The Orange County Blues look to continue their USL playoff quest on Sunday with another game on the road, this time against Swope Park Rangers. To get to know the first-year club, we reached out to SB Nation’s Sporting Kansas City/Swope Park Rangers blog The Blue Testament and spoke with Cody Bradley. Many thanks to Cody for taking the time to answer our questions!
Angels on Parade asks The Blue Testament:
1. Swope Park Rangers are in the playoffs in their first season of existence, which is already a pretty good accomplishment. I wonder how the Sporting Kansas City organization overall is approaching this run -- are they happy to just see how the reserve team does, or are they really gunning for some silverware on the USL level this year?
Going into the season I'm sure deep down there was not much expectation. The club would have been happy to see mild success the first year and to just use the Rangers for loans and an 'expanded roster'. But with the way the season has gone for SKC, I know they would love to see some silverware. Once SPR worked through the kinks at the beginning of the season they have done nothing but climb the ranks. Now that they are at this point, everyone is all in. The ownership group has done a great job of bringing in some exciting talent and everything is there to make a real run at this. Also, they were very excited about getting Marc Dos Santos, so I know they will want to get every bit of his genius that they can get before he leaves us after the season. Tear. But he has done an amazing job with the team this year and has them in top form at the right time (They've won 7 of the last 8). If I was any other team in this league, SPR would probably be the last team I'd want to face.
2. Rangers seem to have a pretty balanced lineup on the whole, and feature a number of consistent contributors in addition to the regular drop-ins from Sporting KC first team and academy players. Can you discuss one or two key players for SPR, and why they have been so important to the team's success this season?
Several players come to mind! So if I may, I will choose one from each area of the field. On defense, Amer Didic has been HUGE for this squad. Some players with solid pedigrees in USL were brought in to build a solid back line. Players like Jacob VanCompernolle and Tommy Meyer. But Didic surprised everyone and became the best defender on the team as other players disappointed. He is a big reason why this team has been able to turn the season around.
Ayrton, former Corinthians' Academy player, was signed in May. Immediately after hearing about the signing I looked him up and saw highlights. I have been VERY high on this kid since. Kevin Oliveira was coming into his own for the Rangers and was perhaps the most important player on the team before he suffered a season ending injury. It is a shame the two haven't gotten much time together in the SPR midfield, but Ayrton stepped up and became the facilitator of the squad. I don't know that I can necessarily call him the MVP this season, but for me, Ayrton is the most talented player on the team and is destined to be with SKC before long.
And I have to mention Mark Anthony Gonzalez up top. He was also a very pleasant surprise this season. The club brought in Dane Kelly, all time leading scorer in the USL, to be THE guy. But Gonzalez proved to be very lethal with time and was a leading scorer off the bench. Then Kelly also got injured and was out for a long time. Without Gonzalez and the team-leading goal tally, the Rangers never make the run to get into the playoffs.
3. Of course, the OC Blues will be looking to expose Swope Park Rangers' weaknesses in Sunday's game. How can they be beaten?
Well to be blunt, Tommy Meyer is the hole in the back line. He's been playing at right back and his side should be the focus of the attack for the Blues. He doesn't look comfortable and can be seen multiple times a game waving his arm for the keeper to play it long as opposed to swinging it over to him. He just doesn't want to be on the ball.
One small thing I'd say if I was coaching a team taking on the Rangers, is to frustrate them. This team has had plenty of chippy matches with all sorts of yellow cards and red cards. Tempers can definitely flair, specifically Ayrton.
The big thing I would say is to beat them on the counter. Much like with SKC, it is a high flying 4-3-3. The wingers live in the attacking half and the fullbacks love to get forward and can get caught out. Meyer has the heart of a CB, but on the other side Ever Alvarado will leave plenty of space behind him as he gets up the field.
The chances to score on them should be there, but the key will be trying to contain the SPR attack somehow. They have scored at least twice each of the last five matches and they are really firing on all cylinders.
4. Prediction for this match?
Swope Park Rangers 2 - 1 OC Blues
Find my answers to Cody’s questions at The Blue Testament.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!