San Antonio FC (8-0-2) and Swope Park Rangers (4-3-0) will square off Friday night at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Missouri. The match is the first of a home-and-home series between the clubs, with the sides meeting again on June 3 in San Antonio.
SAFC is still undefeated in 2017, having not lost in their first 10 USL matches or the second round of the US Open Cup. Regardless of how the offense performs game to game, SAFC’s league-best defense has been the foundation for success so far.
Swope Park could provide the biggest test to that solidity so far this season though. They’ve only been held scoreless in one of their six matches in 2017 (albeit in their most recent match, against Rio Grande Valley FC) and have a nine-match winning streak at home dating back to September 2016.
Swope also had a much clearer schedule leading up to Friday’s match, not playing in almost two weeks, whereas SAFC has had one United Soccer League and Open Cup match apiece in that time. Swope has likely studied SAFC intently, devised a plan to cope and practiced said plan repeatedly. If there’s one thing Swope doesn’t have in their favor, it’s the absence of center back Erik Palmer-Brown, who started five matches before leaving to captain the United States in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea.
With so much swinging in Swope Park’s favor, SAFC will have a tough time in this match, but snapping Swope’s winning streak at home – perhaps even doing so with a win themselves, as unlikely as it may be – would be impressive and perhaps rejuvenate an SAFC team which has looked less confident and dominant in recent weeks after starting the season on such a tear.
Game Eleven. Kansas City. MO. 5/26/2017. Kickoff: 7:30 CDT
How to Watch: USL Match Center, SanAntonioFC.com
Keys for SAFC: Swope Park has been known to break teams down with possession so far in 2017, tiring opponents as well as pulling them out of shape and taking advantage of the openings. For this reason, it’s important SAFC is organized and disciplined defensively, perhaps even more than they already have been this season. SAFC’s team-wide commitment to organized defending will be put to the test.
Player to Watch: SAFC has looked best when on the short side of possession so far this season and it may be hard for Swope Park to change their style. The likes of wingers Billy Forbes and Kris Tyrpak could wreak havoc on the counter once again, and perhaps it’s Tyrpak’s turn to be the primary devastator, especially against the team he was so important to and got so far with last season.
“They’re going to be a dogfight,” Tyrpak said. “I know a lot of the players on their team – they’re gritty players, they’re not afraid to do the work (but) we have a lot of guys on our team that are the exact same, so it could go either way.”
Pitch Black News Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Restrepo; Newnam, Ibeagha, McCarthy, Cochrane; Reed, Pecka; Tyrpak, Castillo, Forbes; Ajeakwa
Kyle Mahnke: SPR 2-1 SAFC
Jonathan Check: SPR 1-1 SAFC
Jose Mario Jimenez: SPR 3-0 SAFC
Aaron Marvel: SPR 1-1 SAFC
Jesus Miguel Garcia: SPR 1-1 SAFC