USL Championship Regular Season- Matchday 1
Sporting Kansas City II @ FC Tulsa
Saturday, May 1, 7:00 p.m. CST
Where: ONEOK Field, Tulsa, Oklahoma
How to Watch: ESPN+
Sporting Kansas City II will open their 2021 season on the road in Tulsa on Saturday.
With preseason wins over Baker University and Rockhurst University and a loss against Union Omaha, SKC II enters 2021 with a few fresh faces. In the defense, SKC II signed Matt Constant, Aljaz Dzankic and Travian Sousa. They also added forwards Ropapa Mensah, David Panka and Rojay Smith (to know more about those signings, click their name for our story on The Blue Testament).
With eight returning players from 2020, SKC II manager Paulo Nagamura enters his fourth season in charge of Sporting KC’s USL side alongside assistant coach Chris Martinez and first-year goalkeeper coach Darrin MacLeod.
Sporting II will compete in the Central Division of the USL Championship, from which half the teams from each division will advance to the playoffs. If the season goes well, SKC II should be in contention for a three or four seeded finish in the Central Division.
In the first-ever meeting between SKC II and the re-branded FC Tulsa last season, SKC II came out on top 2-1 with goals from Fredinho Mompremier and Wilson Harris.
Formerly named the Tulsa Roughnecks, FC Tulsa enter their second season since their rebrand.
Tulsa enters 2021 after finishing 2020 in second place of Group D before eventually losing to El Paso Locomotive in the quarterfinals after a penalty shootout. They are under the management of Michael Nsien, who enters his third season in charge. He is assisted by former MLS veteran goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and former SKC player Cyprian Hedrick.
Saturday’s match will be Tulsa’s second match this season, previously beating the OKC Energy 3-1 last weekend. Former St. Louis FC forward Joaquín Rivas scored twice in the first half of his Tulsa debut before Darío Suárez added a third late.
Suárez led Tulsa with eight goals in 2020, followed by Rodrigo Da Costa’s four goals. Tulsa also have former Swope Park Rangers’ Lebo Moloto, who scored once and assisted twice in his first season with Tulsa last year.
Predicted Starting XI
Since the first team is at RSL on the same day that SKC II is in Tulsa, the first team loans may be limited. Some Academy contracts are expected to be announced soon.
Goalkeeper Remi Prieur didn’t see any action in the preseason while Academy keepers Gavin Krenecki and Max Trejo saw the most action. For my predicted XI, I predicted Krenecki will get the start. In the defense, Matt Constant and Danny Barbir could get the start, but wouldn’t be surprised to see Graham Smith or Kaveh Rad. Captain Christian Duke is predicted to start at left-back until Travian Sousa returns from injury with Kayden Pierre at right-back.
I expect the Jahon Rad and Jake Davis to both start in the midfield, joined by Ozzie Cisneros coming on loan from the first team. Up top, I expect Tyler Freeman to be the other first team loan on the left wing with Enoch Mushagalusa on the right. I predicted Ropapa Mensah, who scored six goals in preseason, to make his SKC II debut as the center forward.
Saturday evening’s matchup should be a good one. It will feature two teams that seemed to be playing at a similar level in 2020.
For my final prediction, I am going to predict a 1-1 tie to open the season. Mensah will open his scoring account for SKC II.
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