Sporting Kansas City II vs OKC Energy FC
When: Saturday, August 22nd, 7:00 PM CT
Where: Swope Soccer Village, Kansas City, Missouri
How to Watch: ESPN+ ($4.99/month or 49.99 annually)
IMPORTANT: This game will be closed to the public
In a return to Swope Park, Sporting Kansas City II will be looking for their first win since their August 1st upset over the Indy Eleven. This will also be SKC II’s second and final home match of 2020.
This will be the organization’s first competitive match at the Swope Soccer Village since their dramatic comeback forced a penalty shootout win in the 2017 Western Conference Quarterfinal win over Didier Drogba and the Phoenix Rising. This will be Paulo Nagamura’s first game as the manager of SKC II at Swope Soccer Village, but he did play one game on loan from the first team in 2016 and served as an assistant coach for them under manager Nikola Popovic.
Sporting KC II enters Saturday’s match coming off a 4-1 loss to Lou City on Wednesday. SKC II is at the bottom of Group E with seven points with a record of 2-5-1. Looking to bounce back, Sporting KC II will remain without three players, although Jahon Rad will return from his suspension.
For a team that was creating some good chances earlier in the season, the chances have dried up in their two most recent losses. Wilson Harris, one of the team’s six goalscorers this season, still leads the team in scoring with two goals.
OKC Energy FC
The OKC Energy enter Saturday’s contest with just one point from four matches in August, and are coming from a 4-0 loss against San Antonio FC. Saturday’s game will be just their third game on the road, where they previously won their first one before losing their second one in San Antonio.
While SKC II’s Group E opponents have brought some of the better teams in recent years, the OKC Energy haven’t quite been that. While they found themselves in the playoffs three of their first four years under head coach Jimmy Nielsen, the former SKC captain’s departure was met by two straight seasons without a playoff appearance under head coach Steve Cook, leading to his departure after last season. Another familiar name to Sporting KC came in as Cook’s replacement, as former SKC goalkeeper coach John Pascarella was named the club’s third ever manager, and he has led the current OKC Energy to a tough start with six points from a 1-4-3 record, which has them placed fourth in Group D.
Pascarella’s return to Kansas City will have to wait after he announced that he will not be with the team after he announced that he tested positive for COVID-19.
I'd like to let everyone know that I am one of the persons, living in our team bubble, who has tested positive for Covid. As a result, Leigh Veidman and myself are quarantining and will miss the matches Wednesday & Saturday. Alexis Vizarelis will lead the team in our absence.— John Pascarella (@JPSoccerCoach) August 17, 2020
Leigh Veidman, OKC assistant coach, will also quarantine and not travel with the squad. As stated, the team will be lead by goalkeeper coach Alexis Vizarelis, who joined the Energy in 2018 and has experience as an assistant and goalkeeper coach at the collegiate level.
The Energy bring another pair of familiar faces with former SKC Academy product as well as Kaw Valley FC and Swope Park Ranger (no appearances in 2019) forward Tucker Stephenson is likely to make his return. Mostly off the bench, Stephenson has made four appearances and has one assist in his first season with OKC. The other possibly making his return to Kansas City is former Kansas City Comet (six goals and six assists in 12 games) and cancer survivor Ray Saari, a graduate of Oak Park High School, who has made three appearances with OKC this season.
With just six goals scored this season, they have five different scorers with former Chivas USA Academy player Jaime Chavez the only one to grab two goals. Another name that may sound familiar is Atiba Harris. Harris, who made more than 270 MLS appearances, has scored one and assisted one in six matches in his first season with the Energy.
Predicted Starting XI
This weekend’s predicted starting lineup has a total of three changes from Wednesday’s loss in Louisville with Petar Cuic replacing Danny Barbir in the defense while the midfield stays the same and Fredinho Mompremier replacing Tyler Freeman and Dominik Resetar replacing Jaret Townsend on the wings.
Based on how well the front three finished out the game on Wednesday, I think they’ll get the start if they are all capable. While Tyler Freeman wasn’t great, he had some moments of interest and can come off the bench after logging 66 minutes in Wednesday’s loss. In the defense, Petar Cuic came in and did pretty well to smooth things out until the final whistle, so he is deserving of a starting spot.
Even though the midfield has struggled recently, I find it hard to think that Duval Wapiwo will get a start after such little opportunities to play this season. Another option is Ryan Fessler, who has gotten a couple substitution appearances and came on for Jake Davis in Wednesday’s loss.
If there is a game to get Sporting KC II back on track, this seems to be the one. SKC II’s first inter-conference clash since the restart is going to be a terrific opportunity against a team that is looking to reignite the early years of their franchise.
For my final prediction, I am going to go with a 2-1 win. Two teams struggling, but I think SKC II will be able to grind out the result relatively easily if they can put away their chances.