The Little Rock Rangers pre-season came to a close with a 1-1 draw against Bugeaters FC of the United States Amateur Soccer Association visiting from Nebraska. This was the third of three friendlies the Rangers played at War Memorial Stadium.
The first half featured much more action than the Rangers saw in their previous two matches, especially for goalkeeper Walid Birrou, who in the prior weeks saw no more than three touches in a match. Defense shined on both sides the majority of the first half. There was plenty of fast-paced, physical, back-and-forth action with several shots taken on both sides.
The Bugeaters had their first major chance on a breakout pass at 15′ but the backline duo of team captain Nick Doyle and Andy Stewart, getting his first cap with the Rangers, quickly dispossessed the ball. A set piece opportunity came at 19′ but the Rangers wall blocked the shot. The Rangers quickly gained control and sent it down to striker Alex Guadron. His shot, like the ones that came before, was handled by Bugeaters’ netminder Jack Bennett. Then defenseman Ben Watson fired off a banger from a corner kick that surprised Bennet yet he still made the block.
A 24′ minute Ranger set piece shot sailed over the net. Guadron took a shot off a spot foul at 29′ from roughly 30 yards out, but put a little too much on it sending it over the goal. Birrou easily handled shots at 30′ and 33′. Two great looks at the goal came at 36′, that stretched Bennett to his full length, and 37′ with a narrowly missed header by Doyle.
Doyle then took a free kick into the box that drew a penalty kick call for the Rangers at 41′. Guadron took the kick but was denied by the crossbar. Redemption came for Guadron soon after when he received a pass from Doyle in the corner, cut the ball back, and sunk the goal right before the half ended.
The plentiful, unfinished opportunities were the focus of head coach Will Montgomery going into the locker room. “We’ve had a couple chances on our set pieces as far as corner kicks that we need to be more diligent about executing. We missed several good opportunities where we could have got a go-ahead goal and we need to be better at that,” Montgomery said.
The Bugeaters came back out aggressively despite the momentum killing goal. At 48′ when the ball went out of play, the field official required Guadron to leave the pitch to address some blood on his jersey. This left the Rangers a man down and Bugeaters forward Rob Wiseman centered a shot from the wing that deflected off the shoulder of Stewart into the goal to tie the game.
After 228 minutes of a blank sheet in pre-season play, it was the first goal given up by the Rangers.
That is where the game would remain, as the Rangers saw five substitutes: Trevor Reed for Lance Crabtree (57′), Blain Hickman for Guadron (63′), Jack Selig for Ryan Blair (71′), Julio Martins for Ulises Caba Cordova (82′), and Dan Amaro for Nyasha Dube (88′).
“Tonight we had good competition that will help us get ready for next week,” Birrou said after the match. “I had some more touches and had a goal allowed but better it happened today than the next game.”
Indeed the Rangers are now set for conference play on the road vs Tulsa Atletico on May 5. The team will also host the first ever US Open Cup match played in Arkansas. This is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious tournament, allowing teams from all levels to compete. For the first round, the Rangers drew NTX Rayados and will face them May 8 at 7:00 pm. To meet the field requirements, the game will be held at Episcopal Collegiate School. For more information about the US Open Cup, click here.
45′ – Rangers 1, Bugeaters FC 0 (Alex Guadron, Assist-Nicholas Doyle)
49′ – Rangers 1, Bugeaters FC 1 (own goal, Rob Wiseman)