The Swope Park Rangers are a great development opportunity for future Sporting Kansas City players. Here are three (or four) you should watch out for.
With the emergence of Jimmy Medranda in recent games for Sporting KC, it really got me thinking about the Swope Park Rangers. Medranda started out this season on loan with the Rangers, but after a few good performances (and some unfortunate injuries from other players), was given a chance with Sporting KC.
Thinking about this and a good performance against the Tulsa Roughnecks, it got me wondering. Who else could make an impact for Sporting KC at some point this season?
1. Kevin Oliveira – Center Mid
The first player for me that could really make an impact with the first team is Oliveira. He’s been a great playmaker for the Rangers so far this season, which is something that I think SKC has lacked at times. Oliveira also is a hustler. He is not only going to make key passes on the offensive end, but he does a great job of back tracking and making key tackles in the middle of the park. Do I think it’s honestly likely that he’ll see time with the first team, probably not. I think SKC has a plethora of midfielders right now, but these center mids are aging and Oliveira at 19 could be a good option for the future.
2. Ualefi – Defensive Center Mid
As Sporting Kansas City fans know all too well, that defensive center mid is very key to the high pressing 4-3-3 formation that they like to play. Soni Mustivar currently owns that spot, but when he went down with injury his replacement, Lawrence Olum, was very unimpressive.
Ualefi does an excellent job of being a shield in front of the back four for the Rangers and also of holding while Kevin Oliveira and Tomas Granitto push forward to join in to orchestrate the attack. Ualefi always tries to be an option for the back line, and just like Mustivar switches the play from side to side very well. I’m going to be honest after Ualefi get’s a full year of American soccer under his belt, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see Olum return next season.
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3. Tyler Pasher – Left Winger
I know what you’re going to say, “Sporting Kansas City already have a ton of wingers.” Yes but how many of those wingers have a ton of speed. Brad Davis isn’t getting any younger. Graham Zusi has a quick first step but not blinding speed. Justin Mapp is actually kind of quick, but he has only played eight minutes this season and he isn’t young either.
Pasher is very raw on the ball, but he’ll get better with that while playing for SPR. What you can’t teach is speed and Pasher has that. Just wait, this time next year he’ll be carving up the right side in the USL. It might only be a matter of time before we see him coming on late for an older and more tired Brad Davis.
Honorable Mention, Daniel Salloi – Forward
Salloi really impressed me against Tulsa on Saturday. Not only did he show an eye for goal in the game against a very compact Roughnecks defense with a couple of shots on goal, but he also even set up Pasher’s first goal of the night. Salloi also had the shot that forced Tulsa’s Jake Feener into a shot, but he couldn’t parry it far enough away and Pasher tapped it in. I think Salloi is going to need a year or two in USL for it to click, but once it does the young Hungarian might have Sporting KC fans forgetting all about another that other Hungarian, Krisztian Nemeth.
Obviously all of these guys are on Swope Park Rangers for a reason. I’d say the reason that most of them are is that they simply need more experience and time to develop. Maybe they don’t make the jump to the first team as quickly as Medranda did (though to be fair he has struggled to get minutes for years on SKC), but don’t be surprised when they do finally get a shot with the first team.
This is why the Rangers are in place, to develop these players so that SKC doesn’t have to go buy them. Something Sporting, and Peter Vermes, have done very well over the years. Vermes does have a good track record developing guys you might know like Graham Zusi, Chance Myers, Matt Besler, and Roger Espinoza.