Four Sporting Kansas City II players opened their professional scoring accounts on Wednesday night as the rampant hosts defeated FC Tulsa 4-1 at Children’s Mercy Park for their first victory of the 2021 USL Championship campaign.
Cam Duke, Grayson Barber, Kaveh Rad and Rojay Smith all found the back of the net for a Sporting KC II side (1-3-3, 6 points) that erased an early deficit and improved their all-time record against FC Tulsa (3-2-0, 9 points) to 8-1-1 in 10 meetings. Wednesday’s brilliant performance also marked the second match in SKC II history that three Sporting KC Academy products—Duke, Barber and Rad—scored goals.
Head coach Paulo Nagamura deployed an unchanged lineup from Sunday’s goalless home draw against El Paso Locomotive FC, giving starts to eight MLS loanees—six of which were Sporting KC Academy products—while center back Danny Barbir, holding midfielder Petar Cuic and winger Enoch Mushagalusa also returned to the XI.
A lively opening saw Sporting KC II threaten first as Wilson Harris scooped up a Tulsa giveaway and fed the overlapping Mushagalusa, who cut centrally from the left wing and curled a speculative shot wide of the far post in the fourth minute.
Tulsa broke through 10 minutes later by capitalizing on a midfield turnover. Rodrigo da Costa broke forward into the attacking third and picked out Lucas Coutinho, who beat a defender before slotting low past goalkeeper John Pulskamp.
Felipe Hernandez went agonizingly close to drawing SKC II level in the 20th minute. A well-worked buildup involving Amadou Dia and Harris culminated with Duke teeing up the 22-year-old midfielder, whose blistering effort at the top of the box blazed inches wide of the top right corner.
Tulsa breathed another huge sigh of relief five minutes before halftime when Cuic set Mushagalusa free down the left wing. The 21-year-old beat his defender and fired near post, but Tulsa goalkeeper Sean Lewis produced a fantastic stop by touching the ball onto the post.
SKC II manufactured a deserved equalizer on the stroke of intermission. Rad’s searching long ball over the top was perfectly weighted for Grayson Barber, whose clever pullback pass found an unmarked Duke near the penalty spot. The 20-year-old made no mistake by sending a low drive into the back of the net for his first professional goal, while Barber tallied his first pro assist on the play.
Buoyed by the leveler, Sporting KC II had their tails up to start the second half and surged ahead in the 49th minute. Hernandez’s long-range piledriver was cast aside by Lewis, but Barber was on hand to smash the rebound low into the corner for his maiden pro goal.
The home team added a third with 54 minutes on the clock when Hernandez’s in-swinging corner kick was nodded home by the leaping Rad. The center back opened his professional scoring account 11 days shy of his 20th birthday, while Hernandez extended his SKC II all-time assist record with the 13th of his USL Championship career.
In the 69th minute, Duke was joined on the field by his older brother Christian Duke, marking the first time the two had been on the field together in the same professional match.
SKC II were in cruise control as the dying embers of the game began to blaze, but Smith provided a final highlight with a stunning 30-yard strike that extended the lead to 4-1 on 73 minutes. The rookie’s world-class golazo served as the cherry on top of a dominant display as Nagamura’s men bounced impressively into the win column.
2021 USL Championship | Match 7
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 73 degrees and partly cloudy
|Sporting Kansas City II (1-3-3, 6 points)||1||3||4|
|FC Tulsa (3-2-0, 9 points)||1||0||1|
Sporting Kansas City II: John Pulskamp; Jaylin Lindsey (C), Kaveh Rad, Danny Barbir, Amadou Dia; Petar Cuic (Christian Duke 69'), Felipe Hernandez (Bailey Sparks 75'), Cam Duke; Grayson Barber (Rojay Smith 69'), Wilson Harris (Ropapa Mensah 86'), Enoch Mushagalusa (Kayden Pierre 75')
Subs Not Used: Gavin Krenecki, Aljaz Dzankic
FC Tulsa: Sean Lewis; Bradley Bourgeois (C), Modou Jadama (Leo Folla 77'), Kevin Garcia, Matt Sheldon; Lucas Coutinho (Eric Bird 56'), Rodrigo da Costa, Raphael Ayagwa (Solomon Kwambe 72'); Marlon Santos (Kembo Kibato 46'), Jerome Kiesewetter, Dario Suarez (Stanley Oganbor 72')
Subs Not Used: Austin Wormell, Ciaran Winters
TUL -- Lucas Coutinho 1 (Rodrigo da Costa 2) 14'
SKC -- Cam Duke 1 (Grayson Barber 1) 45+3'
SKC -- Grayson Barber 1 (unassisted) 49'
SKC -- Kaveh Rad 1 (Felipe Hernandez 1) 54'
SKC -- Rojay Smith 1 (unassisted) 73'
TUL -- Marlon Santos (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 23'
SKC -- Kaveh Rad (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 41'
SKC -- Wilson Harris (yellow card; dissent) 55'
TUL -- Eric Bird (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 71'
TUL -- Jerome Kiesewetter (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 85'
|Shots on Goal||7||4|
Referee: Matt Thompson
Assistant Referee: Jack Ryan-Feldman
Assistant Referee: Ryan Cook
Fourth Official: Luis Tribaldo