The 2018 USL season kicked off on Saturday for the Swope Park Rangers and they were on the road for their opener. They traveled to Nevada to take on Reno 1868 and ended up playing a game in a snow storm.
The B Team was full of first team guys who don’t get first team minutes with the exception of one surprise, Diego Rubio. In the offseason many thought Rubio would be the starting center forward for Sporting Kansas City but for two straight weeks (including a preseason game) Rubio has gone on loan to the Rangers.
He was joined at SPR by Amer Didic, Graham Smith, Colton Storm, Adrian Zendejas, Kharlton Belmar and Matt Lewis. That’s seven first teamers getting minutes with the second team. Missing from the lineup was 15-year-old Gianluca Busio who picked up an eye injury of some sort. Jaylin Lindsey was also with the first team on the bench backing up Graham Zusi.
The first half didn’t go Swope’s way with Reno 1868’s Chris Wehan scoring against the run of play in the 23rd minute. But the real story for Sporting KC fans watching their second team was Diego Rubio’s lack of finishing. He had two golden opportunities that he couldn’t even put on goal.
Another story line that developed from the first half was Amer Didic picking up an ankle injury and being forced to leave the game. In addition to the snow, the pitch was just awful (as you can see below). Didic picked up his injury just planting on the dirt infield of a baseball field that’s in the middle of the soccer pitch.
The second half was a completely different game than the first. Reno started leading 1-0 but that changed quickly. In the 51st minute, Belmar found Rubio (after all that first half hate I gave him) who opened up the Rangers scoring for 2018. And look at that pass from Belmar.
In the 57th minute the Rangers took their first lead as Hadji Barry (formerly of Orlando City SC) found Belmar wide open on the right to slot it through the keepers legs.
Just three minutes later though, Brian Brown equalized for Reno. After that it the back and forth thriller continued. Barry would get a goal of his own as Belmar assisted him getting in deep on goal to score in the 83rd minute.
In what appeared to be a back breaker, Matt Lewis, the SKC Homegrown who replaced an injured Didic, put the ball in his own net in the 89th minute to level the game at three each.
All the back-and-forth action continued until the very end when Swope Park would find yet another goal, Barry to Belmar again, to win it in the 92nd minute.
The shame of the whole thing is that the end of this game happened during the beginning of Sporting KC versus San Jose, so it’s unlikely many fans saw it live (I was watching both at the same time). Kharlton Belmar ended the day with two goals and two assists and showed he may be the SKC player most in need of first team minutes.
For a higher resolution look at those goals watch the highlights below.
Or you can watch the whole thing.
Swope Park will make their home debut against Seattle Sounders 2 next Saturday at Shawnee Mission South. Whether you agree or disagree with the team playing in a high school football stadium, go support the club. They had to get on a field with 5,000 seats to meet Second Division requirements and unfortunately Swope Soccer Village didn’t meet that requirement.