Sporting Kansas City II (2-2-1, 8 points) suffered a 3-2 loss on the road to FC Cincinnati 2 (2-1-1, 8 points) at NKU Soccer Stadium, Sunday evening in the team's first-ever meeting with an Eastern Conference opponent in MLS NEXT Pro. Forward Pau Vidal netted his fourth goal of the season and has now scored in four straight matches while Sporting KC Academy player Cielo Tschantret found the back of the net in his professional debut.
A rotated squad from head coach Benny Feilhaber featured five changes from SKC II's 4-0 win over Real Monarchs on Friday, April 14. Sporting KC Academy goalkeeper Carlito Saylon made his 2023 debut after appearing in three SKC II matches a season ago. Nati Clarke made his second straight start and was joined by fellow Academy defender Jacob Bartlett. Lucas Rosa made his fifth start and Jahon Rad made his fourth. The midfield was comprised of Tschantrat as well as captain Josh Coan and SKC II newcomer Vitor Dias. The front three was made up of Vidal, Andrew Draper and Alenis Vargas making his first start for the team.
Entering tonight, SKC II had scored first in every match and had scored within the first 10 minutes in back-to-back contests. Both of those streaks were extended when Vidal opened up the scoring in the fourth minute, getting on the end of a cross from Vargas from the right side and thundering the ball into the back of the net.
For Vargas, it was one of his first actions as a member of SKC II after signing with the team on loan from Fútbol Consultants Desamparados in Costa Rica. For Vidal, it gives him four goals on the season all of which have come in SKC II's last four matches. The Spanish striker is tied for second in MLS NEXT Pro with four goals on the season.
SKC II kept up the pressure and continued to chase FCC2 all over the field. This high press led to numerous chances for the visitors including one from Vargas in the eighth minute. This time, Vidal would have been the one picking up the assist had the winger's effort not been saved by Evan Louro. Salim Adams took the first shot for the hosts and sent it well off frame in the 10th minute.
Coan, who had two shots on target in the contest took his first from inside the 18 in the 12th, ripping the ball off the bounce into the midsection of Louro. The ball nearly rolled over the goalline but was cleared at the last moment by a retreating defender. Adams was then shown FCC2's first of six yellow cards for a foul on Coan near midfield.
Joey Akpunonu earned the second yellow of the match after taking out Vidal with a late challenge. The Cincinnati center back's day came to a close moments after this foul but not before the home side drew level. Benjamin Stitz was played in behind the defense, entered the 18 and tucked the ball barely inside the post to bring the score even.
With momentum on their side, FC Cincinnati 2 was back on the attack two minutes later. Bartlett blocked a cross away with his head, but the opposition recollected the ball and fired one on goal forcing Saylon into a diving, two-handed save. The match slowed for about 10 minutes but David Garcia was booked after a tactical foul on Coan in the 33rd and in the 35th, Cincinnati took the lead after an errant clearance from Draper was picked off and scored by Jesus Castellanos.
Stitz thought he had a brace right before the 40-minute mark after he headed a ball into the goal but the offside flag went up a moment later. Vidal was given SKC II's first of three yellow cards and the halftime whistle came with SKC II trailing at the break for the first time in 2023.
Out of the half, Mikey Lenis and Keny Martinez came on for Dias and Vidal respectively. Tschantret was given a yellow card almost immediatly off the kickoff for a tactical foul. An SKC II corner was played from Coan to Bartlett and headed towards goal but just off frame. Cincinnati doubled their lead in the 53rd, finishing a corner kick off the head of Kai Thomas.
Refusing to give up, Vargas slipped past the defense and found himself in on goal where he got a ball past Louro but not the final defender as a second SKC II chance was cleared off the line. The ensuing corner was served by Coan to the back post where it was met by Tschantret and blasted into the back door. With 27 minutes left, SKC II was now looking for the equalizer once again.
