The Swope Park Rangers get three points on the road tonight against a Tulsa Roughnecks side that has been very hit or miss this season. SPR toughed out a 2-1 win on the road to move up into third place on the road. SPR was missing a few key pieces tonight do to U.S. Open Cup call-ups, but they were also loaned a few first team players to combat those missing pieces.
The first half was a bit rough for both sides, but especially for SPR. One key change to the SPR line-up was Dakota Barnathan getting the start at defensive mid with James Musa serving a one game suspension for picking up his fifth yellow of the season against the Colorado Switchbacks. I thought Barnathan played well defensively, left a bit to be desired when on the ball, but over all a descent performance.
A second key change was the addition came in the form of a true #9 in Diego Rubio. SPR have played a bit with a false nine this season, but seemed to play considerably better with a true striker up top. It didn’t take long for Rubio to make a difference either, when in the 27th minute Rubio pounced on a ball that the Roughnecks keeper failed to claim giving the Rangers the 1-0 advantage.
The Roughnecks best chance of the first half came in the 32nd minute when after some quick one touch passing, and a great touch, the Roughnecks Joey Callistri found himself in on goal. Adrian Zendejas came up huge for SPR saving the shot attempt to keep the game 1-0 at the half.
Captain Christian Duke had a chance early on in the second to extend the lead when Duke poked the ball away from the Roughnecks defense but failed to convert one-on-one against Roughnecks keeper Fabian Cerda.
Two substitutions were made early on in the second to bring on Mark Anthony Gonzalez and Cameron Iwasa who made instant impacts by scoring just minutes after coming on. The Roughnecks had a bit of miscommunication between the keeper and the backline and Iwasa pounced on the loose ball. Iwasa found himself in on goal but unselfishly slotted in Mark Anthony Gonzalez to place the ball in the back of the net giving the Rangers the 2-0 lead.
The Roughnecks got a bit of luck in the 69th minute. The Roughnecks served in a dangerous ball from the corner, but the Rangers were only able to clear the ball as far as Collin Fernandez. Fernandez had plenty of time and space to take a touch and unleashed a shot that took a deflection off of Christian Duke to loop past Zendejas cutting the Rangers lead in half.
Fortunately after that SPR did an excellent job to close out the game. In the final minutes of the game there was no nonsense defending from all eleven players and I thought the substitute from Coach Popovic to bring on Amer Didic in the middle of the park was an excellent move.
With this 2-1 win SPR move up to third place with a game in hand on Sacramento. I thought the biggest takeaway from the game had to be how well Adrian Zendejas played. He did an excellent job of commanding his box late on to make it easy for his backline, and had a couple huge saves to keep SPR ahead in the match.
Swope Park Rangers will look next to extend their unbeaten streak to six while on the road against LA Galaxy II on Friday.