In another thrilling MLS NEXT Pro matchup, Sporting Kansas City II (5-4-5, 23 points) claimed the extra point in a shootout win over North Texas SC (5-6-5, 20 points) at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence, KS on Sunday evening. After falling behind 1-0 in the 41st, forward Pau Vidal scored his eighth goal of the campaign to level the match before all five of Sporting KC II's kick takers made their kicks in the shootout.
It was the first-ever SKC II Bark at the Park match and both the fans and dogs in attendance were treated to an end-to-end battle between two Frontier Division rivals. Head coach Benny Feilhaber trotted out seven first-team loanees in his starting XI. John Pulskamp was the netminder and made five saves, including a pair of tremendous one-on-one stops. Lucas Rosa, Chris Rindov, Robert Voloder and Nati Clarke patrolled the back four with Danny Flores, Felipe Hernandez and Ethan Bryant manning the midfield. Up top, Stephen Afrifa played the nine with Ozzie Cisneros and Sebastian Cruz spread out wide.
SKC II applied pressure to the North Texas defense throughout the night and earned eight corners in the first half alone. The first trio of set pieces came in the sixth and seventh minutes following some quick distribution from Pulskamp. The keeper snared a line-drive cross and threw the ball out to Afrifa at midfield who found Cruz on the opposite end of the pitch. After the Sporting KC Academy product earned the first corner Bryant offered three services into the area.
The first nearly connected with Rindov but was headed out for the second corner. This time Bryant's initial ball was headed upfield to Clarke who cycled the play around before earning the third corner. This time the ball was played out for a North Texas goal kick. In the ninth minute, Bryant got involved in the attack another way, wrapping his foot around the ball and sending a shot destined for goal. If not for the final defender's outstretched leg Bryant would have found the go-ahead goal early in the contest.
Rosa had the honor of firing the match's first shot on target, pinging a shot into the arms of Antonio Carrera who would make seven saves and be called into action to deny cross after cross throughout the 90. Nine minutes after Rosa's first attempt, a cheekily taken shot with the outside of the right back's foot got caught in traffic and bounced onto the top of the net. A quick counter from the visitors forced Pulskamp into action as the keeper dropped to his left side quickly to deny the attempt.
Not two minutes later a North Texas shot thudded off the woodwork and bounced high into the air. A rather ambitious, acrobatic aerial overhead kick was whiffed on near the endline and SKC II were able to clear the danger. Carrera's second save came in the form of a game of catch with a Flores offering from range. Pulskamp matched the Homegrown keeper by stonewalling a breakaway, blocking a shot from up close and personal with his chest.
In the 41st, North Texas took the lead on a goal from Alejandro Urzua. The FC Dallas second-team player snuck a shot through the defense and into the near post corner to take the lead. Pulskamp caught a poorly hit, fluttering volley and Voloder shut down a would-be golden NTX chance with a tenacious effort near midfield to end the half.
Coach Feilhaber, needing to generate some goals, turned to the man who has been one of the most prolific goal scorers in MLS NEXT Pro at halftime, bringing on Vidal for Afrifa. On the defensive front, a 50th-minute corner for the team from Texas caused a tough save from the SKC II keeper. Pulskamp then leaped up to catch a floating ball, secured it against his chest and was hammered down by Amet Korca who would take the first yellow of the night.
With just a little under an hour to play, SKC II leveled the score. Flores picked out Vidal's diagonal run with a brilliant through ball to the striker. The Spaniard took one touch and poked a shot past the charging keeper, into the far corner of the goal and evened the score.
Three minutes later the hosts were hungry for more, however, they could not satisfy that hunger thanks to the woodwork. Hernandez smartly rounded the keeper but his touch cut his angle down a bit too much as his shot plunked off the post and bounced into the middle of the box. Vidal nearly cleaned up the mess with his well-timed run but was denied on the goalline. Vidal then headed an attempt into the arms of Carrera as the forward continues to search for that multi-goal match.
