Sporting Kansas City II (4-6-1, 13 points) saw its two-game winning streak come to an end Friday night in a heart-breaking 3-2 loss to Saint Louis FC (5-3-3, 18 points) at West Community Stadium in Fenton, Missouri.
Red-hot Sporting KC II striker Wilson Harris struck twice and goalkeeper John Pulskamp made seven saves in a superb performance between the posts, but Saint Louis vaulted into the second and final playoff position in Group E of the USL Championship with second half goals from Kyle Greig, Tyler Blackwood and substitute Kadeem Dacres to emerge victorious in a five-goal thriller.
The visitors were on the back foot early as Saint Louis wasted little time seizing the initiative, but a sterling performance from Pulskamp kept his side on level terms. The 19-year-old California native did wonderfully to deny Joaquin Rivas in the 11th minute before thwarting Blackwood midway through the first period.
Sporting KC II's first notably foray saw Harris bend an attempt over the bar in the 28th minute, six minutes before Russell Cicerone misfired from close range and spurned the opportunity to lift the hosts into the lead.
Pulskamp came up big twice on the cusp of intermission, turning away a pair of Cicerone strikes. The Saint Louis forward's first attempt was blocked by Pulskamp's outstretched leg, while his rebound attempt lacked the direction to beat the in-form Sporting KC II goalkeeper.
Harris continued his scintillating scoring run with a team-leading sixth goal of the season in the 47th minute, beating Saint Louis goalkeeper Kyle Morton with a lethal finish from just inside the box on an assist from holding midfielder Petar Cuic. The 20-year-old Harris, who last Saturday became the youngest USL Championship player to bag 20 career goals, has now found the back of the net in three straight matches and has five goals during the torrid stretch.
Saint Louis were undeterred by the setback and struck twice in the next eight minutes, restoring parity in the 54th minute. Sporting KC II failed to deal with a free kick that was swung into a crowded penalty area and Greig, a graduate of Olathe South High School in suburban Kansas City, rifled a shot high into the roof of the net for his third tally of the 2020 campaign.
Four minutes later, Blackwood haunted his former club by vaulting Saint Louis in front. The Englishman received a clever diagonal through ball from Todd Wharton, shrugged off a defensive challenge and finished low across Pulskamp to make the score 2-1 and record his club-best fourth goal of the season.
In the 15 minutes that followed, Pulskamp delivered another two stops to keep Sporting KC II alive. Greig and Paris Gee both thought they had doubled Saint Louis' lead, only to be trumped by the on-loan Sporting Kansas City Homegrown Player. Dacres, however, would not be denied and doubled the Saint Louis advantage in the 83rd minute by racing away on the break following a midfield giveaway and coolly slotting low into the corner to open his 2020 scoring account.
Sporting KC II were given a lifeline in second-half stoppage time when substitute Dominik Resetar suffered a foul inside the box. Harris stepped to the spot and converted his penalty with pinpoint precision, finishing high into the left corner for his seventh goal of the year and the 22nd of his prolific USL Championship career.
Head coach Paulo Nagamura's side pushed for a last-gasp equalizer and nearly found it in the 98th minute, but defender Danny Barbir's header off a corner kick glanced inches wide of Morton's right-hand post.
Sporting KC II will play each of their final five USL Championship fixtures away from home, next visiting Group E leaders Indy Eleven (6-3-1, 19 points) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT inside Lucas Oil Stadium. The contest will stream live on ESPN Plus with additional in-game updates on ESPN Plus.
2020 USL Championship
Match 11 of 16
West Community Stadium | Fenton, Missouri
Weather: 75 degrees and clear
|Sporting Kansas City II (4-6-1, 13 points)||0||2||2|
|Saint Louis FC (5-3-3, 18 points)||0||3||3|
Sporting Kansas City II: John Pulskamp; Camden Riley, Kaveh Rad, Danny Barbir, Dillon Serna; Petar Cuic, Jake Davis (Jaret Townsend 82'), Christian Duke (C) (Duval Wapiwo 69'); Tyler Freeman (Dominik Resetar 69'), Wilson Harris, Fredinho Mompremier (Enoch Mushagalusa 54')
Subs Not Used: Brooks Thompson, Sam Raben, Ryan Fessler
Saint Louis FC: Kyle Morton; Richard Bryan, Sam Fink, Phanuel Kavita (C), Paris Gee (Daniel Fischer 87'); Oscar Umar (Guy Abend 86'), Todd Wharton Joaquin Rivas (Tobi Adewole 79'); Tyler Blackwood (Kadeem Dacres 66'), Kyle Greig (Nikiphoros Vlastos 88'), Russell Cicerone
Subs Not Used: John Berner, Wal Fall
SKC -- Wilson Harris 6 (Petar Cuic 2) 47'
STL -- Kyle Greig 3 (unassisted) 54'
STL -- Tyler Blackwood 4 (Todd Wharton 3) 58'
STL -- Kadeem Dacres 1 (unassisted) 83'
SKC -- Wilson Harris 7 (penalty kick) 90+3
SKC -- Jake Davis (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 20'
SKC -- Fredinho Mompremier (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 52'
STL -- Sam Fink (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 70'
|Shots on Goal||3||10|
Referee: Matt Geringer
Assistant Referee: Shane Kennard
Assistant Referee: Ryan Cook
Fourth Official: Jervis Atagana