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Swope Park Rangers prepare for toughest battle yet

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The unbeaten Tampa Bay Rowdies are led by former Philadelphia Union goalkeeper John McCarthy.

Thad Bell

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Swope Park Rangers

(#TBRvSPR)

When: Saturday, May 25, 2019 at 6:30 PM CT

Where: Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, Florida

How to Watch: ESPN+ ($5.99/month)

The Swope Park Rangers (Sporting Kansas City’s USL club) will have there toughest test yet against the best team in the league, the unbeaten Tampa Bay Rowdies. This will be the first ever meeting between these two teams.

The Rowdies are managed by former Sheffield United defender Neil Collins, who is in his second season as head coach. The Rowdies are led in scoring by captain Sebastián Guenzatti with five goals, but Juan Tejada has scored four goals in just six starts. The Rowdies have won three straight and are undefeated on the season.

Tampa Bay will be without Dom Oduro (no, not the former Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, and Montreal Impact forward) and Pape Diakite as they serve a one game suspension after Oduro was shown a red card in there win over New York Red Bulls II and Diakite’s yellow was upgraded to a red.

The Rowdies are coming off a 2-0 win over New York Red Bulls II, with a brace from Juan Tejada. The Swope Park Rangers are coming from a midweek 2-2 draw against Memphis 901 FC behind a first professional goal from Camden Riley (2019 second round pick of Sporting KC) and first Swope Park Rangers goal for Mark Segbers (formerly of the New England Revolution).

The Swope Park Rangers will look to continue to build their confidence led by Felipe Hernandez’s four goals out of the midfield this season. I would expect John Pulskamp to return in goal Saturday night. SPR have won just one game, but they’ve been playing some really good soccer three of the last four games, where they are 1-2-1. I would also expect another lineup much different than Wednesday’s draw with Memphis.

Tampa Bay has taken 23 points away from 11 games this season and leads the league despite not having an extraordinary goalscorer. Much of their success has come from their staunch defense, led by former Philadelphia Union goalkeeper John McCarthy, who has just conceded four goals all season.

Here is my predicted XI:

Swope Park Rangers Predicted XI

Starting from the back, John Pulskamp will replace Eric Dick in goal. Alexander and Mark Segbers will retain their spots as fullbacks, but depending on if Peter Vermes decides to dress Smith for Sunday’s SKC game, I think Smith will be with SPR this weekend and Kaveh Rad will get his third consecutive starts. Camden Riley will play the #6 role that has been another struggle for SPR, with Felipe Hernandez and Rassambek Akhmatov assisting in the midfield. Wilson Harris and Jerome Mbekeli will start on the wings with Ethan Vanacore-Decker up front. Vanacore-Decker will have to be an outlet and will have to be able to hold up the ball, as he did Wednesday against Memphis.

A draw would most definitely be a good result for SPR this weekend. It will be interesting how this young group of Rangers go out against an experienced Tampa Bay Rowdies.

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