Sporting KC II (7-7-2, 23 points) will face the Tacoma Defiance (9-3-4, 34 points) at Children's Mercy Victory Field on Friday night in an MLS NEXT Pro regular season showdown. SKC II is back where it all began at Swope Soccer Village where the club took home back-to-back USL Championship Western Conference titles in 2016 and 2017.
Tickets for SKC II's return to Swope Soccer Village and the final four regular season MLS NEXT Pro matches are on sale now at SeatGeek.com. All tickets are general admission and cost just $10. The match can also be streamed for free at MLSNEXTPro.com.
In their previous match, SKC II slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Real Monarchs with the lone goal scored in the 93rd minute of the match in one of the final kicks of the contest. Goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh made six saves on the night as SKC II fought hard in the heat for over 90 minutes. A week prior SKC II defeated Colorado Rapids 2 by a 2-0 scoreline with goals coming from Cole McLagan and Julian Vazquez.
McIntosh has made nine appearances for SKC II this season, more than any other keeper, posing a 4-4-1 record while making 32 saves across those nine appearances. John Pulskamp has made the second most starts in goal, going 3-2-1 in his six starts.
In the attacking third, SKC II has generated offense from all areas of the field. Number nine Rauf Salifu has shown out as of late, scoring six goals in the last six SKC II matches dating back to June 4. Salifu scored four times against North Texas SC in SKC II's most recent home match.
On the wings, Vazquez has provided a spark to the Kansas City attack. His four goals and three assists both rank second on the team and his 14 starts is tied for the team lead. Fellow winger Josh Coan has been a newfound lifeline for the club. He has started five consecutive matches adding an assist on one of Vazquez's goals.
The midfield is commanded by captain Collin Fernandez. The man with MLS experience has played the most minutes this season (1328 minutes) and leads SKC II with four assists. He has been joined by a cast of characters in the middle including Cade Thomson who has assisted on two goals.
SKC II veteran Jahon Rad has been a swiss army knife for head coach Benny Feilhaber, sliding up into the midfield as well as playing on the defensive third. His holding midfielder compatriot Curtez Kellman has provided stability in SKC II's current run of form.
The backline has been highlighted by MLS SuperDraft first-round selection Esai Easley and former USL League One defender McLagan. The centerback duo has done it all this year with Easely scoring once and McLagan tallying two game-winning goals through the 2022 season.
The outside backs have rotated this season with first-year pros, and Sporting KC Academy products Mikey Lenis and Coby Jones putting in superb minutes alongside Indiana alumnus Spencer Glass and Ghanian defender Joseph Addo Tetteh.
Tacoma enters the match as the pack leaders of the Pacific Division and the top seed in the Western Conference. Their potent offense has scored a league-high 44 goals while their sturdy defense has conceded just 19 times.
The Defiance are led by head coach Wade Webber who -much like coach Feilhaber- in his first year with the team has almost equaled the club's total wins from their previous season in the USL Championship. The headliner for Tacoma is El Salvador international Marlon Vargas who has nine goals and four assists in 16 appearances.
MLS NEXT Pro: Match 17
Date: Friday, July 22
Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT
Location: Children's Mercy Victory Field (Kansas City, MO)
Live Stream: mlsnextpro.com
Sporting Kansas City II: 7-7-2, 23 points
Tacoma Defiance: 9-3-4, 34 points
Match-specific hashtag:r #SKCvTAC