Sporting KC II (8-11-2, 26 points) is gearing up for their second-to-last home match of the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season on Sunday, taking on Earthquakes II at Children's Mercy Victory Field. The contest will kick off at 5 p.m. CT and can be streamed for free at MLSNEXTPro.com. Tickets for the final two home matches are on sale at SeatGeek.com.
SKC II and Earthquakes II locked horns earlier in the year, on May 20. Esai Easley headed home his first professional goal in the 59th minute before Guy Michaeli doubled the lead two minutes later with his first pro score. The hosting Earthquakes II halved the deficit in the 67th but SKC II held on to take all three points from the road fixture.
HIGHLIGHTS: Earthquakes II vs. Sporting KC II | May 20, 2022
A week ago, SKC II slipped to a 1-0 road loss to the Tacoma Defiance, ending their hopes of making a late-season push for the playoffs. The depth of the Western Conference could prove to be San Jose's downfall on Sunday as they find themselves nine points below the playoff line with just four matches to go.
Easley, the first goalscorer in the May 20 meeting, has stepped up for SKC II in his rookie season. He has started 14 of 19 appearances, accumulated 1313 minutes and has added a goal and an assist. Fellow centerback Cole McLagan who leads all defenders on the team with two goals scored will be out Sunday with a knee injury.
Jahon Rad has been a focal point of SKC II's backline, playing the second most minutes (1511) on the team. Flanking the two centrebacks recently has been Sporting KC Academy player Nati Clarke who inked an amateur contract midway through the season.
Moving back a line, Ethan Bandre has stepped between the pipes in three straight matches. He made nine saves in a loss against Houston before collecting his first professional win and clean sheet in a 2-0 takedown of Timbers2. He is averaging 4.5 saves per match.
Looking at the SKC II attack, the midfield has supported the front three with services all season. Cade Thomson who will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury added two assists while Collin Fernandez leads the team at four assists. Edgar Bazan, another Academy player who signed midseason, recently rejoined SKC II after participating in the MLS NEXT All-Star game in Minnesota. He has made four appearances and started two matches.
SKC II's two-headed monster up top has been forwards Julian Vazquez and Rauf Salifu. Vazquez and Salifu both have seven goal contributions as Salifu0 has a team-best six goals and an assist, while Vazquez has four goals and three assists. A new attacking option has revealed himself late in the season for coach Benny Feilhaber in the form of Josh Coan. The versatile player scored a penalty against Portland after assisting on forward Bakary Baghayoko's early goal.
Earthquakes II come into the match on a two-match losing skid following a jubilant July in which they went 3-1-1. Now fighting for their playoff lives they will turn to headliner Rodolfo Castro. He leads Sunday's visitors with eight goals.
MLS NEXT Pro: Match 22
Date: Sunday, August 28, 2022
Kickoff: 5 p.m. CT
Location: Children's Mercy Victory Field (Kansas City, MO)
Live Stream: mlsnextpro.com
Sporting Kansas City II: 8-11-2, 26 points
Earthquakes II: 9-8-3, 31 points
Match-specific hashtag:r #SKCvSJ