Photo courtesy Gary Rohman / Swope Park Rangers
1. The Swope Park Rangers gave their chances of a third consecutive trip to the USL Cup Playoffs a major boost as Hadji Barry’s goal earned a 1-0 victory against OKC Energy FC at Children’s Mercy Park to continue the club’s recent uptick in form. A third consecutive win – and this one against an Energy FC side that was rising a four-game winning streak and looking to close the gap on SPR and the playoff positions – meant the Rangers are now sitting comfortably in the top six in the Western Conference and have far fewer concerns than they did midway through August.
2. Penn FC took time to warm up to the contest but after going behind early rallied for another crucial victory in its pursuit of a late run to the USL Cup Playoffs after a 3-1 victory against Bethlehem Steel FC at Goodman Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Back-to-back road victories against fellow playoff contenders have put Penn in position to take maximum advantage of its nine-game homestand to close the season as it took a second victory against Steel FC this season in the process.
3. Orange County rallied to take a 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders FC 2 on the road at Cheney Stadium, but with the chances the visitors had late to take all three points they would likely feel they missed an opportunity to keep the pressure on Real Monarchs SLC at the top of the Western Conference. The Monarchs now have a two-point cushion on Orange County with two games in hand going to Monday night’s clash with San Antonio FC, making it feel like the race for top spot in the conference is now going to come down to Real and Phoenix Rising FC unless OCSC can mount one final burst in its final six games.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The Swope Park Rangers brought OKC Energy FC’s four-game winning streak to an end with a 1-0 victory at Children’s Mercy Park. Energy FC almost struck in just the second minute as Christian Volesky curled a shot just wide of the top-right corner, while Swope Park also had an early chance that saw Hadji Barry denied by a good low save by OKC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi. The Rangers then threatened twice from distance as Amer Didic clipped the top of the crossbar with a strike and Bryam Rebellon had his effort parried away by Laurenti as it headed toward the left corner. Volesky threatened again in the 19th minute but just flashed his shot wide of the left post, and seven minutes later Barry gave the Rangers the lead with a low finish to the right corner from the left side of the penalty area with a precise left-footed finish. Energy FC turned up the pressure in the second half and Adam Jahn sent a finish wide of the left post in the 48th minute. The visitors almost found their opportunity to equalize with 16 minutes to go as Marco Bustos released Alex Dixon in behind the defense, but SPR goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas got a hand to the ball as Dixon tried to go around him, doing enough to force Dixon wide and unable to finish into the open net. Jahn again went close for the visitors with a flicked header in the 80th minute that Zendejas tipped over the crossbar, but the Rangers held on to take all three points and run their winning streak to three games.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Hadji Barry, Swope Park Rangers – Barry scored the game-winning goal and recorded four key passes to lead the Rangers’ attacking line with a stellar all-around display.
TACOMA, Wash. – Seattle Sounders FC 2 and Orange County SC played to a 1-1 draw as the visitors scored a second-half equalizer at Cheney Stadium. Orange County threatened in the 10th minute when Mats Bjurman couldn’t control his finish on a knockdown by Walker Hume off a free kick inside the six-yard area, but two minutes later S2 took the lead as Jesse Daley controlled the rebound of a shot by Azriel Gonzalez at the top of the penalty area and fired home a finish to the top-left corner. S2’s Lamar Neagle forced a low save from Orange County goalkeeper Andre Rawls in the 49th minute as he shot to the bottom-right corner, but the visitors leveled eight minutes later as Alex Crognale headed home a corner by Aodhan Quinn. S2 almost regained the lead as Denso Ulysse forced a near-post save by Rawls with a finish from the right side of the penalty area with 18 minutes to go, while Bjurman shot just wide of the right post two minutes later for the visitors. Orange County twice almost grabbed victory late through Quinn, who first hit the crossbar with four minutes to go on a powerful shot from the left side of the penalty area that caromed out and was cleared, and then in stoppage time had a first-time finish to the bottom-left corner saved by S2 goalkeeper Bryan Meredith, but the sides shared the points despite the visitor’s late efforts.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Aodhan Quinn, Orange County SC – Quinn was dynamic in midfield throughout, recording the assist on the game-tying goal while also twice threatening late to grab victory for the visitors.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Penn FC rallied from an early deficit to take a 3-1 victory against Bethlehem Steel FC at Goodman Stadium to claim its second consecutive win. Marcus Epps almost put Steel FC ahead in the seventh minute when Fabian Herbers found him with a low cross from the right that he fired off the left post from just inside the penalty area, but Epps made no mistake four minutes later as he tucked home a finish after a defensive turnover by Penn opened up a wide-open chance for the hosts. Penn came into the game more as the first half went on, however, and Aaron Dennis fired home an equalizer in the 32nd minute from 30 yards into the top-left corner. The visitors then took the lead with a clinical counterattack that saw Lucky Mkosana score his 10th goal of the season. Bethlehem was denied an equalizer three minutes into the second half as Drew Skundrich’s shot was saved by Penn goalkeeper Romuald Peiser, and Penn made it a two-goal lead just before the hour-mark as Paulo Junior scored on a low finish that Steel FC goalkeeper Jake McGuire got a piece of but was unable to keep out. Peiser was sharp again in the 63rd minute, tipping an effort by James Chambers over the crossbar, and he denied Santi Moar at the left post six minutes later to maintain Penn’s advantage. Chris Nanco threatened for Steel FC in the 72nd minute on a low shot that was smothered by Peiser, while Santi Moar scuffed a finish wide of the left post in the first minute of stoppage time, but Penn held on for a big victory in its pursuit of a place in the playoffs.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Aaron Dennis, Penn FC – Dennis scored a spectacular goal to level the score for the visitors and then set up Paulo Junior for Penn’s insurance goal in a second consecutive positive display in the attacking line.