After the Swope Park Rangers concluded the regular season with six victories in their final seven matches, defender Oumar Ballo described it as a “thrilling” final couple of months.
Even more so now.
Swope Park kept its inaugural United Soccer League playoff march moving with a 2-1 overtime victory against Orange County FC — a match in which the Rangers finished with nine men after a pair of red-card ejections.
Forward Dane Kelly scored the game-winner in the 105th minute.
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The Rangers, a USL affiliate of Sporting Kansas City, will play host to Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Western Conference final.
The winner will advance to the USL championship match on Oct. 23.
“We said we wanted to have a day here, that once (Ever) Alvarado and (Tommy) Meyer got sent off, it would be a day that everyone in the stadium would remember,” Rangers coach Marc Dos Santos said. “I don’t think many people that were here today are going to forget the spirit of these guys.”
Mark Anthony Gonzalez gave Swope Park a 1-0 lead in the first half, but after Alvarado was ejected in the 69th minute, Orange County equaled the score only 1 minute later. Meyer was shown his red card 5 minutes before the two overtime periods.
That put the Rangers down two men heading into the overtime period. But Kelly connected for the game-winner anyway, a strike from 25 yards out.