Tuesday night at Children's Mercy Park, three Sporting Kansas City II players made their first-team debuts against Tulsa Athletic in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round Three matchup. Defender Mo Abualnadi, midfielder Ethan Bryant and midfielder Sebastian Cruz all came in off the bench as Sporting Kansas City cruised to a 3-0 victory, advancing to the Open Cup Round of 32.
Bryant entered the match in the 31st minute in place of Gadi Kinda as the midfielder works back up to match fitness. Abualnadi and Cruz entered in the second half in place of Robert Voloder and Remi Walter respectively. All three are in their first professional season with SKC II with Abualnadi and Cruz returning to Kansas City following successful college careers after coming up through Sporting Kansas City's Academy.
Making the most of his 60 minutes, Bryant was everywhere throughout the match. The 2022 USL League One Player of the Year tallied team-highs in tackles (five) and successful dribbles (four) while winning nine duels and making seven entries into the final third. The midfielder's first-team debut comes after five years of professional soccer experience. A Texas Native, Bryant started his professional career at 16 years old, with San Antonio FC in USL Championship as the youngest player in club history in 2018. He joined SKC II in Dec. 2018 and has one goal in four appearances on the young MLS NEXT Pro season.
"I think he was probably our best player of the night," said Sporting KC Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes about Bryant's play. "I think he did a lot of really good things. I think his activeness within the game was excellent and his ability to see things on the field."
Cruz entered the contest an hour in, replacing Walter in the midfield. The California native fired two shots and nearly scored, rolling a shot inches wide of the back post in the 89th minute. The midfielder played in the Sporting KC Academy from 2016-18 and made seven USL Championship appearances for the then Swope Park Rangers before embarking on a three-year college career at Cal State Fullerton.
Last fall, Cruz became the first Cal State Fullerton player to earn Big West Midfielder of the Year honors outright and the program's first player to be named to the United Soccer Coaches All-Far West Region First Team. With six assists and a team-high eight goals, Cruz finished second on the Big West Conference scoring chart as an all-conference first-team selection. The 22-year-old has four starts under his belt for SKC II this season and scored his first professional goal on Friday, April 14 against Real Monarchs which was nominated for MLS NEXT Pro Goal of Matchday 4.
Abualnadi's first-team debut began in the 81st minute when he came on for Voloder at left-back. The defender won two of three duels and made two tackles in just under 10 minutes of play. A native of Leawood, KS, Abualnadi played for the Academy from 2017-19, making his pro debut in 2019 for the second team. His four-year college career included stops at Notre Dame and Pittsburgh as he accumulated 59 total appearances in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Sporting KC Academy product has made two appearances for SKC II this season with one clean sheet under his belt. He was not available for selection for the first two MLS NEXT Pro matches after he joined up with the Jordan U-20 Olympic National Team for a training camp in Lebanon.
Sporting KC's busy week continues with a match on Saturday against CF Montreal at Children's Mercy Park. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT on MLS SEASON PASS on Apple TV. Tickets are on sale at SeatGeek.com as well.
SKC II returns to Rock Chalk Park on Sunday to take on Houston Dynamo 2 at 7 p.m. CT. Tickets are on sale for just $10 at SeatGeek.com and admission for kids under 12 is free. Fans can also catch the match on MLS SEASON PASS and follow @SportingKCII on Twitter for live updates.