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Sporting KC Academy player and SKC II defender Nati Clarke helps lead West to MLS NEXT All-Star comeback victory

By Jared Belzer, 07/19/23, 11:30AM CDT


Sporting Kanas City Academy and Sporting KC II defender Nati Clarke represented Sporting as one of 44 players selected for the 2023 MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate, playing 45 minutes and sinking his kick in the shootout to help lift the West to victory in the second-ever MLS NEXT All-Star Game.

Entering in the second half, Clarke and the West's fresh XI found themselves in a two-goal deficit to the East. The SKC II defender manned the right side of the backline, intercepting multiple passes and getting involved in the attacking third on a handful of offensive sequences. Clarke and his Western Conference comrades found the back of the net twice in the final 45 to even the score, blanked the East and took the match into a shootout. 

The West sank both of their kicks in the shootout before Clarke stepped up to the spot for the third attempt. The 18-year-old placed his attempt to his left and, with enough pace behind it, ricocheted the ball off the hands of the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The final two kick takers made their attempts and the West celebrated their MLS NEXT All-Star win with a trophy lift.

Clarke will return to Kansas City following the end of the 2023 MLS All-Star festivities. A mainstay of SKC II's defense Clarke has made 10 appearances, picking up an assist, and will rejoin the group for the tail end of the MLS NEXT Pro season. Sporting KC II will take on North Texas SC at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, TX on Saturday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Fans can catch all the action on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV App.