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Sporting KC II season review: New league, similar results

Sporting KC II’s first season in MLS NEXT Pro is over. How did they do?

Nati Clarke leaping over a tackle with Esai Easley in support
Thad Bell

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%)
Team Leaders


Rauf Salifu — 6

Julian Vazquez; Bakary Bagayoko; Mataeo Bunbury — 4


Collin Fernandez — 4

Josh Coan; Julian Vazquez — 3

Games Played:

Collin Fernandez; Esai Easley — 22

Jahon Rad — 21

Julian Vazquez — 20

Minutes Played:

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)

Clean Sheets:

Kendall McIntosh — 2

Carlito Saylon; Ethan Bandre; John Pulskamp — 1

Saves (Save%):

Kendall McIntosh — 34 (69.4%)

Ethan Bandre — 27 (73%)

John Pulskamp — 25 (73.5%)

Carlito Saylon — 12 (75%)

Carlito Saylon played well in his three appearances with SKCII
Thad Bell