The Swope Park Rangers return to action today to face Sacramento Republic FC at 7 PM CT at Swope Soccer Village. It will be a bit of a clash of champions. Sacramento was the regular season champions for the USL Western Conference but Swope Park won the Western Conference in the playoffs.
For the Rangers, they have had some rest with two and a half weeks off since their victory over Portland. That time off has allowed the Rangers to get fully healthy. Robert Mirosavic and Kevin Oliveira have both been cleared to play.
Mirosavic, a talented Swedish forward was injured in preseason and will be available for this match and could see time in his first match for the Rangers.
Oliveira had a season-ending knee injury last year but the Cape Verdean midfielder has also been cleared to play and head coach Nikola Popovic relayed that he would be available for the 18 as well.
Sporting Kansas City defenders Erik Palmer-Brown, Tyler Pasher and Colton Storm were already on loan to Swope Park but they have now been joined by goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra and forward Cameron Iwasa. The pair was officially loaned on Friday but have been practicing with the Rangers already.
A tough test
Sacramento started the season with three straight wins but come to Swope Park after a stinging loss in OKC on Tuesday. The Rangers have won their first two matches (both at home also) and will look to make it three in a row.
“Sacramento, they are one of the best teams in the league, not the conference but of the league,” Popovic observed. “Like last year this is a very, very strong team. They have shown up to now that they are one of the big challengers for the title this year. It is going to be a very difficult game for us.”
The previous meeting between the two teams was last May in Sacramento and it ended in a 1-1 draw. Kevin Oliveira kicked off the scoring and Cameron Iwasa notched the equalizer for Sacramento.
Iwasa is looking forward to getting back on the field and to face his old team. “I am excited to get a game first of all since I hurt my hamstring in preseason it will be my first competitive game since then,” Iwasa stated. “Very excited to get back on the field and it is an added bonus to get to see the old boys from last year.”
“They look a little different; they are playing a 4-4-2 this year where last year I was playing up top as the lone striker,” Iwasa explained. “Definitely some different looks but the overall concepts are the same, they like to play out of the back, they like to keep the ball. It should be a good matchup for us.”