For the second time in the last 30 days, Sporting Kansas City II has been named MLS NEXT Pro Team of the Matchday. Sporting KC II earned Team of Matchday 19 for their dominant 4-0 win over the Western Conference-leading Colorado Rapids 2 on Sunday night at Rock Chalk Park.
In a crucial matchup between two sides toward the top of the table, head coach Benny Feilhaber's SKC II squad handed Rapids 2 just their second loss of the season. Four different players found the back of the net with two goals in each half sandwiching a two-hour weather delay. In an impressive showing, Sporting KC II outpaced the highest-scoring club in MLS NEXT Pro in expected goals 3.5 to 1.44 despite firing just three more shots throughout the contest.
On the defensive side of the ball, Sporting dominated the match, winning 16 tackles, and nearly 61.9 percent of their duels. The first half was all SKC II as well with the hosts not allowing a single shot on target from the potent Rapids 2 offense.
The scoreboard lit up in the 18th minute after consistent pressure from the Sporting KC II front three finally cracked the Colorado backline. The first goal came after Alenis Vargas dribbled his way into the fold before laying a pass off to Stephen Afrifa. The first-teamer's shot took a deflection, rolled past the keeper and was tucked into the empty net before it could roll over the endline by Sebastian Cruz. The former SKC Academy player has scored in three-straight matches now and has four goals in 2023, tied for second most on SKC II.
Vargas then put his name on the scorer's sheet with a highlight reel goal. Afrifa clipped a ball to the top of the box which the Honduran positioned himself under before flying into the air and scissor-kicking a powerful shot into the top corner of the goal. the MLS NEXT Pro Goal of Matchday 19 and potential Goal of the Year nominee doubled SKC II's lead and added to Vargas' seven goal contributions on the season.
The weather became a factor in the 51st minute when the match had to be temporarily suspended. The delay sent the players into the locker room for over two hours before play was allowed to resume. Rapids 2 tried to get back into the match but goalkeeper Ethan Bandre was up to task, making four clutch saves, including a one-on-one stop on Remi Cabral in the 58th. Bandre would get a bit more of a cushion in the 59th when Ethan Bryant found Nassim Mekideche at the near post on a corner. The centerback rose above the pack and redirected the service into the back of the net with authority for SKC II's third goal of the night.
Bryant would pick up a second assist in the 72nd when his through ball put second half substitute and first-team loanee Felipe Hernandez into the 18. The all-time leader in assists for SKC II cut the ball onto his left and then ripped one past the keeper's near post for the fourth and final goal of the night. Bandre made one more superb save late in the match and SKC II held on to earn their third clean sheet of the campaign.
The triumphant performance marks three straight wins for SKC II as they move six points clear of the playoff line with under 10 matches to play. A busy week looms for coach Feilhaber's group as they travel to take on Houston Dynamo 2 at SaberCat Stadium on Sunday in another colossal Frontier Division clash. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV. Following the Dynamo Dos duel, SKC II will travel to the Pacific Northwest for a midweek meeting with Tacoma Defiance on Wednesday before finally returning to Rock Chalk Park on Sunday, Aug. 13 to take on Timbers2. Tickets for the Timbers2 match are on sale at SeatGeek.com.