On the most important day of the Swope Park Rangers’ 2018 season, a slew of Sporting Kansas City Academy products stepped into the spotlight and delivered when it mattered most.
In order to punch their ticket to the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs, the Rangers needed at least a draw in Sunday’s regular season finale against LA Galaxy II at rainy Children’s Mercy Park. Head coach Paulo Nagamura’s side went one step better, cruising to a 5-1 triumph with the works of Sporting KC’s professional pathway on full display.
The goal fest kicked into gear in the 28th minute, when on-loan Sporting KC midfielder Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal expertly struck a dipping free kick inside the near post to put SPR on top. Kuzain, who was named the No. 3 player on the United Soccer League’s 20 Under 20 rankings just two days earlier, is noted for making the full progression from Academy to SPR to Sporting KC since arriving in Kansas City in the summer of 2016 at age 17.
Not to be outdone by his longtime Sporting KC Academy teammate, fellow 20-year-old Felipe Hernandez would play a part in SPR’s last three goals of the day. The active midfielder drew a penalty kick that Hadji Barry promptly dispatched in the 65th minute, scored a goal of his own in the 76th minute, then assisted Wilson Harris’ strike in the 84th minute.
Harris, by the way, became the third Sporting KC Academy product to score on Sunday, rounding out a comprehensive victory that vaults SPR into the USL Cup Playoffs with plenty of momentum. Coincidentally, Kuzain, Hernandez and the 18-year-old Harris all finished the 2018 USL campaign with three goals.
As the No. 7 seed in the West, the Rangers will now aim to secure a third straight Western Conference title. Their playoff campaign will begin at 9:30 p.m. CT Saturday with a visit to No. 2 seed Sacramento Republic FC. The conference quarterfinal will stream live from Papa Murphy’s Park on ESPN+.
In addition to seeing its labor bear plentiful fruit on Sunday, the Sporting KC Academy left its mark on the USL’s 20 Under 20 list as well. A remarkable four Academy products were ranked in the top 11, with No. 3 Kuzain followed by No. 5 Hernandez, No. 6 Gianluca Busio and No. 11 Jaylin Lindsey.