Cincinnati earned a free kick in the first action after the goal. Saylon made the save, moving his feet and getting in position to block the set piece and secure the rebound. Nassim Mekideche entered the match for Bartlett in the 67th, returning from injury. Coan's second attempt at goal was saved by Louro in the 71st after Rosa did brilliantly to turn FC Cincinnati over in the attacking third and find his captain in a shooting position.
Yesion Mejia replaced Draper and the SKC II front three was comprised of all Hondurans for a brief moment. Saylon made another terrific save, diving low and to his left to turn aside a turf burner from long range on the cusp of the 80th minute. On the following corner kick, Vargas rose up and landed awkwardly. He was carried off on a stretcher. Amadou Traore came on in place of the injured winger.
With 10 minutes to go in the contest, SKC II chased the equalizer that just would not come. Rosa almost bagged another Goal of the Matchday nominee in the 86th, however, his dream of a repeat was squashed by an incredible save from Louro in the upper right corner. SKC II had a few set pieces that did not yield any shots on target and Saylon kept the team in it with a superb save at close range with some help from Clarke. FC Cincinnati 2 would hold on to take the contest 3-2 and keep their home unbeaten streak alive.
Sporting Kansas City II will now return home to Rock Chalk Park to face Houston Dynamo 2 on Sunday, April 30 following this two-match road trip in which they picked up a 4-0 win before suffering this 3-2 defeat. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT and tickets are on sale at SeatGeek.com for just $10 with kids under 12 receiving free admission. Fans can also watch the match on MLS SEASON PASS on Apple TV or check @SportingKCII on Twitter for updates.
2023 MLS NEXT Pro | Match 5
NKU Soccer Stadium | Newport, KY
Weather: 49 degrees and cloudy
Sporting KC II
FC Cincinnati 2
Sporting Kansas City II: Carlito Saylon; Lucas Rosa, Jahon Rad, Jacob Bartlett (Nassim Mekideche 67'), Nati Clarke; Cielo Tschantret, Vitor Dias (Mikey Lenis 45'), Josh Coan; Alenis Vargas (Amadou Traore 72), Pau Vidal (Keny Martinez 45'), Andrew Draper (Yeison Mejia 72')
Subs Not Used: Ethan Bandre, Bakary Bagayoko, Alex Cunningham, Coby Jones
FC Cincinnati 2: Evan Louro, Joey Akpunonu (Stiven Jimenez 25' (Jordi Govea 45')), David Garcia, Kai Thomas; Morgan Marshall, Salim Adams, Darrell Turcios (Nicholas Samways 76'), Gerardo Valenzuela (Ryder Mills 76'), Haroun Conteh; Jesus Castellano, Benjamin Stitz
Subs Not Used: Paul Walters, Matthew Dreas, Nicholas McHenry, Hunter Morse, Owen Noverr
SKC – Pau Vidal 4 (Alenis Vargas 1) 4'
CIN – Benjamin Stitz 1 (Gerardo Valenzuela 1) 22'
CIN – Jesus Castellanos 2 (unassisted) 36'
CIN – Kai Thomas 1 (Jordi Govea 2) 53'
SKC – Cielo Tschantret 1 (Josh Coan 2) 63'
CIN – Salim Adams (yellow card; reckless offense) 13'
CIN – Joey Akpunonu (yellow card; reckless offense) 17'
CIN – David Garcia (yellow card; tactical foul) 33'*
SKC – Pau Vidal (yellow card; reckless offense) 43'
SKC – Cielo Tschantret (yellow card; tactical foul) 46'
CIN – Haroun Conteh (yellow card; reckless offense) 49'
CIN – Jordi Govea (yellow card; time wasting) 84'
CIN – Nicholas Samways (yellow card; reckless offense) 88'
SKC – Jahon Rad (yellow card; reckless offense 90+5')
Shots on Goal
Referee: Eric Tattersall
Assistant Referee: Jackson Krauser
Assistant Referee: Stephen Milhoan
Fourth Official: Kevin Fikar