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Rangers ready for I-70 showdown

Without a win in the last eight meetings against St. Louis, this win could catapult SPR as high as 16 in the Eastern Conference.

Thad Bell

Swope Park Rangers vs St. Louis FC


When: Sunday, June 30, 4:00 PM CT

Where: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas

How to Watch: ESPN+ ($4.99/ or 49.99 annually)

The Swope Park Rangers will play host to St. Louis FC, who enter the match unbeaten against SPR in their last eight meetings.

St. Louis is managed by Anthony Pulis, who is in his second season in that role. STL is led by Sam Fink and Russell Cicerone, who have combined for a total of seven goals this season. Benedictine College graduate and former Vancouver Whitecap, Kyle Greig, has contributed to three goals. The focus for most St. Louis fans will be on the sudden retirement of midfielder Austin Martz, who will retire after Sunday’s match. Martz scores the first goal for St. Louis in their first ever win over an MLS opponent, the Chicago Fire, by scoring after 17 minutes in their 2-1 win in the U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round.

St. Louis enters Sunday’s match in tenth place with a 5-5-3 record in the Eastern Conference of the USL Championship, which is the last playoff spot. They are coming off a draw against North Carolina FC last weekend, in which Sam Fink converted a penalty in stoppage time to get a late point. Along with New Mexico United, St. Louis FC is the only remaining non-MLS teams in the Open Cup, they will travel for their quarterfinal round against Atlanta United on July 10.

The 1-6-8 Rangers enter the match last in the Eastern Conference, but with some promising play from inexperienced players. SPR is coming from a big draw on the road against the Charleston Battery after Felipe Hernandez notched his team-leading sixth goal of the season.

Paulo Nagamura’s side will be without Sporting Kansas City’s Adrian Zendejas for Sunday’s match after he received red card after two yellow cards for his protest in the final seconds of last week’s draw. SPR will also be without goalkeeper Eric Dick, who was loaned to the Tulsa Roughnecks this weekend.

These two sides met on April 27 in St. Louis, which ended in a 3-1 win for St. Louis after Kyle Greig snatched the winner in the 84th minute.

Predicted XI:

Without Dick and Zendejas, it should be pretty clear that John Pulskamp will get the start. Alexander, Camden Riley, Kaveh Rad, and Mark Segbers will be the back four with Ayyoub Allach replacing Wan Kuzain, who was with Sporting KC in Utah, with Rassambek Akhmatov and Felipe Hernandez in the midfield. With Wilson Harris getting the start last game, the rotation will continue with Ethan Vanacore-Decker getting the start up front with Jerome Ngom Mbekeli and Ayyoub Allach on the wings.

SPR have been able to get draws at home, but it’s time that those turn into wins. Whether they make make a playoff push or not, part of developing talent is grinding out wins, which hasn’t happen hardly at all this season. SPR clearly has the talent to beat some of these teams that they are drawing, and I think the next stage of growth is to get wins against lesser teams. If SPR can avoid going down early, they should be able to get a result, of not a win.

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