Photo courtesy Nick Tre. Smith / Swope Park Rangers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The No. 4-seed Swope Park Rangers will face a second consecutive Southern California squad with a clash against No. 8 seed Orange County Blues FC in the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs on Sunday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Victory Field. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. CT.
Swope Park Rangers news and notes
2016 USL Cup Playoffs So Far
Western Conference Quarterfinals: W 3-0 vs. LA Galaxy II
The Rangers pulled away for victory in their first postseason contest as goals by Kris Tyrpak and Mark Anthony Gonalez twice saw the side defeat the defending Western Conference champion Galaxy II.
Swope Park emerged as the highest remaining seed in the Western Conference after Sacramento, Rio Grande Valley and Colorado Springs all suffered defeats in the Conference Quarterfinals.
The Rangers have taken victory in seven of their past eight games, and in five consecutive contests. The side has also come alive offensively, having scored three goals in four of their past five victories.
Swope Park finished the regular season with 164 shots on goal, an average of 5.5 per game, which was the third-highest total in the USL.
Orange County Blues FC news and notes
2016 USL Cup Playoffs So Far
Western Conference Quarterfinals: W 0-0 (5-4) at Sacramento Republic FC
The No. 8-seed Blues scored the biggest upset in the Conference Quarterfinals as they defeated Republic FC 5-4 in a penalty shootout after the teams had played to a scoreless draw through regulation and overtime.
All five Blues players converted from the spot in the shootout, the decisive goal being scored by Didier Crettenand, as goalkeeper Josh Cohen saved from Sacramento’s J.J. Koval in the third round to give his side the edge.
The victory was Orange County’s first in the USL Cup Playoffs. The Blues had previously been eliminated in their opening game by the Harrisburg City Islanders (2011), Charleston Battery (2013) and LA Galaxy II (2015).
Orange County’s victory was only the second by a No. 8-seed over a No. 1-seed in USL Cup Playoffs history. The first was by the Harrisburg City Islanders in 2014, who went on to reach the USL Cup Final.
Swope Park Rangers – M Ualefi: The 22-year-old Brazilian picked up his fifth assist of the season in the Rangers’ victory against the Galaxy II, and will be looked at to come up big in a crucial midfield battle against the experienced Blues’ duo of Ivan Mirkovic and Richard Chaplow. Ualefi finished the regular season with the second-most minutes played in the squad, trailing only captain Christian Duke, and has been integral to the Rangers’ successful run into the postseason.
Orange County Blues FC – F Akwafei Ajeakwa: The Blues will be without leading goalscorer Trevin Caesar this weekend due to international duty with Trinidad & Tobago, which means the responsibility to lead the attack could fall to Ajeakwa. The 24-year-old had a positive performance against Republic FC, and has the speed to stretch the Rangers’ attack if he can get in behind, but will need to be sharper in front of goal with only one goal and two assists in the regular season.
2016 Team leaders
Goals: Swope Park – Mark Anthony Gonzalez, 11; Orange County – Trevin Caesar, 10
Assists: Swope Park – Ayrton, 7; Orange County – Mats Bjurman, Roy Meeus, 4
The Rangers took a 3-0 win at Children’s Mercy Field on July 23 in the only regular-season meeting between the teams, as Dane Kelly struck just before halftime to give the hosts the lead, and a pair of assists by Ayrton on goals by Mark Anthony Gonzalez and Jonathan Grant wrapped up the victory.
REF: Nima Saghafi
AR1: Kyle Atkins
AR2: Kyle Armstrong
4TH: Joseph Macht
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