The Swope Park Rangers continue their Cinderella story as they play in their third straight playoffs after just three years in the league. They upset the #2 seeded Sacramento Republic last week and they’ll need to pull another upset against #3 Phoenix Rising if they want to keep advancing. Last year, as the higher seed, SPR eliminated PRFC on a penalty kick shootout in the playoffs.
The first opportunity of the game wouldn’t come for either team until the 8th minute. Hadji Barry streaked up the sideline only to eventually hit the shot wide of goal and out of bounds. Just two minutes later Barry was running again but his through ball to Tyler Blackwood was a bit too long and Woszczynksi scooped it up.
In the 13th minute Eric Dick had an absolutely atrocious giveaway right at the top of the 18 yard box to Didier Drogba who somehow just hit it easily into Dick’s hands. Another glorious chance for Phoenix came in the end of the 20th minute when Ahkmatov fouled Asante to setup a free kick. Drogba delivered a great free kick and Jason Johnson got a free header but flicked it right into Dick’s arms to keep it 0-0.
In the 22nd minute Phoenix broke through. Johnson nutmegged Storm and the entire SPR defense froze as Johnson drilled it into the bottom corner to put Phoenix up 1-0. To keep going Swope would have to do what they did a week ago and come back from being down a goal.
And just like that Swope Park Rangers responded. The ball gets sent into the corner and Kharlton Belmar chases it in and whips a cross through the box that the PRFC defense can’t handle and it bounces off former Sporting Kansas City player Saad Abdul-Salaam and Tyler Blackwood poaches it and puts it in the back of the net to level it at one each.
After that, things got chippy. Drogba came in very late on a challenge and caught Ahkmatov with his studs and earned the games first yellow card.
It seemed to get Swope fired up as Belmar again tore into the box, beat another former SKC man Amadou Dia and blasted a shot off Woz who made the save but Storm brought the ball back in to Belmar, who clipped a cross to Barry who does what he does and drives it home to make it 2-1 SPR. Very reminiscent of last week.
Until the 36th minute when Phoenix picked up the pace and passed it all over the place until eventually finding Drogba in the box who sent a lofted cross through the box to the waiting foot of Chris Cortez who volleyed it home from close range to even the score.
In the 39th minute Dia weaved his way passed Storm and went down in the box but the ref, who has given a lot of PKs this year, wasn’t having it and waived for a corner which nothing came of. It would go into the half even at two.
In the 48th minute SPR’s luck looked like it might run out. Smith had a pass to Ahkmatov that he mishandled, then a pass went off the back of Smith where Lambert found it in the box before the shot was blocked partially into the air, off the post and into the net to give Phoenix the lead 3-2.
From there, Phoenix and SPR swapped chances but nothing would come of it. In the dying minutes of stoppage time, with Swope pushing forward hard a hard tackle from Phoenix led to a turnover and Solomon Asante sprinted forward and skipped a ball through the box to a waiting Drogba to put the game away 4-2.
With the loss Swope Park were eliminated from the playoffs and Phoenix will await the winner of Orange County and Reno 1868.