Sporting Kansas City II (10-7-5, 38 points) takes on Minnesota United FC 2 (9-7-6, 36 points) at Rock Chalk Park on Saturday night in yet another pivotal Western Conference clash as the MLS NEXT Pro regular seasons sprints to the finish line. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT, tickets are on sale at SeatGeek.com and the match will stream live for free at MLSNEXTPro.com.
Due to the forecasted high temperatures, fans will be allowed to bring one, sealed 20-ounce water bottle into the stadium.
With just six matches to go in the 2023 campaign before playoffs, the Sporting KC II and MNUFC2, two teams separated by just two points, meet for the first time this season. In the innagualr MLS NEXT Pro season, the two split their matches with both road teams coming out victorious. Despite neither side making the playoffs last season, both teams are right in the thick of the hunt at the tail end of the season with MNUFC2 two spots and two points behind SKC II who is in fourth entering Matchday 23.
After suffering back-to-back defeats for just the second time in 2023, head coach Benny Feilhaber righted the ship in Sporting KC II's last outing. Needing three points to jump back into the top four, SKC II bagged a 6-1 win over Timbers2 at Rock Chalk Park. Forward Alenis Vargas tallied his first career SKC II hat trick, Josh Coan accumulated a goal and two assists and Lucas Rosa added a goal and an assist as well.
The humongous victory over T2 marked SKC II's fourth straight win and sixth straight result at Rock Chalk Park. Saturday will be the final regular season home match played at the state-of-the-art Lawrence, Kansas facility as the team will conclude its regular season with two matches at Swope Soccer Village in September. Rock Chalk Park has been a fortress this season as the home side boasts a 6-2-3 record with signature wins including a 7-1 thrashing of Whitecaps2, 4-0 thumping of Rapids2 and the 6-1 triumph over T2.
Vargas has played a major role in SKC II's offensive explosion which has the team ranked second in the Western Conference with 47 goals scored. The Honduran forward and MLS NEXT Pro Player of Matchday 22 has five goals and five assists, tied for the most goal contributions on the team. Forward Pau Vidal has 10 goals scored on the season but will be out on Saturday due to injury.
Coan, SKC II's team captain has been on an absolute tear lately, scoring in two of his last three appearances and adding two assists in his most recent start. He ranks second on the team with nine-goal contributions (five goals, four assists) and has become a staple of the SKC II midfield late in the season. Joining him in the middle of the pack has been Texas native Ethan Bryant. One of the most consistent players on the team, Bryant has five goals as well and has appeared in 20 matches in his first year with Sporting.
Nobody has played more on SKC II than Rosa the right-back in 2023. The Brazilian defender and University of Pittsburgh alum has started 19 of 22 appearances, telling two goals and three assists. He leads the team in minutes with 1758 as he inches closer to the 2,000-minute mark, a feat that has only been accomplished once since the 2019 SKC II season.
Rosa has played on the back four alongside numerous defenders including centerback Nassim Mekideche. The 23-year-old has started 11 of 17 appearances, notching two goals and an assist. On the left side of the defense, Academy player Nati Clarke has cemented his spot, starting 14 matches, playing 1209 minutes and adding two assists. He picked up his second assist of the season on a superb effort in which he beat the keeper to the ball before unselfishly laying off a pass to Bryant who tucked the ball into the back of the net.
Minnesota comes into Saturday with four results in their last five matches. They are sitting on 36 points, five above Vancouver and the playoff line. Their 40 goals scored are tied for the third most in the West behind Colorado and SKC II.
Their attack is headlined by two players, Diogo Pacheco and Kameron Lacey, both with eight scores. Pacheco leads the team in assists as well, tallying four. Midfielder Rory O'Driscoll leads all MNUFC2 field players in minutes played, appearing in 20 matches for 1561 minutes played. Goalkeeper Fred Emmings has been the primary keeper, playing 18 matches, conceding an average of two goals a match while making 58 saves, fifth most in the league.
Another Western Conference six-pointer is set for Saturday when these two teams renew the MLS NEXT Pro version of the Nicest Rivalry in Sports. Tickets are on sale for the 2023 SKC II Rock Chalk Park finale at SeatGeek.com for just $10 and kids 12 and under receive free admission.
MLS NEXT Pro: Match 23
Date: Saturday, August 19, 2023
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. CT
Location: Rock Chalk Park (Lawrence, Kansas)
Match-specific hashtag: #SKCvMIN