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Eight Quick Thoughts from SPR’s Loss to St. Louis

Plus highlights and the complete match video.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Six games into the 2019 season and the Swope Park Rangers are still without a win. St. Louis FC are a good team and they move into first place in the Eastern Conference with the 3-1 win. The Rangers still sit one spot up from the bottom on just two points through six games. Let’s get right to it.

The Rangers are Really Young

It was said numerous times throughout the broadcast but the average age of the SPR players is just 21 years old. And it showed. In the prior three years SPR has been a mix of youth, Sporting Kansas City loanees and USL veterans. They essentially have no USL veterans anymore and it is likely the difference in their ability to compete week in and week out. The team is designed to develop young players, but losing a lot is tough to watch and could be hard on the young players to deal with.

The Offense is Struggling

SPR are really struggling to put quality chances on goal. In the game against St. Louis they had 15 shots, but only two were on target. None of the forwards, Wilson Harris, Jerome Ngom Mbekeli, Will Little, Sean Karani or Killian Colombie looked dangerous tonight.

The lone goal came from the left back Alexsander. He would honestly probably be the starting left winger right now if Justin Bilyeu wasn’t injured and forced into early retirement. Tyler Freeman hasn’t had a chance to do much because he was with the SKC Academy U-17’s at the Generation adidas Cup and now he’s with the United States U-17’s for the CONCACAF Championship. It’ll be nice to see what he brings when he returns.

The Defense is Struggling

The team has now allowed 15 goals in six games. There have been three keepers and only Eric Dick has managed a shutout (last time out against the Birmingham Legion). Alexsander is playing left back but he’s more offensive than defensive. Mark Segbers (formerly of the New England Revolution) hasn’t looked great at right back. Graham Smith and Camden Riley appear to be improving at center back, but the scoreline isn’t reflecting that.

Injuries are Mounting

In addition to Bilyeu, the Rangers are also missing winger Camilo Benitez (left hip), CF Ethan Vanacore-Decker (left knee) and GK Brooks Thompson (back). It doesn’t match the awful injuries Sporting KC are dealing with, but that’s impacting the Rangers too. Because of SKC’s injuries, players aren’t being loaned down at as high of a rate. For example, Gedion Zelalem was at the end of the SKC bench instead of potentially starting for SPR. The new injury to Gerso will just make that all a lot worse.

Kuzain is Out of Position

Speaking of Zelalem, because he’s not around Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal has been playing out of position at one of the more advanced midfield spots for the last two games. The reason likely is because Ayyoub Allach has been starting (and doing pretty well) in Kuzain’s preferred holding midfield spot. Kuzain looks a bit lost further up the field as his passes are too often out wide or backwards instead of more attacking in nature.

Akhmatov’s Back (Again)

Felipe Hernandez, the only natural #8 on the field was subbed off for Rassambek Akhmatov’s second appearance of 2019, though he wasn’t on long enough to make an impact. He’s played just nine minutes in two games with his last appearance coming in the 93rd minute (so at least this game he had a couple minutes on the pitch). Felipe didn’t have his best game, but he at least plays with high energy and disrupts the game. The substitution struck me as the wrong one.

Where are the Blue Kits?

I know I said this before, but what’s up with the all white kits? Six games. All white every time. Zero victories. Bring back the blue kits (or debut the 2019 blue kits). The white ones must be cursed or something.

Full Highlights or Full Match

Below are the highlights, but if you are real glutton for punishment you can watch the whole match on ESPN+.

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