Photo courtesy Rich Lam / Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Swope Park Rangers claimed a club-record fifth consecutive victory as Kharlton Belmar scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 on Wednesday afternoon at Thunderbird Stadium. Swope Park threatened early as Kevin Oliveira and Nansel Selbol were both denied in quick success by WFC2 goalkeeper Sean Melvin in the seventh minute. Vancouver also went close 10 minutes later as a good move saw Marco Bustos find Nazeem Bartman, but the winger shot over with his first-time shot. Bustos also went close, flashing a shot just over after being found at the top of the penalty area by Gloire Amanda on the half-hour mark, and the young standout then hit the crossbar before Amanda had the rebound tipped over a few minutes later. SPR’s Oliveira forced a low stop by Melvin a few minutes before halftime with a shot from the right side of the penalty area, while WFC2 defender Francis de Vries just headed over early in the second half as the game remained scoreless. The Rangers almost took the lead on the hour-mark as Selbol got in alone on the left side of the penalty area, only for Melvin to deny him again, but the visitors finally found the breakthrough in the 65th minute when Oliveira’s free kick from the right was headed home at close range by Belmar three minutes after he had come on as a substitute. Oliveira almost added a second with 10 minutes to go as he shot over after a good cut-back by Belmar, while WFC2 almost found an equalizer in stoppage time as New Zealand U20 international Myer Bevan was denied well by SPR goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas, but the Rangers held defensively for their sixth shutout this season to close out the win.
65’ – SPR – Kharlton Belmar (Kevin Oliveira)
Three Things That Matter:
1. The Swope Park Rangers’ fifth consecutive victory – setting a club record – wasn’t as emphatic as some of its most recent outings, but it continued the club’s surge toward the top two in the Western Conference as the visitors held Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 at bay in a very entertaining matinee contest. Kharlton Belmar’s introduction proved the pivotal move of the match, as the 2015 USL Rookie of the Year notched his fifth goal this season moments after coming on as a second-half substitute with a good header. After Saturday’s clinical display against Rio Grande Valley, SPR will want to take more of their chances when their trip to the Northwest continues on Sunday in Portland, but they’ll be happy enough with another good three points earned.
2. A rematch of the Western Conference Final in the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs, Wednesday’s matchup feature two of the top young playmakers in the Western Conference, and both the Swope Park Rangers’ Kevin Oliveira and Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2’s Marco Bustos put on dangerous performances for their respective sides. Bustos narrowly missed out on his 20th goal all-time in the USL with one effort that zipped just over the crossbar, and another that came back off the woodwork in the first half, but Oliveira ended up coming out on top as his fifth assist this season provided the game-winner for Kharlton Belmar. The future continues to look bright for the two 21-year-olds, who continue to be must-sees week-in and week-out.
3. With the departure of Sem De Wit this week for FC Cincinnati, Vancouver’s defense was without one of the team’s consistent presences since the start of last season. An attack like Swope Park’s would have proved a challenge regardless, but WFC2 held up relatively well thanks to a stellar display by goalkeeper Sean Melvin, who helped clean up when the Rangers managed to find their way through. Melvin has at times taken a back seat to Spencer Richey over the past two seasons for WFC2, and while he ended up on the losing side thanks to a finish by Kharlton Belmar there was little he could do to deny, the 23-year-old put in a strong display overall.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Kharlton Belmar, Swope Park Rangers – Belmar had an immediate impact with his goal, and also posed problems for the WFC2 defense for the final half-hour of the game.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 vs. Reno 1868 FC – July 15, 6 p.m. ET, Thunderbird Stadium
Swope Park Rangers at Portland Timbers 2 – July 16, 5 p.m. ET, Providence Park