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Sporting KC II Pound Baker 8-0: Plus Eight Bonus Observations

SKC II had their second preseason game and let’s just say it went a little better.

Bailey Sparks had a goal and an assist
Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City II returned to action in their second preseason game after a 2-1 loss over the weekend to USL League One side, Union Omaha. The level of competition dropped a bit as they played Baker University, but they seemed intent on making up for the loss.

They did so in a big way with eight (!) goals, including a hat trick from new striker Ropapa Mensah. The Ghanain looks like he’ll push Dominik Resetar for starting minutes with Wilson Harris likely spending much of his time with the first team.

SKC II ran out a different lineup each half with only a couple hold overs. The first half lineup featured three first team players on loan: Harris, midfielder Ozzie Cisneros and center back Graham Smith.

The first team players were joined by four from SKC II (Aljaz Dzankic, Christian Duke, Jake Davis and David Panka), a trialist (Rojay Smith) and three SKC Academy players (Max Trejo, Kayden Pierre and Jayvin Van Deventer).

The game started a little slow as neither team was really in control early. As SKC II started to get settled they really started to take over the game about 15 minutes in. The standout of the first 25 minutes or so was Ozzie Cisneros who was playing the 8/10 midfield role. He was slick on the ball, calm and did a good job forcing several turnovers. In the 20th minute, one of those turnovers and a subsequent through ball put David Panka in on goal for the games first score.

SKC II would strike again moments later when the Baker CB had his pocket picked by Harris who made it 2-0 just a minute later.

The final goal of the half came off a corner kick. Davis sent it in and at first it wasn’t clearly if Graham Smith got a head on it or if it was a olimpico. Upon review of our own Thad Bell’s photos, it appears Smith got a touch and SKC II took a 3-0 lead into the half.

The second half started with a heavily altered lineup as only Panka and R. Smith remained in the game on the wings.

KC NWSL’s Head Coach Huw Williams’ son, Tommy, was in net. He was joined by unsigned SKC draft pick Matt Constant, SKC II players Mensah, Jahon Rad and Danny Barbir, plus SKC Academy players Williams, Michael Lenis, Nati Clarke, Nico Pendleton and Bailey Sparks.

It wouldn’t take long for the new unit to get on the board. They thoroughly controlled the entire half outside of one chance for Baker and struck first in the 50th minute. Panka tore up the right side of the pitch, beating his man before cutting it back to Sparks who slotted it past the keeper.

Baker had their best chance of the match when one of their players sent a curling ball towards the top corner, but it didn’t have quite enough pace on it and a diving Williams pushed it out for a corner.

Further subs came on for SKC II in the 59th minute when first team loanee Tyler Freeman came in at left wing and SKC II second year man Enoch Mushagalusa came on at RW. Those two would combine for a quick goal when Enoch drove down the right side, beating his man with pace and sending a low cross into the box. Freeman fought through his defender to get a touch and make it 5-0!

Then Mensah got going. In the 78th minute, midfielder Nicolas Pendleton sent a sharp ball into the box, that I’m not sure was intended for Mensah but he stabbed it out of the air, turned and blasted it home.

Two minutes later he struck again after Tyler Freeman cut in from his left wing spot, hesitated just enough to pull the defenders towards him and slipped a lovely through ball to Mensah who rounded the keeper for his second and the team’s 7th of the night.

In the final minute SKC II worked the ball all around the box before Sparks blasted a shot which was partially blocked and fell to Mensah who poked it home to complete his hat trick. Mercifully, as soon as the game restarted, the ref blew the final whistle.

SKC II are back in action this weekend against USL One side Forward Madison, also at Swope Soccer Village.

Bonus Observations

  • Goalkeeper Max Trejo seems to have grown about a foot. He seemed small the last time I saw him with SKC II. He was a commanding presence in the box and with an empty stadium it was easy to hear him direct traffic from the back.
  • Several players did a good job of helping position their teammates, including Duke, Dzankic and Smith.
  • Jake Davis looked to be in preseason form today. Other than his well delivered corner that led to the game’s third goal, he had several bad touches early on in the first half and was visibly upset with himself. He was a star in 2020 for SKC II and I imagine he’ll get that rectified in no time.
  • Christian Duke seems to be the first choice left back on the team. He wore the captain’s armband today and appeared to be getting settled in at LB. He had a turnover in a tough spot early, but fought hard to get the ball back. The more time he spends in that position, the more comfortable I’m sure he’ll be. The team is just so deep at midfielder, it makes sense to put his veteran presence on the backline. At media day, his younger brother, Cam Duke, talked about the chance of playing with his brother at SKC II. It sounded like with COVID restrictions lessening it’ll be more of a thing in 2021 to see players moving up and down from the first team.
  • Speaking of left backs, 16-year-old Nati Clarke played there in the second half. Clarke looked tiny next to 6’4” Danny Barbir, but he played beyond his age. He flew up and down the left side of the field, several times getting in behind the defense. On one occasion he got his legs tied up with a Baker player and he fought through it but when the Baker player hit the ground they called the foul on Nati, who had the ball. He showed lots of promise and I’ll be intrigued to see if he signs an academy contract with SKC II in 2021.
  • Another fullback who made an impact was Kayden Pierre. He played several times on an academy deal in 2020 but he started at RB today. It took time for him and trialist Rojay Smith to find some chemistry, but when they got going, Pierre looked good. He drew the games only yellow card when he cut inside and took on multiple players before being taken out just outside the Baker box.
  • Bailey Sparks lined up in the midfield for SKC II tonight, but he was with the first team at their practice earlier in the day, getting a few minutes as either a 9 or a false 9. He’s an intriguing prospect that could end up in college but I’m hoping ends up on a pro deal with SKC II.
  • Overall, SKC II dominated the game and were clearly a class above Baker. It’ll be interesting to see if their players can execute like this in the USL this year. They seemed to be confident, moving the ball quickly and moving really well off the ball to set each other up.

SKC II Goals and Assists:

  • David Panka (Ozzie Cisneros) 20’
  • Wilson Harris (unassisted) 21’
  • Graham Smith (Jake Davis) 42’
  • Bailey Sparks (David Panka) 50’
  • Tyler Freeman (Enoch Mushagalusa) 65’
  • Ropapa Mensah (Nicholas Pendleton) 78’
  • Ropapa Mensah (Tyler Freeman) 80’
  • Ropapa Mensah (Bailey Sparks) 89’