Judging by their involvement Nansel Selbol, Felipe Hernandez, Will Little, and Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal all appear to jostling for a starting spot for SPR. Nansel Selbol has received rave reviews for his play last year. Felipe and Little were both brought into U.S. U-19 camp this offseason.

It appears to me that Sporting Kansas City’s academy is on the rise. This year could be a really big season in these player’s developments by going from youth team players to hopefully Sporting KC starters.

SKC Loans

MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Sporting Kansas City Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

As was the case last year, there are bound to be loans down from Sporting KC. The first and most obvious one is Colton Storm. Storm played every game of SPR’s preseason and looks to likely spend his first season with the Rangers.

Another likely candidate is Tyler Pasher. Pasher had an excellent first season with SPR last year and was even offered a contract with SKC. Pasher played well on occasion during preseason, but is likely stuck behind veteran Seth Sinovic and Jimmy Medranda.

I think Cameron Iwasa is another safe bet for a Swope Park Rangers loan and I wouldn’t rule out loan spells for Cameron Porter, Daniel Salloi, or Adrian Zendejas.

Predictions

I don’t quite know that we should expect the same amount of success in the form of wins and losses this season from the Swope Park Rangers. While I don’t know that SPR will have the same succession the amount of wins, I do think we can expect success in the form of development for these younger players.

Peter Vermes has said time and time again that this team won’t go out and spend millions and millions of dollars on players and transfer fees. What Sporting KC will do instead is develop players through the academy and also with the help of Swope Park Rangers.

So while there might be a few more losses and fewer wins I think this Swope Park Rangers side will be exciting to watch this 2017 season and look forward to continuing to watch these players grow into the Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, or even the Roger Espinoza of tomorrow.