Sporting Kansas City II was one of 21 teams that launched MLS NEXT Pro’s inaugural season in 2022. SKC II had hope for better results on the field this season in a new league that catered more to player development.
That hope fell short of the expectations of many, as SKC II missed the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.
The move to the new league was accompanied by a lot of changes in personnel. Benny Feilhaber took the reigns as head coach, assisted by Ike Opara. Three of SKC II’s leading scorers from 2021, Enoch Mushagalusa, Rojay Smith and Tyler Freeman, were no longer with the team.
Playing most of the home games at Rock Chalk Park, SKC II transitioned to Swope Soccer Village in late July.
The season started slowly with just one win in the opening six matches. A three-match winning streak in May brought some hope. That hope was leveled out when streakiness became an apparent theme in June.
Among the disappointments was the departure of leading goal scorer Mataeo Bunbury, leaving the club to sign for USL Championship side Birmingham Legion FC.
SKC II opened July with a pair of wins before losing three straight without scoring. With the losing streak stretched to four games, SKC II ended it with a 2-0 win over Portland. SKC II lost two more but managed to end the season on a positive note, beating Colorado Rapids 2 by a 5-0 scoreline before snatching an extra point with a PK win in St. Louis.
Jahon Rad was announced as Sporting KC II Most Valuable Player at the club’s annual Pitch Black celebration. Previously playing in the midfield, Jahon Rad transitioned to central defender this season with SKC II.
Eastern Conference champion Columbus Crew 2 defeated Western Conference champion St. Louis CITY2 by a final score of 4-1 to win the league’s inaugural championship.
Sporting II ended the season with nine wins in 24 games, compared to four wins in 34 games last year. From a competition standpoint, the league was an improvement. But the new league also had a lot of steps backward from the USL Championship.
Fellow The Blue Testament writer, Chad Smith, delved into the significant frustrations throughout MLS NEXT Pro's first season.
Final Standings and Stats
31 points; 9 wins; 12 losses; 3 draws (1 PK win; 2 PK losses)
5th place in Frontier Division; 8th place in Western Conference; 15th overall
Goal Difference: -7
Goals Scored: 31
Goals Allowed: 38
- Ranked fourth in save percentage (72.1%)
- Ranked first in duel percentage (53.4%)
- Ranked last in scoring attempts (217) and scoring attempts on target (76)
- Ranked second worst in long balls (602) and long ball percentage (43%)
Rauf Salifu — 6
Julian Vazquez; Bakary Bagayoko; Mataeo Bunbury — 4
Collin Fernandez — 4
Josh Coan; Julian Vazquez — 3
Collin Fernandez; Esai Easley — 22
Jahon Rad — 21
Julian Vazquez — 20
Collin Fernandez — 1,701
Jahon Rad — 1,574
Esai Easley — 1,538
Goalkeeper Games (Goals Against Average):
Kendall McIntosh: 10 (1.5)
John Pulskamp — 6 (1.5)
Ethan Bandre — 5 (2)
Carlito Saylon — 3 (1.33)
Kendall McIntosh — 2
Carlito Saylon; Ethan Bandre; John Pulskamp — 1
Kendall McIntosh — 34 (69.4%)
Ethan Bandre — 27 (73%)
John Pulskamp — 25 (73.5%)
Carlito Saylon — 12 (75%)