The Swope Park Rangers made their first trip to a new opponent on Saturday to take on North Carolina FC. Along for the trip were five members of the Sporting Kansas City roster. Getting the start were Graham Smith, Eric Dick, Gianluca Busio and Wan Kuzain. On the bench was SKC rookie Tyler Freeman.
One surprise in the lineup is that Ayyoub Allach lined up on the wing for the second straight game. He is naturally a defensive midfielder but with Kuzain back, apparently Paulo Nagamura wants to keep him on the field.
NCFC entered the day in 6th place in the Eastern Conference while SPR were all the way in last place at 18th spot. North Carolina had just played midweek in a US Open Cup loss to New York City FC but they still put out a strong lineup.
The Rangers got off to a terrible start as an early giveaway off a poor Killian Colombie pass led to a turnover that sprung a NCFC counter to make it 1-0. The goal was scored by Yamikani Chester who had himself quite the game. The pass was intended for Kuzain but he looked up to check the positioning around him and Colombie put the ball behind him and he couldn’t get to it before the NC striker.
It got worse from there as another SPR giveaway would make the score 2-0. Immediately after Swope forced a turnover Camden Riley’s pass that was intended for Felipe Hernandez was intercepted. Then the defense gave up too much space and Andre Fortune bounced a shot into the bottom corner.
From there, Swope really took over for the rest of the first half and had a few half chances. Busio had the two biggest moments for SPR. First he was taken down in the box. Busio was livid after the foul wasn’t called. No replay was shown despite the announcers saying it would be but we’ve gone back and snagged it from the broadcast. It’s a pretty far away camera angle. You be the judge.
The other good opportunity came from a Felipe Hernandez cross that Busio headed just wide on what would have been a sure goal.
The second half was pretty wild as both teams had plenty of chances. Eric Dick came up huge with multiple big saves to keep the Rangers in the game. Graham Smith also cleared a ball off the line that was destined for the back of the net.
Swope was very dangerous on set pieces and nearly got a couple goals from them. First on a free kick in the 84th minute Alex found Smith who got an open header but the ball went just wide of the post. Then in the 86th minute SPR did a short corner from Busio to Alex who delivered a ball in that Wilson Harris (who subbed on for Vanacore-Decker) got a head to but it deflected off the crossbar.
Ultimately, despite five minutes of stoppage time, Swope Park couldn’t make things happen. They only managed five shots in the game and not a single one was on target (compared to nine of 12 being on target for NCFC). SPR did use all three of their subs as they brought on Mbekeli for Colombie, Freeman for Kuzain (Allach moved back to d-mid) and Harris for Vanacore-Decker, but none of them could find the net either.
The Rangers will be back in action next Saturday, June 22nd when they face the Charleston Battery for the first time in club history. The Rangers remain in last place with a 1-8-5 record. Full highlights of the defeat are below.