By Benjamin Peacock
It was a story of missed opportunities at War Memorial Stadium Saturday evening, leading to a 1-1 draw for the Little Rock Rangers and Club Atletico St Louis. The Rangers conference record now stands at 3-3-1, tenuously holding the Rangers in second place in the Heartland Conference (with Demize NPSL one point behind but with an extra match to play).
The first half was dominated by possession trades and plenty of passing, but few shots on goal. Defenseman Andy Stewart shined on the back line making several saves in the penalty box to keep the scoresheet clean for St. Louis. Striker Donald Benamna made his presence known in the 40th minute with two successive shots, but both were denied.
Head coach Will Montgomery talked about what needed change to gain more quality chances.
“We need to be more patient in midfield. Make sure we are creating space for the other midfield players that are inside. If we don’t pick up the ball, then we clear the space and allow the other midfield player to get it,” explained Montgomery.
The second half did not start out in the Ranger’s favor. Benamna took a hit in the penalty box and had to leave the field to an apparent shoulder injury in the 49th minute. While the Rangers played down a man, St. Louis struck, netting the first goal of the match.
Striker Alex Guadron subbed on for Benamna in the 54th minute and he quickly took a shot one minute later that sailed over the crossbar. The Rangers had a good look at 62’ when the St. Louis goalkeeper was pulled out, leaving the net wide open but the shot did not land. The subsequent corner kick for the Rangers by forward Sabelo was centered and forward Lance Crabtree, using his height and verticality, headed the ball in goal to tie the game 1-1.
Ulises Caba Cordova subbed in at 63’ for midfielder Trevor Reed and soon received the match’s first yellow card. Guadron fired off another shot but it was stopped by the goalkeeper, but the Rangers were definitely seeing more opportunities. Another two shots were taken by Sabelo and Guadron in the 76th.
Montgomery put on two more fresh pairs of legs with Robel Dent and Hayden Tucker for Crabtree and Sabelo. The game entered stoppage and the Rangers had a least three good opportunities to get late winner, but every ball sailed wide or over the goal.
Jaden Hoth, who played midfield tonight rather than his usual backline position, talked about some of the frustration from his new vantage point.
“I felt we were able to possess a little more at times but just not as effective going forward,” Hoth said. “They were well organized. But ultimately our final ball was lacking at times—they’d be a little short or a little off. We did have some chances that we should have capitalized on.”
With just three regular season matches remaining and every point needed, the Stags have a short rest and head to Wichita, Kansas on Wednesday for their first meeting with FC Wichita (0-1-5). The match will be streamed on the Rangers’ website and mobile app. The team will then get 10 days rest and face Wichita again at home on June 29 at 7:00 pm.
52’ Little Rock Rangers 0 – Club Atletico St Louis 1
63’ Little Rock Rangers 1 – Club Atletico St Louis 1 (Crabtree, Sabelo-assist)