Sacramento Republic FC and the Swope Park Rangers square off in a key Western Conference meeting on Wednesday night at Papa Murphy's Park. | Photo courtesy Nick Tre Smith / Swope Park Rangers
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sacramento Republic FC will try to boost its chances of a top-four finish on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN+) when it hosts the playoff hopeful Swope Park Rangers at Papa Murphy’s Park.
Here are five things to watch for as the two sides square off in a crucial six-pointer for playoff positioning.
1. IN THEIR OWN HANDS: Sacramento enters Wednesday’s match in control of its destiny for a top-four finish in the West, which would earn the side a home game in the opening round of the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs. Republic FC can secure that home playoff date with a victory over Swope Park and dropped points from either Reno 1868 FC or Real Monarchs SLC earlier in the evening. Meanwhile, the seventh-place Rangers are still looking to secure their spot in the postseason for the third consecutive season and will need all three points on Wednesday to do so ahead of their final match of the regular season.
2. FAMILIAR FOES: Republic FC forward Cameron Iwasa spent the 2017 season on loan with Swope Park after being signed by MLS side Sporting Kansas City earlier that year. In his first appearance this season against Swope Park on July 10 after returning to Republic FC this past offseason, Iwasa scored a brace and recorded an assist in Sacramento’s 3-1 victory at Children’s Mercy Park.
3. REWRITING THE RECORD BOOK: Rangers forward Hadji Barry enters Wednesday’s contest with a goal in a USL-record eight straight games having scored in every contest for the side since its 3-3 draw with Reno 1868 FC on August 18. Barry has set a new Swope Park single-season record with 16 goals on the season, and could like his chances of extending that streak to nine after finding the back of the net against Sacramento in their only other meeting this season.
4. OPPOSITE ENDS OF THE SPECTRUM: Republic FC has conceded the least amount of goals out of all the teams in the Western Conference (30) as goalkeeper Josh Cohen has anchored the side in his first season with the club. Cohen has played every minute of the campaign and ranks in the top five among USL goalies in saves (104) and clean sheets (11). Meanwhile Swope Park has conceded 49 goals this season – the most by a team currently in a playoff position – and carries the only negative goal differential among top-eight sides in the West.
5. PLAYOFF PREVIEW?: With Sacramento currently in the third in the West and Rangers seventh, there's a possibility the two sides may face off in the USL Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive year. The Rangers edged Republic FC 1-0 in the second round of the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs thanks to a 46th-minute goal from Kharlton Belmar. Swope Park went on to represent the West in USL Cup for a second consecutive year, but fell by the same scoreline to Louisville City FC.