The curtains will raise on Sporting Kansas City II’s 2021 USL Championship campaign Saturday when head coach Paulo Nagamura leads his team up against FC Tulsa (1-0-0, 3 points) in a compelling Central Division showdown at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Saturday’s matchup will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and stream live across the United States on ESPN Plus. Supporters can also follow @SportingKCII on Twitter and access the USL Championship MatchCenter for additional in-game updates.
After playing 14 of 16 matches away from home during a shortened 2020 season, Sporting Kansas City II is poised to enjoy a more balanced slate in 2021 with 16 fixtures at Children’s Mercy Park and 16 on the road. With Nagamura in his fourth year at the helm, the club’s roster consists of 13 players under USL Championship contract and eight Sporting KC Academy standouts who have signed amateur contracts for the season, thus retaining their college eligibility.
Sporting KC II’s 2021 squad features key returnees such as captain Christian Duke, defender Danny Barbir, midfielders Jake Davis and Jahon Rad, and forwards Enoch Mushagalusa and Dominik Resetar. The team has made a number of coy offseason additions—prolific USL striker Ropapa Mensah, U.S. international defender Travian Sousa and Croatian youth international Aljaz Dzankic among them—while further bolstering the roster with a number of rising talents from the Sporting KC Academy.
Mensah stole the show during the final week of Sporting KC II’s preseason, bagging consecutive hat tricks in shutout victories over Baker University and Rockhurst University at Swope Soccer Village. The 23-year-old Ghanaian has tallied 26 goals and 14 assists in 103 USL Championship appearances since 2017, spending time with Penn FC, Nashville SC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.
On the opposite sideline, FC Tulsa head coach Michael Nsien has spearheaded one of the most impressive turnarounds in the USL Championship. The Tulsa native took charge of the club on an interim basis in 2018 and secured the role permanently in 2019. A momentous rebrand from Tulsa Roughnecks FC to FC Tulsa last season paved the way for the second playoff appearance in team history.
FC Tulsa ended 2020 on a seven-match unbeaten run—a streak that included a playoff draw at El Paso Locomotive FC but ended in defeat on penalty kicks. The last team to beat FC Tulsa in 90 minutes was Sporting KC II, which visited ONEOK Field on Aug. 29, 2020, and emerged with a 2-1 triumph behind goals from Wilson Harris and Fredinho Mompremier.
Sporting KC II boasts an excellent 7-0-1 all-time record against FC Tulsa in the USL Championship, with Tulsa’s lone result coming by a 1-1 scoreline on Sept. 22, 2018. The hosts will have no shortage of confidence this weekend, however, as forward Joaquin Rivas marked his 100th USL Championship regular season appearance with a brace last Saturday to give Tulsa an eye-catching 3-1 win at in-state rivals OKC Energy FC. Rivas headlines a formidable roster that also features South African playmaker Lebo Moloto, who helped lead Sporting KC II to their second straight Western Conference title and USL Cup appearance in 2017.
2021 USL Championship: Match 1
Date: Saturday, May 1
Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT
Location: ONEOK Field (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Live Stream: ESPN Plus
Sporting Kansas City II: 0-0-0, 0 points (t-3rd in Central Division)
FC Tulsa: 1-0-0, 3 points (1st in Central Division)