Sporting Kansas City II (6-4-5, 26 points) will face Timbers2 (6-10-0, 18 points) at Providence Park in Portland, OR on Sunday night in an MLS NEXT Pro regular season showdown between the two Western Conference clubs. The match will begin at 9 p.m. CT and fans can stream it for free on MLSNEXTPro.com or on the MLS YouTube channel.
In the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season, Sporting KC II took down Timbers2 twice, first in a 2-1 road win and then a late-season 2-0 home victory at Swope Soccer Village. Sunday marks the first meeting with the second matchup set for Aug. 13 at Rock Chalk Park.
SKC II enters Sunday in the midst of a five-match unbeaten run and have earned a result in eight of their last nine matches. Head coach, and June MLS NEXT Pro Coach of the Month Benny Feilhbaer earned a signature win in the team's last outing. The club wiped out Whitecaps FC 2 7-1 at home with goals coming from seven different players, an MLS NEXT Pro record for individual goal scorers in a single match.
First-team loanees have found a solid footing with SKC II in recent matches. The last two contests have seen seven and nine first-teamers crack the starting XI respectively. Cam Duke, Stephen Afrifa, Felipe Hernandez and Danny Flores all started and scored first half goals against WFC2, plus Duke and Hernandez as well as Ozzie Cisneros picked up assists in the rout.
Cisneros and Flores have become mainstays for the second team this season with the former tallying three goals and an assist and the latter netting two goals and an assist. Defender Chris Rindov is another Sporting KC regular with SKC II, starting five consecutive matches. The rookie has completed 388 passes this season, third most on the team.
Forward and second-team contracted player Pau Vidal spearheads the SKC II offense. The Spaniard has nine goals to his name, tied for the second most in the MLS NEXT Pro golden boot race. Joining him in the attack has been Alenis Vargas who has the most assists on SKC II with four. The Honduran netted his first goal as a member of the club in the 57th minute against Vancouver as well.
Sporting KC Academy player Nati Clarke has cemented himself as the team's main leftback with his recent form. The Topeka native has nine starts, 17 interceptions and boasts a 5-1-3 record in said nine starts. Clarke was named to the MLS NEXT All-Star Western Conference Team and will play in the second annual MLS NEXT All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 19.
Right-back Lucas Rosa is another stalwart defender on Feilhaber's roster. He leads the team in starts (15), matches played (13), minutes (1233) and interceptions (24). He picked up his second assist of 2023 against WFC2, passing the ball to himself to blow by a defender before placing a perfect cross onto the head of Andrew Draper.
Portland comes into the match as the only team to have not participated in a shootout. They hold a 6-10-0 record and have suffered three consecutive losses. Before this current rough patch, they rattled off four straight victories. Timbers2 is led by Shannon Murray in his second year in charge of T2.
Sunday's hosts have a bevy of offensive options with nine different goal-scorers this season. Nobody on T2 has more than Florian Monzon who has six so far this season. Both Noel Caliskan and Tega Ikoba rank second with three goals. Goalkeeper Ryan Bilichuk has been their main starter between the posts in 2023. He has 28 goal concessions in his 12 starts and has two clean sheets.
MLS NEXT Pro: Match 16
Date: Sunday, July 9, 2023
Kickoff: 9 p.m. CT
Location: Providence Park (Portland, OR)
Match-specific hashtag: #PORvSKC