MLS NEXT Pro: Match 1
Date: Sunday, March 26, 2023
Kickoff: 8 p.m. CT
Location: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Watch: MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV App
Sporting Kansas City II opens their 2023MLS NEXT Pro season with a road match at at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado versus the Colorado Rapids 2. on Sunday. The match kicks off at 8 p.m. CT and can be watched on Apple TV through MLS Season Pass.
The second team of Sporting KC has been renewed with a major change throughout the roster. “I’m happy where we are at, we’ve had a good preseason,” SKCII head coach Benny Feilhaber stated. “I think the guys we’ve brought in this year are just very good players. I think we have a very good group, a group that can compete in this league, and more so, a group that a few of them can pan out to be first team players at the end of the season.”
The goal is to get them to the first team at some point. - Feilhaber
When asked why he thinks this team is better than last season, Feilhaber replied “We started building the team of 2022 in January of 2022, we started building the 2023 team in October of 2022 so we’ve had a much better search in terms of scouting, in recruiting. I think we’ve done a much better job building the team.”
“Now it’s about the coaching part,” Feilhaber continued. “We’ve been able to get some really good players in here that we feel have a very big upside and now it’s about creating the best player in each one of those guys.”
When talking about the players on the roster, Feilhaber stated, “The quality on this team is night and day from last year. My goal is, unlike last year where we weren’t able to get anybody into the first team, is in a year from now we are talking about not only new players on the second team, but also the guys that graduated from the second team to the first team.”
Forward Bakary Bagayoko, midfielder Josh Coan, and defender Jahon Rad are three players that contributed a lot to last season’s version and have returned.
Some new faces that are expected to play well are the two Parisians, Amadou Traore and Diedie Traore. Amadou on the left wing created a number of chances while scoring twice in preseason. Diedie behind Amadou has size, speed and a desire to get forward.
Other players brought in that fans should keep an eye on are forwards Pau Vidal, Yesion Mejia, midfielder Ethan Bryant, and defender Nassim Mekideche.
In addition to former SKC Academy players Coby Jones and Mikey Lenis returning, a trio of former Academy products have returned to Kansas City from college. Mo Abualnadi, Sebastian Cruz and Enzo Mauriz signed in the offseason and are now back with the organization, practicing right next to where they grew up in the Academy.
“The thing we are doing a really good job of now, is keeping track of our academy players that go to college, how they develop in college and how they pan out. Enzo, Mo and Seba are guys that went a little bit under the radar,” Feilhaber explained. “Especially a guy like Seba who went to Cal State Fullerton. Mo didn’t play that many minutes this year at Pitt, and obviously Enzo did really well at Kentucky.”
Feilhaber and the rest of the staff tracked these players and other Academy alums at college.
“I went to Academy here for a year and a half and then I left to go to college for three years,” Enzo Mauriz stated. “I was always in contact with them and knowing the facilities, knowing that people here in knowing how the environment, how great it is here. I just knew that coming back here was always going to be a possible opportunity for me. This past year, we had a great year at Kentucky and coach reached out to me. He said, hey we want you, we want you to come back, and I just knew that coming back here was the best place for me to grow, to continue my career, and to began my professional career.”
Sebastian Cruz echoed those statements. “I was also an academy product here, and I played three years at college. After my third year, I really felt like I was ready to move on to the next level. The quality, everything is the highest level possible. I love this club. Ever since I left, I’ve always loved this club and it was a no-brainer to come back for sure.”
Sporting Kansas City II added three Sporting Kansas City Academy players to MLS NEXT Pro amateur contracts: defender Leo Christiano, defender Nati Clarke and goalkeeper Matthew Hudson. There will likely be more in the coming weeks.