Home Red Black 90 Match Day Six Pointer Preview: Swope Park Rangers at San Antonio FC

Six Pointer Preview: Swope Park Rangers at San Antonio FC

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Match Day 4 will take San Antonio FC back to Toyota Field for their second home match of the season. We caught up with Thad Bell from The Blue Testament (@theBackpost) to get the answers to six questions about SAFC’s next opponent, Swope Park Rangers. In addition to being one of the tougher opponents for SAFC in their young history, Swope has some serious pedigree, representing the USL West in USL Cup two seasons running. They’re off to another hot start this season, including a victory on Wednesday night, so SAFC will have their hands full. Here we go into another edition of the Six-Pointer Preview.

  • 1 – (RB90) Swope has been the crown jewel of the USL West in their first two seasons, and going two for two, winning the Conference in 2016 and 2017. They’ve also won three of their first four matches of 2018. Aren’t you guys tired of all this winning, yet? What’s been the secret to so much of their instant success?

(TB) Wow, Crown Jewel of the West. I am sure Sporting Kansas City would like that description. No, you never get tired of winning or watching good soccer. I think the secret is twofold. First, as a B team for Sporting KC, they are getting good players. Whether it is Academy kids coming up, players from other USL teams or foreign leagues looking for a connection to an MLS team or SKC drafted and signed players on loan, they have some quality players. Second, even though there has been significant turnover each season, Sporting KC has an identity, a style that is played at each level of the organization and it makes it easier to clearly lay out what is expected. Academy kids already know the style, loaned players from the first team know the style, so SPR players just have to be plugged in and learn. Some of Swope Park’s players go to spring training with SKC so they get an early start on learning the system as well.

  • 2 – While Swope is off to another great start, they did stumble in Las Vegas last week, as the Lights came back in the second half to earn the 2-1 victory (shout out to former SAFC man Carlos Alvarez with a goal) – what happened in the Vegas match that caused Swope to take a step back, if only for one week?

I will mark it down as just one of those games. SPR out-possessed, out-shot and out-played the Lights most of the match. Soccer games do not always go to the better team. But credit to Las Vegas also, they are an older and bigger team playing at home and wanting to knock off a top team to establish themselves early. If not for the miscommunication between a keeper and defender that have not played together before resulting in an own-goal, SPR would have at least pulled out the draw on the road. Despite knowing the system, that is one of the challenges of a team that is always in flux with their lineup.


  • 3 – Last week aside, Swope looks flat out ridiculous on offense so far this season, putting in a whopping 10 goals through their first four matches. SAFC is known for being a tough defensive team, especially at Toyota Field. Who has the edge in this matchup?

That is a difficult question. I hate to base a lot off of the first few games of either team but at the moment I would have to call it even. SPR is off to a good start, lots of goals, good ball movement, young guys getting experience is all good. San Antonio has been good as well with the win at home, draw on the road and the one loss at Sacramento in their opener. If I HAD to bet, I would put money on a draw. If I HAVE to pick a winner it would be SPR but I would anticipate losing my money.

  • 4 – Is there any stopping Kharlton Belmar? 4 goals and 2 assists in their first three matches. Projected over an entire season, those are MVP type numbers. And by himself, he has out-scored SAFC so far this season. It’s early, but could this be a special season for him in particular?

I hope it is. He seems like a great guy and has been a tireless worker in practice. He has benefited from the close relationship with the first team. Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes was able to see play a lot last year and when they had chance signed him to an MLS contract. So Belmar is rewarded with the better contract, gets to practice with the first team most of the time but still gets games in instead of sitting on the bench behind better players. When he practices with the first team he is going up against very good MLS defenders in Matt Besler, Ike Opara, Grham Zusi and more. It is like playing a youth player an age group up to see if they can handle it. Belmar has not only handled it has used it to improve and get stronger. I would not be surprised to see him make the 18 for SKC in the near future.

  • 5 – Swope has been a very tough matchup for SAFC through two seasons of play, with San Antonio only earning one victory in six matches over that time. However, Swope has never defeated SAFC at Toyota Field. How do you see this one playing out and what are your big keys for the match?

It will probably be a close game. SPR will try to possess the ball and wear out San Antonio a bit. If SPR can do that, they have the edge as that fits their style. It will be the second game in four days (third in 8) for SPR so there may be some tired legs. If San Antonio makes them chase more it will be a long night for the Rangers. A lot will depend on which players are on loan, who they want to get time to take a look at as well.

  • 6 – Tell us something we should know about Swope Park Rangers.

The Rangers success has led them to not be the favorites of the USL or a lot of fan bases around the league. Other fans tend to hate B teams (even though the influx of B teams gave the USL the critical mass to succeed) because nobody wants their first team losing to a B side. USL hates.. err.. dislikes the Rangers for much the same reason. In 2016 SPR blew through the playoffs, even having a comeback to win while 2 men down. They then met the Red Bulls II for the final where they lost.

Last year when it looked like they might do the same thing, the USL decided to award a home game to Sacramento after claiming there were challenges at Swope Park. The actual challenges were a tremendous downpour and heavy, heavy lightning. The field drained well and was playable if the electrical show would have stopped before 1 AM. The Rangers beat Phoenix the next day on a perfectly dry field and on Monday USL announces the next game at the lower Sacramento team. After much angst and no explanation of what the “challenges” were, SPR was forced to play at SKC’s Children’s Mercy Park despite not having the fan base to justify opening the stadium.

