Sporting KC II (9-12-2, 29 points) will put a bow on the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro season with a Decision Day duel with St Louis CITY2 at Ralph Korte Stadium in Edwardsville, IL on Sunday. The match will begin at 6 p.m. CT and can be streamed for free at MLSNEXTPro.com. As the MLS NEXT Pro Game of the Week, the match will receive an enhanced broadcast but will still be free to fans everywhere.
The two rivals have seen each other twice this season already. CITY2 has taken wins in both matches at Rock Chalk Park en route to clinching a spot in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro playoffs.
SKC II comes into this match off a historic victory in which they ran Rapids 2 out of Kansas City in a 5-0 rout. Jake Davis, Josh Coan and an own goal gave SKC II a 3-0 lead at the half before Bakary Bagayoko's brace in the second gave the club their largest margin of victory in team history.
In recent matches, SKC II's goalkeeper role has fallen on Ethan Bandre and Carlito Saylon with frequent first-team loanees Kendall McIntosh and John Pulskamp earning minutes with the first team. Bandre, freshly 24 years old, has made five starts in his first pro season, making 27 saves. Saylon, a Sporting KC Academy Product, has been between the poles twice, earning his first pro win and clean sheet on Monday, Sept. 5 against Colorado.
The defense has been headlined by centerbacks Jahon Rad and Esai Easley in 2022. Rad leads all defenders with 18 starts and 1557 minutes played this season. 2022 MLS SuperDraft selection Easley's 21 appearances are tied for a club high. He has added a goal and two assists in his 21 matches played.
The wingbacks have seen a wide cast of characters including first-tamer Kayden Pierre. Two Academy players. Coby Jones and Mikey Lenis have increased their role on SKC II this season while midseason addition and Academy member Nati Clarke has earned over 400 minutes on the backline.
In the midfield, Captain Collin Fernandez has premiered as one of SKC II's most consistent players he leads the team in assists (4) as well as minutes played (1616). He has been joined by holding mid Curtez Kellman as well as first-team player Jake Davis who added his second goal of the campaign against Colorado.
Versatile attacker Josh Coan has kicked it up a notch late in the season. Like Davis, he tallied his second goal of 2022 against Rapids 2 and has added two assists. His growth has coupled nicely with the assurance of forward Bakary Bagayoko. The double goalscorer in SKC II's last match, Bagayoko now has four goals on the season, all in the club's previous four contests.
Bagayoko joins fellow forward Julian Vazquez in the four goal club, good for second most on SKC II. Vazquez has also picked up three assists, also second most on the team. Striker Rauf Salifu paces the side in goals, accumulating six throughout the year.
The hosts for Sunday's season finale, St Louis currently hold the top spot in the Frontier Division. Head coach John Hackworth and his squad will try to secure a home playoff match with a result and has their sights set on the top spot in the Western Conference with a result and Tacoma Defiance loss against Timbers2.
CITY2's standout players in 2022 include former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal. In his first season with CITY2, he has totaled five goals and five assists. Leading St Louis in goals this season has been forward Josh Dolling and his eight goals.
MLS NEXT Pro: Match 24
Date: Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022
Kickoff: 6 p.m. CT
Location: Ralph Korte Stadium (Edwardsville, IL)
Live Stream: mlsnextpro.com
Sporting Kansas City II: 9-12-2, 29 points
St Louis CITY2: 15-6-2, 48 points
Match-specific hashtag:r #STLvSKC