We preview the Swope Park Rangers first ever meeting with the Rio Grande Valley Toros.
The Swope Park Rangers snapped their three-game winless streak against the Tulsa Roughnecks last weekend. With that win, SPR jumped from 12th place to 8th place in the Western Conference standings, and also luckily have played one game less than most teams above them.
The Rangers next opponent will be a fellow expansion side, Rio Grande Valley FC Toros. RGVFC are one of those Western Conference teams that have the same amount of games played as SPR and are sitting in fifth place with a record of 3-2-2. Needless to say, this is a game that both teams desperately need in order to stay or get into the top half of the Western Conference
Swope Park Rangers
I don’t see Coach Mark Dos Santos making any changes from the starting eleven that beat Tulsa. I thought Amer Didic did a very excellent job in his first start for the Rangers. Didic was a target on every set piece, and really did a great job of winning balls in the air. Daniel Salloi will likely get another start-up top as I’ve heard that Dane Kelly will continue to be sidelined with a hamstring injury. I thought the midfield worked excellently together in the game against the Tulsa Roughnecks, but in my opinion, they weren’t put under much pressure.
Tyler Pasher and Salloi seemed to be on the same wavelength during the Tulsa game, but I’d like to see them spread some of that love over to Kris Tyrpak. This is not to take away from Pasher’s great outing which earned him Team of the Week honors.
One thing that needs to be talked about though is the standout performance by Zac Lubin his first appearance for the club. Lubin made some incredible saves to keep the game even, and it appeared that he did a good job of organizing his defense as well. The back line in front of Lubin looked solid against the Roughnecks, but they’ll need to be even more organized against a very good RGVFC team.
Scouting of Rio Grande Valley FC
The Toros are a very possession-based team, especially when they’re at home. Up top, on loan from the parent club Houston Dynamo, is Mauro Manotas. Manotas is a very dynamic player. The Colombian U-20 international is very skillful on the ball and extremely quick. Manotas was signed last year by the Dynamo but Owen Coyle has loaned the 20-year-old to RGVFC to get him some more experience.
Another Dynamo loanee is Sebastian Ibeagha. Ibeagha is a very big and physical presence along the backline. He will be partnered with Kevin Garcia who is just as big and physical. Not only are the center backs big and physical, but the holding center midfielder Jorginho James is too as well.
I think these three will give Daniel Salloi a lot of trouble in this game. Salloi got away with his size by dropping into Tulsa’s midfield to receive the ball. Tulsa’s backline didn’t do a great job of passing off Salloi leaving huge pockets for the Hungarian to pop up into. I don’t think Salloi will be so lucky against the Toros with James sitting right in front of that back four. During the preseason, Salloi really struggled with the physicality of centerbacks and I’m surprised more defenses haven’t simply started muscling him around.
The guy that will be pulling the strings in the midfield is Aston Villa and Stoke City academy product Charlie Ward. I’m almost positive that Ward is a player that Owen Coyle saw during his time managing clubs like Burnley and Wigan Athletic. I’m sure that Coyle fancies Ward to be one of the center mids of the future for the Houston Dynamo. Ward does get up into the attack occasionally but usually he will do most of his playmaking from a little bit deeper part of the midfield.
The last player you should know about is Rob Lovejoy. He is also a loanee from Houston Dynamo and has only featured in two games for the Toros. In those two appearances, he’s only played 98 minutes for the USL side, but he has two goals. No matter whether he gets the start or is coming off the bench, Christian Duke will have to be sure to keep track of him.
This game isn’t going to be easy for the Rangers by any means. Not only are the Toros very good, but the Rangers will also struggle with the climate down there in southern Texas. In their previous games, the Toros have had hydration breaks during each of the halves because of the heat and humidity by the border of Mexico. I think the Rangers have to really sit back and look to counter quickly if they want to come away with points on the road. As always the Rangers game can be viewed on USL YouTube channel at 7:30 pm, or if you’ve missed any other previous games they are available for viewing on there as well.