This year, USL would not grant a waiver to play in Swope Park because there are not 5,000 seats for the 500 fans that show up so they have been forced to move to a high school stadium. They now have to play on turf, with football lines, no beer for fans, no tailgating (with alcohol) and a few other factors instead of playing in the area they are named for on a beautiful grass field.

Another interesting note, the starting midfield this year has been comprised of two Sporting KC Academy kids, Felippe Hernandez and Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal. Both of them are just 19 and looking good. I would bet at least one of them earns a contract with SKC before next year. There is a good chance that they will be joined later in the year by 15-year-old SKC HomeGrown player Gianluca Busio. He is the youngest MLS player since Freddy Adu. When Sporting KC was in spring training and scrimmaging other teams, those three formed the midfield of one squad and performed well. So later in the year, we could see a 15-year-old and two 19-year-olds as the SPR midfield.

One bit more on Kuzain (proper way to refer to him). He is known as the Malaysian Messi back in Malaysia. Youtube highlights of him draw thousands, millions of views in Malaysia. The kid is really good for his age but there is only one Messi.

Current Form (W-D-L)

San Antonio FC – L W D, 2018 Home Record 1-0-0
Swope Park – W W L W, 2018 Road Record 1-0-1

Table Position

San Antonio FC – 4 points, GF 3, GA 3, 0 GD, 9TH in USL West
Swope Park – 9 points, GF 10, GA 7, +3 GD, 1st in USL West

All-Time History (W-D-L)

San Antonio FC has had a rough go against Swope Park Rangers, winning only once in 6 games. While their all-time record stands at 1-2-3, they have been much better against them at home, going 0-2-0 vs Swope at Toyota Field.

Last Time

It was one to forget for SAFC last September as Swope Park absolutely eviscerated SAFC, winning 5-2. It was the final match of a 4-game road trip for SAFC and it showed, in what was easily one of the worst defeats in SAFC’s history. Billy Forbes had a goal and an assist for SAFC and Omar Gordon scored the other. Connor Presley tallied his first assist in an SAFC uniform. Nathan Selbol had a brace for Swope, including a PK goal in the 11th minute.

Match Highlights

The Matchup (W-D-L)

Swope Park Rangers (3-0-1) at San Antonio FC (1-1-1) #SAvSPR
Toyota Field
Kickoff 7:30 pm Central Time
Where to Watch: USL Match Center, www.sanantoniofc.com
Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com

Key to victory

San Antonio FC faces a tall task playing a team in Swope Park that has had SAFC’s number through two seasons of matchups. The good news is the San Antonio defense has gotten better each week this season. With the combination of so many new faces and a couple key injuries, it hasn’t been very surprising to see the new look D need a couple games to get their feet under them, but they appear to be coming around, posting their first shutout of the season in LA last week. They will have their hands full against one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Kharlton Belmar, Rodrigo Saravia, and Hadji Barry lead the way for a very capable Swope offense. It might be a matter of SAFC doing enough to slow them down, rather than stopping them entirely.

The bottom line for SAFC, the offense needs to be better. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. It seems to be a frequent talking point for SAFC in their young history. Adding insult to injury, SAFC will be without leading scorer Mikey Lopez who is suspended after he picked up two yellow cards in LA, and was sent off. There couldn’t be a better week for Guzman to break open his scoring account than this one. And no doubt he’ll be feeling the need to prove a little something after having such a hot pre-season followed by three scoreless games to start the regular season – culminated in a PK attempt that was well saved by Wade Hamilton last week. We’d love to see Escalante get his first SAFC start and we’d love to see good minutes from Alex Bruce as well. And Tyrpak will no doubt want to have a repeat performance of the Toyota Field opener where he put up a goal and an assist.

If there’s any advantage for San Antonio this week, it is definitely that Swope had a midweek match while San Antonio was at home resting and waiting. Swope Park has won the USL West both of their seasons in USL and, despite a loss in Vegas last week, they bounced right back on Wednesday night with a victory, and they have the look of a team that could get a three-peat here in the early going of 2018. That combined with SAFC’s offensive struggles and their poor all-time history against Swope – we’re playing the odds this week and predicting a victory for the visitors. Until we see some consistent offensive potency from SAFC it’s hard to predict them putting up more than one goal. It’s up to the men in black to prove us wrong on Saturday night.

Prediction

San Antonio FC – 1
Swope Park Rangers – 2

SAFC “Did You Know?”

SAFC tied for their fewest shots on goal in a road match vs Swope Park on July 30, 2016. They finished the match with only 1 shot on goal.

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Stephen Michael 26, is a journalist, social media coordinator, host, and entertainment reporter. Michael graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts and earned a Master's Degree in Digital Media in 2020 from the University of the Incarnate Word. He has worked covering the San Antonio Rampage, Stars, and San Antonio Futbol Club. He was the host of the Project Spurs Roundtable on NBC affiliate News 4 San Antonio from 2015-17.

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