Sporting Kansas City II took a 2-1 loss to the Charlotte Independence on Sunday in the club's 2020 USL Championship opener at Children's Mercy Park. An early own goal put Sporting II in the driver's seat, but Charlotte replied with goals in either half from Derek Gebhard and Dane Kelly to claim all three points in the back-and-forth Week 1 encounter.
Third-year Sporting II head coach Paulo Nagamura fielded a formidable starting XI that included six players on loan from Sporting Kansas City: goalkeeper Richard Sanchez, defensive trio Amadou Dia, Jaylin Lindsey and Graham Smith, and Homegrown midfielders Gianluca Busio and Felipe Hernandez. Elsewhere, Croatian center back Petar Cuic and Haitian forward Fredinho Mompremier earned their Sporting II debuts.
Playing in abundant sunshine and near-perfect temperatures, the hosts dictated early terms and took a deserved lead in the 19th minute. Dia raced down the left side and unleashed a low, teasing cross that caromed off retreating Charlotte defender Jack Maher and into the back of the net for Sporting II's first goal of the campaign.
Charlotte needed just six minutes to reply, however, and capitalized on a Sporting II giveaway deep in the visitors' attacking third. Gebhard scooped up the loose ball and side-footed a simple finish into the corner for his first USL Championship goal since 2018.
Wilson Harris, Sporting II's leading goal scorer in 2019, went agonizingly close to opening his account on the stroke of halftime. Ze Pedro spread the ball down the right flank to Hernandez, who whipped an inch-perfect cross to Harris at the penalty spot, but his bouncing header was smothered by Charlotte goalkeeper Brandon Miller.
Busio and Ze Pedro combined brilliantly to conjure the first chance of the second stanza, but Ze Pedro's shot off a clever backheel pass was palmed aside by the sprawling Miller. Just moments later, Mompremier danced past a defender along the touchline and cut it back for Harris, whose close-range effort was blocked through traffic.
Mompremier was again involved in the 68th minute, hammering a 20-yard piledriver that Miller leapt to touch over the crossbar. Shortly thereafter, substitute Wan Kuzain nearly made an instant impact just seconds upon entering, but his turf-trimming strike was pushed away as Miller continued to thrive between the posts.
The final sting in the tale favored Charlotte as Kelly the USL Championship's all-time leading scorer, put his former club to the sword with five minutes remaining. His shot from the center of the box to the left corner gave the Independence all three points and condemned Sporting II to a disappointing defeat.
Sporting KC II will continue their three-game homestand to begin the season next Saturday, hosting Indy Eleven in a 4 p.m. CT kickoff at Children's Mercy Park. Tickets for the match are available at SeatGeek.com as Nagamura's men face Indy in the first of three head-to-head meetings this year. Sporting Kansas City Season Ticket Members also have access to a limited number of complimentary Sporting KC II tickets and can contact their Membership Services Executive for more information.
2020 USL Championship Regular Season
Match 1 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 69 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City II (0-1-0 0 points)||1||0||1|
|Charlotte Independence (1-0-0, 3 points)||1||1||2|
Sporting Kansas City II: Richard Sanchez (C); Jaylin Lindsey, Graham Smith, Petar Cuic, Amadou Dia; Camden Riley, Gianluca Busio (Wan Kuzain 71'), Felipe Hernandez; Ze Pedro (Enoch Mushagalusa 60'), Wilson Harris (Dominik Resetar 77'), Fredinho Mompremier
Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Danny Barbir, Sam Raben, Christian Duke
Charlotte Independence: Brandon Miller; Joel Johnson, Jack Maher, Duke Lacroix, Hugh Roberts; Valentin Sabella (Rey Ortiz 63'), Kevan George, Brunallergene Etou, Derek Gebhard (Luke Haakenson 63'); Dane Kelly (Casey Penland 89'), Enzo Martinez (C)
Subs Not Used: Austin Pack, Clay Dimick, Tresor Mbuyu, Oscar Ramsay
SKC -- Own goal (Jack Maher) 19'
CLT -- Derek Gebhard 1 (unassisted) 25'
CLT -- Dane Kelly 1 (unassisted) 85'
CLT -- Joel Johnson (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 15'
CLT -- Dane Kelly (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 30'
SKC -- Petar Cuic (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 79'
|Shots on Goal||10||4|
Referee: Lukasz Szpala
Assistant Referee: Shane Kennard
Assistant Referee: Jack Ryan-Feldman
Fourth Official: Joseph Macht