August 19, 2022 – MLS NEXT Pro (MLS NEXT Pro) – Press Release from Sporting Kansas City II
Sporting KC II (8-10-2, 26 points) travel to the Pacific Northwest for a regular season MLS NEXT Pro match against Western Conference leaders Tacoma Defiance (142-4-4, 43 points) on Saturday night at Starfire Stadium. The two sides met about a month earlier on July 22, with the Defiance claiming all three points after a 3-0 win. Sunday will be SKC II’s penultimate away game of the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season as the campaign draws to a close.
In their most recent game, SKC II defeated fellow Tacoma Cascadians Timbers2 with a 2-0 win at the Swope Soccer Village. Bakary Bagayoko and Josh Coan both scored their first SKC II goals and Coan collected his second assist of the season. Goalkeeper Ethan Bandre notched up both his first professional win and clean sheet, his defensive line preventing shots from being on target.
Head coach Benny Feilhaber has rotated the squad lately, giving plenty of fresh faces the opportunity to shine late in the season. Goals from Bagayoko and Coan sparked SKC II’s win last Sunday and set them on a four-game losing streak. Josip Hmura made his first start as a member of SKC II 10 days after signing with the club.
Sporting KC Academy products have also found a foothold in the SKC II range. Guy Michaeli leads all Academy players in goal contribution, having one goal and two assists in 10 appearances. Jahon Rad ranks second on the team in minutes played with 1421 minutes in 16 starts.
The offense was spearheaded by two MLS NEXT Pro contract players, Rauf Salifu and Julian Vazquez. Both forwards have accumulated seven goal contributions. Salifu leads the team with six goals and added an assist. Vazquez has four goals and three assists.
Midfield was highlighted by team captain Collin Fernandez, who recorded one goal and four assists in 1463 minutes. Recently, Edgar Bazan has burst onto the scene, appearing in three straight games and earning a start in the first-ever MLS NEXT All-Star Game in Minnesota. Bazan played an important role in the West’s successful first half, earning 45 minutes and generating the turnover that led to the game’s first goal.
The SKC II’s defense was bolstered by Esai Easley in his freshman year in professional football after being selected by Sporting Kansas City in the first round of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. He leads all defenders with 18 appearances and has added one goal and one assist. Mikey Lenis and Coby Jones are two SKC Academy products who have signed professional contracts with the club this season. Lenis has 12 appearances and one goal while Jones has started five of 13 appearances.
SKC II has been a street fighter this season, posting a 5-4-1 record away. They have suffered three straight road losses after winning four straight road games. Tacoma has an impressive 8-1-1 record at home this season and is looking to secure a playoff spot with a win and a loss or a draw against Earhtqaukes II. SKC II is fighting for his postseason life as they will be eliminated from the competition with a loss or a result in North Texas.
Tacoma’s impressive season was led by midfielder Marlon Vargas, who has 12 goals and six assists. He is one of four MLS NEXT Pro players to appear in 20 games this season alongside Tacoma midfielder Juan Alvarez. The Defiance offense was scary, scoring 55 goals, a league high. Their goal difference of plus 33 also makes MLS NEXT Pro up the pace.
With only four games left in the season, the consequences of each game grow and grow. Saturday offers Tacoma a chance to wrap up the division and secure a seat in the playoffs as SKC II battles for its postseason hopes. Fans can stream the game in its entirety for free on MLSNEXTPro.com, with kick-off scheduled for 9pm CT.
MLS NEXT Pro: Game 21
Date: Saturday 20 August 2022
Kickoff: 9pm CT
Location: Starfire Stadium (Tukwila, WA)
Live stream: mlsnextpro.com
Sporting Kansas City II: 8-10-2, 26 points
Woods2: 12-4-4, 43 points
Game specific hashtag: r #TACvSKC
• Discuss this story on the MLS NEXT Pro message board…
The opinions expressed in this press release are those of the organization issuing it and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its employees.