Sporting Kansas City II (4-4-3, 16 points) will face Tacoma Defiance (4-3-4, 19 points) at Rock Chalk Park on Thursday night at 7 p.m. CT. Tickets are on sale at SeatGeek.com and the match will stream live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
This marks the first meeting of these two Western Conference combatants in 2023 after the two founding members of MLS NEXT Pro locked horns twice in 2022. Tacoma took both matches, however, Sporting KC II holds a 6-2-0 record over the Defiance dating back to the USL Championship days. SKC II is coming into this one well-rested after not having a match in nearly two weeks.
In their last match, SKC II took Pacific Division-leading Whitecaps FC 2 the distance in a 1-1 draw at Swangard Stadium. Vancouver claimed the second point in kicks from the spot. With the draw, Sporting KC II earned their fourth result in their last five matches.
Tacoma trudges into Thursday looking to get back into the win column. The 2022 Pacific Division champions started the season winning four of their first six. They have not notched a victory since their 2-1 triumph at Real Monarchs on May 5. In their last five Tacoma owns a 0-2-3 record with two shootout wins.
Sporting KC II has only been shutout once this season. Their efficient offense features 11 different goal scorers led by forward Pau Vidal and his six goals. Vidal picked up a knock early in the match at Vancouver and was subbed off but has since recovered and is available for selection against Tacoma.
The offensive spark has also come from the wingers and midfielders in the first portion of the 2023 campaign. Andrew Draper and Alenis Vargas both have three assists, tied for the team lead. Vargas was a midseason addition and has started just three matches. Draper is one of three players to appear in every match and has one goal as well.
In the midfield, first-team loanees Ozzie Cisneros and Danny Flores have been monumental for the second team. Cisneros, a Sporting KC Academy product has 10 appearances and two goals in 2023 after missing a majority of 2022 due to injury. Flores, in his first season with the club, has started five of nine appearances and has added one goal.
Ethan Bryant continues to impress in the midfield in his first year in MLS NEXT Pro. The 2022 USL League One Young Player of the Year scored the leveler against WFC2 for his second goal of the season and has been called up to the first team twice.
Goalkeeper Ethan Bandre has been a model of consistency between the poles in this most recent stretch. He has made five straight starts and boasts a 3-1-3 record in his second year with SKC II.
The Wade Webber-led Defiance have found their offense in the form of 23-year-old forward Braudilio Rodrigues. The winger has five goals in 11 appearances and leads his team in starts (11), appearances (11) and goals (5). Striker Paul Rothrock tops the Tacoma charts in assists, tallying five. The former TFCII player has already equaled his assists total from 2022 after he bagged eight goals and five assists last year.
Both teams' injury report is rather short as both sides are currently healthy. SKC II will be without centerback Mo Abualnadi who is on international duty with the Jordan U-23 West Asia Championship squad. Abualnadi bagged a brace in the opening match of the tournament against the host nation of Iraq and will rejoin SKC II after their match with LAFC 2 on Sunday.
MLS NEXT Pro: Match 12
Date: Thursday, June 15, 2023
Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT
Location: Rock Chalk Park (Lawrence, KS)
Watch: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Match-specific hashtag: #SKCvTAC