Sporting Kansas City II (11-7-5, 41 points) sank MNUFC2 (9-8-6, 36 points) 1-0 on Saturday night in the club's final match at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence, Kansas in 2023. Alenis Vargas continued his impeccable form with his sixth goal on Ethan Bryant's third assist while John Pulskamp and the back four maintained the clean sheet.
With the win, Sporting KC II picked up their fifth straight win at Rock Chalk Park and improves to 41 points on the season, their most in a single season since 2018. With the additional three points, SKC II increased their playoff odds as well, now sitting seven points clear of St. Louis CITY2 and the Western Conference playoff line.
Head coach Benny Feilhaber's starting XI got the boost of five first-team loanees, the most in a match since the team's 2-1 win over Earthquakes II on July 16. Pulskamp tended goal with Lucas Rosa, Chris Rindov, Nassim Mekideche and Nati Clarke running the show on the backline. Danny Flores played the six with Bryant and Felipe Hernandez split in front of him. Coan, Vargas and Cam Duke began the match in the attacking three.
With temperatures well into the 100s at kickoff, the first half was played methodically by both sides. The first attacking motion came in the fourth when the visitors won the first corner kick of the contest. The ball was played toward the penalty spot and redirected the goal but popped well over the target.
In the seventh Britton Fischer was handed the match's first of five yellow cards after flipping Duke over his leg with a poor challenge. Four minutes later, a poor turnover in the defensive third gave MNUFC2 a clear look at goal which Diego Pacheco, the team's leading scorer, squandered with an errant shot from within the box.
Mekideche then put his name into the story of the match with a brilliant slide tackle in the 19th that slammed the door shut on a Minnesota counter. As the match ticked past the 20th minute, captain Coan almost found the opener on back-to-back occasions. The first came in the 23rd when Coan crashed through the defense and sent a shot on target that Fred Emmings somehow kept out. The rebound just missed the leg of Vargas, however, SKC II got back on the ball setting Coan up again. This time his effort was pushed just wide of the far post, barely missing the target.
A minute later, on the other side of the field, Pulskamp made his lone save of the night and boy was it a beauty. The Homegrown keeper leaped high into the air and smacked a shot destined for the roof of the goal over the crossbar and away from danger. Pulskamp would go on to earn his MLS NEXT Pro first clean sheet of the season.
The match slowed until the 40th when SKC II opened up the floodgates with their pressure. Rosa connected with Bryant on a cross from the sideline which the midfielder fired at the net with one touch. His shot was destined for goal but took a deflection off a defender on the way in and wound up a corner.
Two minutes after that, Minnesota's desperate defense deflected three shots from inside the six as the hosts were unable to find the goal. Halftime came with neither side finding the breakthrough.
Much like the first half, Minnesota took the first shot in the second, bouncing one past Pulskamp's post from a tight angle. Bryant boomed one into the body of Emmings from just inside the 18 as the keeper was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to block the effort.
In the 58th, Cielo Tschantret and Ozzie Cisneros came on for Flores and Duke as the first pair of SKC II subs. In the 61st Rindov showed immaculate patience to keep in front of his mark and block a shot from the endline over said endline. Minutes later Vargas almost scored when he fought through contact to poke a shot at the goal while losing his balance. His attempt drifted inches past the near post and into the side netting for an Emmings goalkick.
Jahon Rad entered in the 70th for Rindov and would help the defensive front hold onto the shutout late in the match. Finally, Vargas broke free in the 79th after keeping his persistent effort up all match. Tschantret won the ball back off an MNUFC2 restart before finding Bryant in the midfield. After slipping in behind the defense, Vargas received a pass, cut upfield and tucked the ball neatly into the net for the go-ahead goal.
Still hungry for more, the goal scorer skipped a cross into the box where Coan dummied it for Bryant whose shot hammered off a defender and away from danger. Enzo Mauriz was the final Sporting KC II sub to enter the match, taking off Bryant in the 83rd. Minnesota, desperate for a leveler launched numerous attacks at the SKC II goal in the final moments of the match.
The first came in the form of a shot that rolled past Pulskamp and barely past the far post. The second was a set piece that was headed over the target from inside the six and the final, heart-stopping effort came in the final minute of stoppage time when another headed effort ricocheted off the crossbar and sat on top of the net, allowing the SKC II faithful to breathe a sigh of relief after the final whistle was blown.
Looking to improve upon their standings in the Western Conference, SKC II will travel to Austin, Texas for a meeting with Austin FC II at Parmer Field at St. David’s Performance Center on Friday. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. CT and the match can be streamed on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
Sporting KC II
Sporting Kansas City II: John Pulskamp; Lucas Rosa, Chris Rindov (Jahon Rad 70'), Nassim Mekideche, Nati Clarke; Danny Flores (Cielo Tschantret 59'), Felipe Hernandez, Ethan Bryant (Enzo Mauriz 83'); Josh Coan, Alenis Vargas, Cam Duke (Ozzie Cisneros 59')
Subs Not Used: Ethan Bandre, Alex Cunningham, Andrew Draper, Amadou Traore, Trajan Wormington
MNUFC2: Fred Emmings, Nick Richardson (Alisa Randell 88'), Britton Fischer, Geremy Rodas, Devin Padelford; Molik Khan, Zayden Bello, Cedrick Gbo (Rory O'Driscoll 46'); Diogo Pacheco (Juan Mosquera 55'), Kameron Lacey (Loic Mesanvi 72'), Emmanuel Iwe
Subs Not Used: Alec Smir, Jason Ramos
SKC – Alenis Vargas 6 (Ethan Bryant 3) 79'
MIN – Britton Fischer (yellow card; reckless offense) 7'
MIN – Cedrick Gbo (yellow card; reckless offense) 18'
SKC – Nassim Mekideche (yellow card; reckless offense) 63'
SKC – John Pulskamp (yellow card; time wasting) 90+4'
MIN – Rory Driscoll (yellow card; reckless offense) 90+5'
Shots on Goal
Referee: Jose Lara
Assistant Referee: Albert Franklin
Assistant Referee: Jarred Mosher
Fourth Official: Kyle Armstrong