MLS NEXT Pro Regular Season- Matchday 1
Sporting KC II @ Colorado Rapids 2
When: Sunday, March 27, 5:00 p.m. CT
Where: University of Denver Soccer Stadium, Denver, Colorado
How To Watch: MLSNEXTPro.com
Sporting KC II will play their first-ever MLS NEXT Pro match against Frontier Division rival Colorado Rapids 2 on Sunday.
Sunday’s trip to Denver will be familiar territory for SKC II head coach Benny Feilhaber. The Sporting hero played nine times for the Rapids in 2019, recording two goals and two assists, before returning to SKC as a player.
SKC II announced the signing of seven Academy players to single-game amateur contracts on Friday: Draven Barnett, Mataeo Bunbury, Matthew Fisher, Matthew Hudson, Mikey Lenis, Nico Pendleton and Jayvin Van Deventer.
Bunbury, Lenis and Van Deventer all featured last season for SKC II. Barnett, Hudson, Fisher and Pendleton could all make their SKC II debuts Sunday.
Players to Watch:
Rauf Salifu - A prolific goalscorer in Ghana, Salifu’s move to SKC II could be an opportunity for the 21-year-old to break through to the MLS.
Spencer Glass - Signing out of the University of Indiana, the 24-year-old left-back was SKC II’s first signing since moving to the new league. Glass might not be too far removed from a first-team contract.
Collin Fernandez - Fernandez brings leadership qualities from his time elsewhere in the USL that attracted Feilhaber.
“Collin’s a guy we’re going to rely on,” Feilhaber said about Fernandez. “On and off the field to not only be the guy that helps the team be more competitive and win more games but also help the younger guys know what it is to be a pro and continue their development as well.”
Colorado Rapids 2
For Colorado Rapids 2, Sunday will be the team’s inaugural game.
They are led by Erik Bushey, a former USL player and coach. Assisting Bushey is former KC Attack and Dallas Burn midfielder Brian Haynes.
Rapids 2 spent their inaugural preseason in Melbourne, Florida before returning to Colorado for four preseason matches.
Rapids 2 announced the signing of 10 Rapids Academy products to amateur contracts on Thursday. Based on the information provided by the team’s website, there appear to three players signed to MLS NEXT Pro signings in addition to the 10 players signed to Academy contracts.
Players to Watch:
Dillon Serna - The Rapids first-team veteran is back with his hometown club after a couple of years in the USL. One of those years was with SKC II in 2020. He will certainly be a leader for this Rapids 2 side.
Yosuke Hanya - A former Japanese youth international, Hanya signed with Rapids 2 after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is described as a versatile and creative midfielder.
Michael Harris - The Irish striker joined Rapids 2 from League of Ireland side Derry City FC, where his contributions were mostly in the club’s Academy. The 19-year-old previously spent time on trial with Celtic, Stoke City and Wolverhampton.
Predicted Starting XI
We will hold off from a predicted starting XI for the first couple of weeks. I would guess that we see a first-team goalkeeper and Jake Davis make the trip. I would also predict Spencer Glass and Collin Fernandez to get their first starts with SKC II.
SKC II last visited Colorado as Swope Park Rangers in 2018, coming away with a 1-0 win over the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. SPR also came away with a 3-1 win in 2017 and drew 1-1 in 2016 away to the Switchbacks.
Not really knowing what to expect, I will predict a fun 2-2 draw, concluding with SKC II winning in a penalty shootout.