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Sporting KC II looking to hand St. Louis first-ever loss

The first edition of the I-70 rivalry at the MLS-affiliated level.

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Bunbury battling for the ball
Thad Bell

MLS NEXT Pro Regular Season- Matchday 4

Sporting KC II vs St. LouisCITY2

When: Saturday, April 16, 7:00 p.m. CT

Where: Rock Chalk Park, Lawrence, Kansas (Things to Know Before You Go)

Tickets: SeatGeek (no tickets at the gate, buy in advance!)

How To Watch: MLSNEXTPro.com

The inaugural installment of the first MLS-affiliated I-70 rivalry between Sporting KC II and St. Louis CITY2 is slated for a Saturday night kickoff at Rock Chalk Park.

Saturday will be the first-ever matchup between Sporting KC II and St. LouisCITY2. The Frontier Division rivals will meet a total of three times this year before the first clubs’ first teams presumably meet for the first time in MLS next year.

SKC II is coming from its first loss in MLS NEXT Pro, a 3-0 result in the home opener against Houston Dynamo 2. Down 2-0 at halftime, Roberto Avila completed his hat trick with a penalty kick in the 55th minute to put the game out of reach.

Sporting II (1-1-1; 4 points) sit fourth of six teams in the Frontier under first-year head coach Benny Feilhaber. They will be hoping Saturday will end with the club’s first win at Rock Chalk Park and STL’s first-ever loss.

Players to Watch:

Rauf Salifu - Had an exciting buildup to the season, but is still looking for his first goal with SKC II. The Ghanaian forward has four shots in three games, with two hitting the target.

Jahon Rad - Has played all 90 minutes for SKC II in all three games. Will be looking to lead SKC II into an improved second game in Lawrence.

St. Louis CITY2

Fourth-place in the Frontier, St. Louis (2-0; 6 points) will be making their first trip away from home on Saturday. Under the guidance of former Louisville City FC manager John Hackworth, STL is off to a rather exciting start.

STL won their first two games in the league, beginning with a 2-0 win over Rochester New York FC as the league’s inaugural game on March 25. After a week off, STL CITY2 was back in action last week and did enough to hang on for a 4-3 win at home over Tacoma Defiance.

There have been six different goal scorers for St. Louis’ first six goals. Among the scorers is former SKC midfielder Wan Kuzain, who scored the league’s first-ever goal against Rochester.

In their week off from MLS NEXT Pro, STL went on the road to defeat the Indy Eleven 2-0 in the second round of the US Open Cup. Even with just 36% possession, they beat Indy 7-6 in shots. They are slated to visit Louisville City in round three on April 20.

STL hasn’t been a team that possesses the ball a ton, though in all three games they were defending leads from very early on. They seem to do a lot despite seeing such little of the ball.

Players to Watch:

Wan Kuzain - Scored the club’s first-ever goal against Rochester. Went on to score the second in the Open Cup against Indy. Fighting for a position back in MLS next season, it will be interesting to see what he can do for his hometown club.

Ezra Armstrong - A former SKC Academy and Swope Park Ranger, the 23-year-old was tabbed as the man of the match in their Open Cup win.

Final Prediction

Everything is set up nicely for SKC II to put STL in their place by handing them their first-ever loss. The only question is if SKC II has enough to execute such a result.

I don’t think they will. I predict a 2-1 win for St. Louis on Saturday.