In the third game of the season, Sporting Kansas City II made their home debut at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence, KS. The poor MLS NEXT Pro broadcast quality made it tough to know how many people were in attendance, but occasionally they were picked up, but they were behind/below the camera.
Five first team players joined the second team, with three, John Pulskamp, Jake David and Kaveh Rad, getting the start. Ozzie Cisneros and Kayden Pierre were available off the bench. It was a bit odd since Davis would actually play right back instead of his preferred midfield position and Kaveh would play the 8, where Davis usually plays.
Former The Blue Testament contributor Aly Trost was on the call with Doug McLagan joining her. His son, Cole, started the game from the bench for SKC II. Unfortunately for MLS NEXT Pro, their low production value continued. The commentary was well behind the video and the camera (which is controlled by AI and not a person), struggled to track the ball. Aly and Doug did well it seemed, but the audio wasn’t with the video, so it made it tough to watch online.
Sporting came out in their standard 4-3-3 shape but it was a bit of a defensive lineup. Jahon Rad, twin brother of Kaveh of the first team, played center back for the third straight game. K. Rad would instead, not be even at defensive midfielder, but all the way up at one of the twin 8 spots as mentioned previously, with Curtez Kellman playing d-mid.
The first quality chance of the game came by Rauf Salifu of SKC II who tried to find the far post but the ball was captured by a diving keeper.
Just after that the Houston Dynamo 2 scored off a long throw in the 8th minute. Multiple SKC II players failed to clear a bouncing ball in the box and Marcelo Palomino found the ball and slotted it home (this replay is a perfect encapsulation of what I was watching, the audio is at least 30 seconds behind the broadcast and the clock showed the 6th minute, when it was the 8th).
Shortly after the goal Aljaz Dzankic got hurt (unclear how, the broadcast was not working at that moment). He was replaced by Esai Easley who immediately turned the ball over, the ball was put over the top and he tugged down the Dynamo player in the box from behind. A PK was given, but it should have been a red card too for DOGSO.
John Pulskamp would come up HUGE and push the ball away from goal on the ensuing penalty. SKC II are lucky to be down only a goal and not down a man just 12 minutes in.
SKC II had a few good counter attacks but they couldn’t find the final shot. One with Jake Davis venturing up from RB and another from Julian Vazquez up the left wing. Mataeo Bunbury then created a chance of his own, finding Collin Fernandez who slips it through to Kaveh who scuffs the shot and it trickles to the keeper.
The game’s second yellow card was given to the Dynamo’s Avila for delaying a restart.
In the 32nd minute SKC II came charging hard on a promising attack. K. Rad found Vazquez who laid the ball off nicely for Fernandez but his shot is skied over the bar. Shortly after that Pulskamp would come up huge again saving a point blank shot to keep the Houston lead at just one.
In the 38th minute, things would finally start to go SKC II’s way. Jake Davis sent in a cross and Salifu was pushed in the back as he tried to get on the end of it and the referee would point to the spot. Captain Collin Fernandez stepped up to take it but the Dynamo keeper, Valdez, would come up huge to make a save. The rebound was there to be put away but a heap of bodies crashed together and the ball bounced over. Salifu was the SKC II player in the mix of Houston bodies and he would remain down for a long-time. After playing down a man for several minutes, he would be replaced by Dembakwi Yomba. Two injury subs in the first half left Sporting with only one window (plus halftime) to make their other three available subs.
As halftime approached, Julian Vazquez would nearly level it with a hard shot but Valdez again put it out for a corner. Just before the half Houston would finally make SKC II pay for their shaky play. A long ball over the top was headed down and Beto Avila blasted it first time to get himself a brace and put Houston up by two just before the half.
Houston almost made it 3-0 but Spencer Glass, who was two on one against Houston, somehow stole the ball in the box to bail out his fellow defenders. SKC II almost pulled one back at the death with Davis this time finding Bunbury in the box but he misplayed his first touch so he has to work super hard just to get a shot off, which is once again saved. The teams would go into the half with Houston up 2-0 in a wild one.
At the half, with sub windows limited, coach Benny Feilhaber made two moves. Curtez Kellman and Kaveh Rad were subbed off for the last two first team players, Ozzie Cisneros and Kayden Pierre. Davis moved into the midfield next to Cisneros and it looked like Fernandez fell to the d-mid spot with Pierre going to RB. Odd to take off both d-mids and leave none, but the team did need two goals (one good thing at half was the audio and the clock issues were fixed).
The attack would pick up immediately when Bunbury danced across the endline and played a ball back towards the penalty spot hitting a Dynamo players hand. The ref immediately waived off the shouts for PK despite complaints from Sporting.
SKC II would start to struggle again as Jake Davis was called for a foul what initially appeared to be out of the box but the ref called it a penalty. Despite diving the right way, Pulskamp can’t get to the ball which is in the top corner. Avila is the Dynamo player who takes it and completes his hat trick.
In the 64th minute Sporting had a golden opportunity as Vazquez sent a cross into the box and Yomba from the top of the six-yard-box whiffs on a wide open shot that could have started to pull them back into the game.
Raines and Castilla would pick up yellows for the Dynamo as the game got more physical with Houston trying to hold onto their lead. Davis was in deep on a breakaway when he was tugged down, but there were other players back so yellow was the right call.
The final sub of the game came in the 78th minute as Bunbury was taken off for Bakary Bagayoko. It would flip Vazquez to the right and Bagayoko would take it up on the left wing. In the final minutes of the game Sporting would start to get more chances, but nothing that would test the keeper.
The game would end with Houston staying perfect through three, with a 3-0 win. SKC II get their first regulation loss and fall to 1-1-1.
SKC II will be back at home in six days hosting cross state future rival, St. Louis City SC 2 on the 16th at 7:00 PM on Saturday.
- The broadcast issues for MLS NEXT Pro continue. Not being the game of the week was painful. The entire first half I wanted to mute, not because of Aly or Doug, but because they were talking about things I’d seen 30-45 seconds before.
- The field at Rock Chalk Park looked a little rough. It’s hard to grow grass in winter and it was pretty brown. At least they play on grass and this could get better.
- Yomba was a big step down from Salifu.
- Vazquez may be the best, or least most dynamic, player on the pitch.
- Bagayoko seems exciting, but considering her played only a few minutes, he wasn’t giving it much effort which is a bad sign.
- I hope to see Benny be more aggressive in playing a more dynamic midfield. The conservative approach to play multiple d-mids without playing a double pivot, didn’t work last year and it’s now 0-1-0 this year.