After seeing their postseason hopes dissipate in a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat at rivals Saint Louis FC on Saturday, Sporting Kansas City II (4-8-1, 13 points) will embrace the role of spoiler beginning Tuesday when they visit Group D playoff hopefuls Austin Bold FC (3-3-6, 15 points) in a fascinating USL Championship clash at Bold Stadium in Austin. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. CT with a live stream on ESPN Plus and additional in-game updates on Twitter via @SportingKCII.
Guided by third-year head coach and former Sporting Kansas City great Paulo Nagamura, Sporting KC II were eliminated from postseason contention over the weekend after conceding a last-gasp goal versus their cross-state rivals. Saint Louis FC took a 2-0 halftime lead with goals from Tyler Blackwood and Russell Cicerone, but a spirited fightback saw midfielder Petar Cuic and Sporting KC Academy product Isaiah LeFlore open their Sporting KC II scoring accounts to level the score at 2-2 in the 86th minute. With all to play for in the dying embers of the match, Saint Louis defender Sam Fink bagged a 95th-minute winner to condemn the visitors to bitter defeat.
With Brazilian head coach Marcelo Serrano at the helm, Austin Bold FC enters Tuesday one point behind FC Tulsa for the second and final playoff spot in Group D. The dynamic Texas side has scored and conceded 24 goals apiece this season for an average of two per game, taking part in a bevy of wild shootouts over the course of the summer. USL Championship veteran Billy Forbes leads the team with half a dozen goals for an outfit that has drawn six of its 12 league matches this year. The club's roster also features former Sporting KC and MLS midfielder Amobi Okugo.
Austin and Tulsa are in the midst of a tense battle for playoff positioning in Group D, with both sides chasing the shadows of league leaders San Antonio FC. Tuesday's result could go a long way in determining whether Serrano's men can get over the proverbial hump and break into the playoffs.
Sporting KC II will miss the playoffs for the second straight campaign, but 2020 has nevertheless been highlighted by bright performances across the board. Twenty-year-old striker Wilson Harris has a team-leading seven goals and last month became the youngest player to hit 20 career goals in USL Championship history. Fellow Sporting KC Academy products Jake Davis, Tyler Freeman, Kaveh Rad and Brooks Thompson have also enjoyed solid runs of form, and experienced defender Dillon Serna sits atop the club's assist chart with three helpers.
Tuesday will mark the inaugural meeting between the sides. Sporting KC II, formerly the Swope Park Rangers, were crowned Western Conference champions in 2016 and 2017 en route to consecutive USL Cup Final appearances, while Bold FC debuted in 2019 and posted a first-round playoff win over LA Galaxy II before falling to Phoenix Rising FC in a penalty shootout in the Western Conference quarterfinals last October.
USL Championship: Match 14 of 16
Date: Tuesday, Sept. 22
Kickoff: 8 p.m. CT
Location: Bold Stadium (Austin, Texas)
Live Stream: ESPN Plus
Sporting Kansas City II: 4-8-1, 13 points (4th place in Group E)
Austin Bold FC: 3-3-6, 15 points (4th place in Group D)