A historic week 12 of MLS NEXT Pro action ended Sunday evening with Axel Kei becoming the youngest player to score so far in the league. Along with that came more history as 11 games played this week marked the most in a Monday to Sunday span. Tacoma Defiance got themselves in the record books after tying the longest run of unbeaten games. Defiance’s shootout win this week also recorded the ninth win for visiting teams in the last 11 shootouts. North Texas SC continues to win after securing its fourth consecutive and two five-goal eruptions epitomized the insane number of goals this week while five clean sheets illuminated stellar backline defense.
Here’s your MLS NEXT Pro Week 12 recap by the numbers.
Age is but a number for 14-year-old Axel Kei
Yes, you read that right. Real Monarchs' forward Axel Kei is 14 years old and became the youngest goalscorer in MLS NEXT Pro. Kei scored Sunday evening against the Colorado Rapids 2 in a 2-1 away defeat at University of Denver Soccer Stadium.
The previous record-holder was 16-year-old Tarik Scott, who scored twice for North Texas SC in the opening week of league play.
Despite being so young, Kei showed tremendous experience and talent as he finished on a decisive counter attack that started from the team's own penalty box. One long lob pass over the defense from defender Bode Hidalgo is all it took to unleash Kei’s electric speed on the ball. He dribbled past his marker and the goalkeeper in quick succession to slot in his historic goal.
Eleven games played mark most in a week
Another bit of history was made this week as 11 matches were played from Monday to Sunday, which is the most games in a match week for MLS NEXT Pro.
Typically this wouldn’t be possible because the league only has 21 teams, meaning one team wouldn’t play as the maximum number of games in a week is 10. However, St. Louis CITY2 played on Wednesday and played again on Saturday — the first time a team played twice in a week.
Two teams scored five goals
More games mean more goals. Both Columbus Crew 2 and St. Louis CITY2 netted five goals each this week to secure three points.
Jacen Rusell-Rowe scored a brace for Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew 2 as he continues his incredible goal-scoring form this season. As for CITY2, five different players scored in the victory over Chicago Fire II.
All in all, 31 total goals were scored in 11 matches this week in MLS NEXT Pro.
Five shutouts spotlight defensive efforts
Sturdy backlines also showed out this week as there were five clean sheets this week: Columbus Crew 2 beat Inter Miami II 5-0, Sporting KC II beat Houston Dynamos Dos 1-0, Toronto FC II beat Philadelphia Union II 1-0, St. Louis CITY2 beat Chicago Fire II 5-0 and FC Cincinnati 2 beat Rochester New York FC 1-0.
Three of these matches were one-goal wins, meaning each backline from these teams held firm to secure three points for their side.
Both Dynamos Dos goalkeeper Patrick Sulte and Crew 2 goalkeeper Xavier Valdez recorded their fourth clean sheet of the season.
Road teams dominate shootouts with ninth win in last 11
Tacoma Defiance’s 4-2 shootout win over Whitecaps FC 2 marked the ninth win for road teams in the last 11 shootouts. St. Louis CITY2 also won a road shootout after defeating Colorado Rapids 2 with a score of 4-3 on June 8.
The last home team to win a shootout after regulation was Rochester New York FC in a 4-3 victory over Toronto FC II.
Tacoma Defiance are eight games undefeated and North Texas has won four straight
Tacoma Defiance also made history this week as the side tied Minnesota United FC 2’s record for most games unbeaten with eight. The last time the team from Tacoma lost a game in league play was week 4 against Whitecaps FC 2.
Three games were shootout wins and three other games were clean sheets for Tacoma Defiance who currently are second in the Western Conference.
North Texas SC also is having a hard time losing lately as the club secured its fourth consecutive win this week.
The club scored nine goals and conceded only three times during this winning streak as the team remained first in the West.