Sporting Kansas City II (10-7-5, 38 points) handed Portland Timbers2 (9-12-1, 28 points) a 6-1 defeat at Rock Chalk Park on Sunday night after an extended halftime due to severe weather kept the teams in the for an extra hour. With the win Sporting KC II snaps a two-match losing skid and ends a stretch of three matches in eight days on a high note.
Alenis Vargas' hat trick propelled SKC II to a massive win as the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro regular season begins to wind down. Vargas got the scoring started in the eighth minute, finishing on a brilliant ball from Lucas Rosa across the goal mouth. He bagged his brace in the 24th on another terrific pass, this one coming from Josh Coan.
The team captain then picked up his second assist setting up Lucas Rosa's second goal of 2023 in the 29th minute. Vargas capped off his hat trick in the 52nd minute after winning and subsequently sinking a penalty kick. Ethan Bryant fired home for a fifth time in 2023 after an insane effort from Nati Clarke to get on the ball in the box. Coan finished off the scoring with a goal of his own, tapping in a cross from Ozzie Cisneros.
Head coach Benny Feilhaber rolled out a starting XI with a few changes to the group that began the midweek match at Tacoma Defiance. Two Sporting KC loanees joined the starters as Cisneros and Danny Flores cracked the XI. Ethan Bandre manned the net with Rosa, Clarke, Nassim Mekideche and Jahon Rad split out in front of him. Flores was joined by captain Coan and Bryant while Cisneros played in the front three with Vargas and Vitor Dias.
Despite SKC II taking a 3-0 lead into the break Timbers2 had the first real attack of the match, firing two shots on goal in quick succession in the second minute. A cross was headed on target from close range before Mekideche cleared it off the goalline. The rebound was then bounced toward the target forcing Bandre to punch the ball over the crossbar.
Two minutes later Vargas nearly found his first, pushing a shot inches past the far post. A moment later Coan forced Hunter Sulte into a save on a half volley blasted at the near post. The pressure was rewarded in the eighth minute when Rosa was played out wide into the attacking third. The rightback sent the ball back into the six where Vargas blasted the ball into the roof of the goal.
After the goal, Coan ripped another shot on target that Sulte smacked away for a corner. On the other side of the pitch, Mekideche made a superb defensive play, sliding over and blasting a dangerous cross away. On the ensuing corner, the ball fell to Victor Griffith who fired a shot just past Bandre's post.
The SKC II keeper then made a second save of the half, slapping a shot hit right at him into the turf and picking it up on the hop. Vargas bagged his brace thanks to an unreal through ball from Coan near midfield. The SKC II captain slipped the ball through the defense and sprung Vargas into the box. The forward played his effort perfectly into the lower left corner and doubled the lead for the hosts.
Just four minutes later Coan picked up his second assist in a lovely combination with Rosa. The defender rolled the ball to Coan who played it right back to him inside the six where he lifted a shot over the keeper and under the bar for the third goal of the half.
The half slowed down for the next 10 minutes before Rad was whistled for a foul 25 yards out. Diego Guttierez stepped up and fired the free kick well over the crossbar. Back on the attack, Rosa left a handful of defenders in the dust with some sweet skills before curling one over the top of the goal from long range. Dias, who scored his first SKC II goal on Wednesday, almost netted his second of the season if it was not for the late-diving hands of Sulte.
Halftime came and with it, a lengthy weather delay that kept both teams in the locker rooms for over an hour. When both teams came back out, the same players that concluded the first played the second half. After the long break, both sides came out looking to gain an edge.
SKC II earned that edge in the 52nd after Vargas torched his man with his blazing speed, got dragged down inside the box by Julian Bravo and won a penalty for the hosts. The Honduran strode to the spot and tallied for a third time in the match sending the keeper the wrong way. His three-goal performance is the first hat trick of the season for SKC II.
The goals just kept coming in the 63rd when Clarke dashed onto a high floated pass inside the box. The SKC Academy player beat the keeper to the ball, stood the keeper up and unselfishly found a charging Bryant who bashed the ball into the empty net.
Following the goal, Bryant made way for Sporting KC Academy midfielder Cielo Tschantret and Mekideche came off for Chris Rindov. Coan put up a goal of his own in the 75th, tapping a cross home that came off the foot of Cisneros.
The Sporting KC first teamer after picking up his second assist of the season came off for Amadou Traore as the final sub in the 80th as SKC II looked to close out the match. A solid defensive effort in the 84th took the ball off Josh Penn's foot after the second half sub got in close to the SKC II goal. Two minutes later an errant cross doinked off Dias' arm and gave T2 a penalty kick which Dawson McCartney made.
The final whistle came and Sporting KC II emerged victorious with a 6-1 win over Timbers2. With the win they jump up into fourth place in the Western Conference, surpassing Houston Dynamo 2. With just six matches to go in the MLS NEXT Pro regular season, SKC II will host MNUFC2 in the final 2023 regular season match at Rock Chalk Park on Saturday, Aug. 19. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT on MLSNEXTPro.com and tickets are on sale at SeatGeek.com.
Sporting KC II
Sporting Kansas City II: Ethan Bandre; Lucas Rosa, Jahon Rad, Nassim Mekideche (Chris Rindov 64'), Nati Clarke (Alex Cunningham 74'); Danny Flores, Josh Coan, Ethan Bryant (Cielo Tschantret 64'); Vitor Dias, Alenis Vargas (Andrew Draper 74'), Ozzie Cisneros (Amadou Traore 80')
Subs Not Used: Carlito Saylon, Coby Jones, Mikey Lenis, Enzo Mauriz,
Portland Timbers2: Hunter Sulte; Tyler Clegg (Michael Dunne 25'), Keesean Ferdinand, Jaden Jones-Riley; Blake Pope (Dawson McCartney 64'), Noel Caliskan, Victor Griffith, Diego Gutierrez (Michael Vang 64'), Julian Bravo; Florian Monzon (Josh Penn 65'), Tega Ikoba (Selmir Miscic 79')
Subs Not Used: Carver Miller, Sawyer Jura, Ian Shaul, Tristan Weber
SKC – Alenis Vargas 3 (Lucas Rosa 3) 8'
SKC – Alenis Vargas 4 (Josh Coan 3) 24'
SKC – Lucas Rosa 2 (Josh Coan 4) 29'
SKC – Alenis Vargas 5 (unassisted; penalty kick) 52'
SKC – Ethan Bryant 5 (Nati Clarke 2) 63'
SKC – Josh Coan 5 (Ozzie Cisneros 2) 76'
POR – Dawson McCartney 1 (unassisted; penalty kick) 86'
POR – Florian Monzon (yellow card; reckless offense) 19'
POR – Victor Griffith (yellow card; reckless offense) 44'
SKC – Josh Coan (yellow card; reckless offense) 45'
POR – Julian Bravo (yellow card; reckless offense) 52'
SKC – Alenis Vargas (yellow card; excessive celebration) 54'
POR – Josh Penn (yellow card; reckless offense) 75'
SKC – Jahon Rad (yellow card; reckless offense) 77'
SKC – Danny Flores (yellow card; reckless offense) 90'
Shots on Goal
Referee: Jon Freemon
Assistant Referee: Matthew Rodman
Assistant Referee: Joshua Ell
Fourth Official: Velimir Stefanovic