After a week off, the Swope Park Rangers are back in action tonight at the Swope Soccer Village as they welcome San Antonio FC. The game is the first of two back-to-back games between the teams with SPR heading down to Texas next weekend. San Antonio is sitting in first place in the USL West on 26 points with an 8-0-2 record through 10 games. Swope Park, after a week off still sit in a playoff spot, currently seventh with a 4-3-0 record.
The Rangers will play their second game in a row without Erik Palmer-Brown who is away with the US U20 team at the World Cup. Their last time out against Rio Grande Valley, head coach Nikola Popovic started Liam Doyle next to Amer Didic at center back. Given their performance together on the road, giving them a home game, where the Rangers are 4-0 this season seems likely. The rest of the back line and goalkeeper staying the same with Colton Storm and Tyler Pasher on the wings with Andrew Dykstra in goal seems likely as Sporting aren't coming off a mid-week game (meaning Pasher shouldn't be needed to start) but have a game tomorrow in Colorado (meaning Adrian Zengejas is unlikely to be available for SPR).
In the midfield, James Musa and Christian Duke seem likely to take their traditional roles there with the only question being if Popovic decides to play Oliveira in midfield or as a forward tonight. It could just be a simple rotation of him and Lebo Moloto to who plays the center forward position. The forward line could potentially see last year's leading scorer, Mark Anthony Gonzalez return to the starting 11 after he made his return as a substitute against Rio Grande Valley. Making way could be former Sporting KC academy player Nansel Selbol who has started the last two games.
The visitors tonight come in as the only unbeaten team left in the USL this season and are two points ahead of second place Real Monarchs SLC in the USL West. San Antonio also sits 14 points ahead of the Rangers, although San Antonio has played three more games than their opponents. One name on San Antonio's roster that will be very familiar to Rangers' fans is Kris Tyrpak, who signed with San Antonio in the offseason after scoring seven goals in 28 appearances for the Rangers last season.
San Antonio has allowed the fewest goals in the league so far this season, with just four goals conceded as goalkeepers Diego Restrepo and Matt Cardone have combined for a total of seven shutouts in SAFC's 10 games, including the last four games. San Antonio has not allowed a goal since an April 25th match up against Seattle Sounders FC 2. It's a stretch that has now reached 375 minutes without a goal for the Texas club.
Up front San Antonio is led by the USL's third leading scorer, Billy Forbes who has scored six of San Antonio's 20 goals so far this season. Forbes also isn't selfish as he's also tied for the lead in assists with three along with Cesar Elizondo. This game will be the toughest test to the Rangers' nine game home winning streak across all competitions so far.
This isn't going to be an easy game for the Rangers against a very good San Antonio side. After a week off though the Rangers should be well rested and ready for the game. The Rangers have allowed just two goals at home so far this season had have been very organized in defense, and while the Rangers have had troubles on the road this season, they're 4-0-0 so far at Swope Soccer Village. I expect we'll be seeing the regular loaned players get the starts for Swope Park and a tight game for the Rangers. The Rangers will need Oliveira, Moloto, and Kharlton Belmar to step up offensively if they're going to break down a very solid San Antonio defense.
7:30pm at the Swope Soccer Village. Game will be broadcasted on Youtube.