In the 66th Pulskamp kept the match level with a heroic save. Diving as if he was wearing Superman's cape, the keeper punched the ball away from forward Jose Mulato the moment he was about to strike a shot on target. Four ticks following, Nolan Norris dangerously slid into Cisneros and escaped with just a yellow card. A quick restart on the foul was nearly headed home by Hernandez but was caught by Carrera.
Nassim Mekideche and Alenis Vargas entered for Voloder and Hernandez in the 71st as SKC II's first substitution moment. Rosa turned North Texas over at midfield and broke for goal in the 74th in a truly inspired moment of soccer. Despite having his jersey pulled for the majority of the run the defender continued his run and played the advantage. He cracked a shot from just outside the box and missed inches wide of the left post.
Vitor Dias came on in the 81st for Flores after the CDM put in a terrific shift in the midfield. Just a minute later chaos ensued in the NTX box. Vargas played a near post ball that Carrera spilled back into the middle. A charging Bryant ripped one into the thigh of a North Texas center back and Cisneros then collected. The Omaha native gathered himself, beating one charging defender and curled a shot that whistled barely past the upper-90. Bakary Bagayoko entered for Cruz as the final SKC II sub in the 84th, making his first appearance since April 9 after picking up an injury.
Neither side could find the winner as the match went to kicks from the spot. Vidal stepped up first and buried his kick into the top corner of the goal with authority. Bryant sent Carrera the wrong way and Cisneros rolled his shot perfectly into the lower corner of the net. Rosa banged his attempt home and Rindov cooly converted his kick. All four North Texas takers had made their kicks as Hope Avayevu strolled to the spot. The forward and second-half sub doinked his attempt off the crossbar and Pulskamp let the ball bounce away from the net to give SKC II the extra point.
With the draw against North Texas, SKC II now has seven results in their last eight matches dating back to May 5. Looking to keep the hot streak going, they will host Whitecaps FC 2 at Rock Chalk Park on Sunday, July 2. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT and tickets are available at SeatGeek.com
Sporting KC II
North Texas SC
Sporting Kansas City II: John Pulskamp; Lucas Rosa, Chris Rindov, Robert Voloder (Nassim Mekideche 73'), Nati Clarke; Danny Flores (Vitor Dias 81'), Felipe Hernandez (Alenis Vargas 73'), Ethan Bryant; Sebastian Cruz (Bakary Bagayoko 84'), Stephen Afrifa (Pau Vidal 45'), Ozzie Cisneros
Subs Not Used: Ethan Bandre, Josh Coan, Enzo Mauriz, Jahon Rad
North Texas SC: Antonio Carrera; Alejandro Araneda, Amet Korca (Yeicar Perlaza 63'), Manuel Caicedo, Tyshawn Rose; Nolan Norris (Theo Henrique 79'), Diego Garcia, Alejandro Urzua; Tomas Pondeca (Nayrobi Vargas 79'), Jose Mulato (Hope Avayevu 79'), Jared Salazar (Andre Luque 67')
Subs Not Used: Julian Eyestone
NTX – Alejandro Uruza 1 (Jared Salazar 1) 41'
SKC – Pau Vidal 8 (Danny Flores 1) 57'
NTX – Amet Korca (yellow card; tactical foul) 50'
NTX – Nolan Norris (yellow card; reckless offense) 70'
SKC – Pau Vidal (converted)
NTX – Theo Enrique (converted)
SKC – Ethan Bryant (converted)
NTX – Yeicar Perlaza (converted)
SKC – Ozzie Cisneros (converted)
NTX – Nayrobi Vargas (converted)
SKC – Lucas Rosa (converted)
NTX – Tyshawn Rose (converted)
SKC – Chris Rindov (converted)
NTX – Hope Avayevu (missed)
Shots on Goal
Referee: JC Griggs
Assistant Referee: Matt Trotter
Assistant Referee: James Norris
Fourth Official: Tim Wagner