Photo courtesy Nick Tre. Smith / Swope Park Rangers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The No. 4-seed Swope Park Rangers defeated the No. 5-seed Phoenix Rising FC 4-2 in a penalty shootout to advance in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs after both sides scored in extra time to finish in a 1-1 draw at Children’s Mercy Victory Field on Sunday evening. Swope Park took the early advantage in the shootout as goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod saved from Phoenix’s Kevon Lambert to open the first round, and Nansel Selbol converted for the Rangers. The teams exchanged goals in the second and third rounds, but when Phoenix’s Doue Mala skied his penalty over the crossbar to open the fourth round it opened the door for Lebo Moloto to close out the win, and Moloto obliged as SPR went a perfect 4 of 4 from the spot. With the weather-delayed game scoreless after 90 minutes, Phoenix took the lead nine minutes into extra time as a hopeful free kick from close to the halfway line by Alessandro Riggi found Didier Drogba, whose header beat SPR goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod as he came off his line and bounced into the open net. Swope Park hit back in the second period, however, as an angled cross by Colton Storm in the 109th minute was first met by Belmar, and then headed home by Amer Didic to even the score. Phoenix almost struck again through Drogba in the 113th minute when his free kick from 20 yards was tipped over the crossbar by MacLeod, while SPR’s Lebo Moloto just missed the left corner with two minutes to go as the teams ended level after extra time. Moloto played his part in the shootout, though, sending the Rangers one stop closer to defending their Western Conference Championship.
99’ – PHX – Didier Drogba (Alessandro Riggi)
109’ – SPR – Amer Didic (Kharlton Belmar)
SPR – 31-Nansel Selbol, Goal; 32-Christian Duke, Goal; 90-Kharlton Belmar, Goal; 42-Lebo Moloto, Goal
PHX – 27-Kevon Lambert, Saved; 19-Amadou Dia, Goal; 28-Gladson Awako, Goal; 2- Doue Mala, Missed
Three Things That Matter:
1. Swope Park Rangers goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod made a name for himself with a penalty kick save on his professional debut on Aug. 5 against Saint Louis FC as the Rangers preserved a 0-0 draw on the road. In his first appearance in the USL Cup Playoffs, MacLeod produced an even bigger stop, denying Jamaican international Kevon Lambert in the first round of a penalty shootout to give the Rangers an edge they wouldn’t relinquish. Swope Park didn’t go to penalties in its Western Conference Championship run a season ago, but the fight the side showed to not only rally back after going behind was impressive, as was the rookie’s confident save that eventually sent his side through.
2. Swope Park wasn’t going to allow its defense of the USL Western Conference Championship go easily, and after the introduction of Nansel Selbol in the second half the hosts looked as though they might grab victory in regulation. The young Nigerian produced some fine finishes in the regular season, and on Sunday produced a calm penalty kick that kicked off the side’s victory in the penalty shootout. While it was Amer Didic’s goal that provided a crucial equalizer for the hosts, Selbol’s contribution gave the Rangers a needed lift after his introduction, and ended up being crucial in the final measure.
3. Phoenix’s first trip to the USL Cup Playoffs ended in dramatic fashion, and in a disappointing manner after the side had taken the lead in extra time through a strong effort by Didier Drogba in the 99th minute. With the way Rising FC had competed defensively over the second half of the regular season, on another day it might have been enough if not for the Rangers’ resolute rally. The disappointment might linger for Rising FC, but there’s clearly an incredibly bright future ahead for the club as it moves into 2018.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Nansel Selbol, Swope Park Rangers – Selbol made a difference to the Rangers’ attack after coming on as a second-half substitute as the Rangers looked to settle the game late, and converted from the penalty spot to lead off the shootout as Swope Park advanced.
Western Conference Semifinals – Swope Park Rangers vs. Sacramento Republic FC, Saturday, October 28, 8:30 p.m. ET, Children’s Mercy Victory Field
Phoenix Rising FC – End of Season