Sporting Kansas City II (5-4-5, 23 points) will take on Whitecaps FC 2 (7-6-3, 26 points) on Sunday a 6 p.m. CT at Rock Chalk Park as the team gears up for the second half of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season. The match will be available to stream on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV and tickets are on sale at SeatGeek.com.
Sporting KC II's matchup with the Pacific Division leaders comes exactly one month after the two sides dueled to a 1-1 draw at Swangard Stadium. Vancouver would take the extra point in the shootout after Ethan Bryant sank a penalty in regulation to even the score late in the match.
Seven first-team loanees have started in each of SKC II's last two home matches. Both contests ended in Sporting KC II shootout victories, the first following a 2-2 draw against Tacoma Defiance and the most recent being a 1-1 tie against North Texas SC.
John Pulskamp was the goalkeeper in both of those fixtures, helping SKC II earn results in both. Stephen Afrifa, Ozzie Cisnoers, Danny Flores, Felipe Hernandez and Chris Rindov started in both draws while Cam Duke and Robert Voloder each appeared in one. Cisneros netted his third goal of the campaign against Tacoma and Flores earned his first assist against North Texas.
Nati Clarke has become a staple of the SKC II back four in the team's recent run of success. The Sporting KC Academy player has eight starts and one assist in his second season of playing professional soccer. Clarke was named to the 2023 MLS NEXT All-Star roster and will compete in the second annual MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate on Wed. July 19.
SKC II has had attacking options all over the pitch so far this season. Eleven different players have scored, however, none have as many as forward Pau Vidal. The Spaniard, in his first season with SKC II, has found the back of the net eight times and scored in two of the last three matches. He has yet to score twice in the same match, finding the back of the net in eight different contests.
Cisnoers and midfielder Ethan Bryant both clock in at three goals a piece, the second most on the team. Team captain and midfielder Josh Coan has two goals to his name while the remaining goal scorers all have one.
Goalkeeper Ethan Bandre has been a steady hand between the posts thus far. He leads all SKC II keepers with eight matches played and holds a 4-1-3 record with two clean sheets.
Vancouver enters the match atop the Pacific Division and third place in the Western Conference as a whole. Despite leading their division they are just three points ahead of SKC II setting the table for another thrilling meeting between these two teams. Sunday's visitors are led by head coach Ricardo Clark and leading scorer Levonte Johnson. Johnson scored WFC2's lone goal in the last meeting against SKC II and has six total on the campaign.
In terms of availability, SKC II has the full roster available for selection with an empty injury report. Defender Mo Abualnadi rejoined the group last week after helping the Jordan U-23s make a run to the West Asia Championship semifinals. Thirty-six players have earned minutes for SKC II including 11 first-team loanees and five Sporting KC Academy players. With 10 results in their first 14 matches and 14 different starting XIs in each match, this group is ready to take on any challenge in the second half of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season, starting with WFC2 on Sunday.
MLS NEXT Pro: Match 15
Date: Sunday, July 2, 2023
Kickoff: 6 p.m. CT
Location: Rock Chalk Park (Lawrence, KS)
Watch: MLS Season Pass – Apple TV
Match-specific hashtag: #SKCvVAN