Week 18 of the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season saw four teams keep a clean sheet, four players score a brace and saw Philadelphia Union II snap a seven-game losing streak – in feisty fashion. Tacoma Defiance’s Marlon Vargas is becoming the Dark Horse sleeper candidate for the MLS NEXT Pro Golden boot and more in this week's edition of By the Numbers.
Brick walls: Four clean sheets across nine matches
Four sides kept a clean sheet over the weekend, with three of the four playing on their respective home grounds. Both FC Cincinnati 2 and Tacoma Defiance earned three points and a clean sheet on the road while St Louis CITY2 and Houston Dynamo 2 locked it down at home.
Brace yourself: Five attackers find the back of the net twice in Week 18
Inter Miami II’s Shanyder Borgelin, Columbus Crew 2’s Michael Vang, Tacoma Defiance’s Marlon Vargas, Rapids2's Yaya Toure, and Whitecaps FC 2’s Easton Ongaro all notched doubles over the weekend.
Borgelin, who came off the bench and scored twice in three minutes, had the biggest impact as his effort resulted in a 2-2 draw with NYCFC II.
Vang, who was inserted into the starting XI minutes before kickoff due to an injury to Isaac Anking in the warmup, scored Crew 2’s first two goals en route to their 4-1 victory over New England Revolution II Saturday.
Vargas scored the second and third goal for Defiance in their 3-0 victory over Sporting KC II and Ongaro scored both of WFC2’s goals in their 2-2 draw against Rapids 2.
Marlon Vargas emerging as dark horse Golden Boot Candidate after two-goal Week 18 performance
Defiance attacker Marlon Vargas scored twice in week 19, moving his total goal tally in 2022 to 11 goals scored while fully inserting himself into the Golden Boot race. The 21-year-old has now scored in nine out of his last 10 matches played.
NYCFC II’s John Denis leads the league in scoring with 13 and OCB striker Jack Lynn sits second with 12. Vargas, however, is just two goals out of the race now.
Blanked: North Texas SC shutout for the first time this season in Roman Burki’s debut for CITY2
North Texas SC did not score in a match for the first time this season, falling to CITY 2 in week 18 by a 2-0 margin. Pa-Modou Kah’s side had previously found the back of the net in each of their 17 matches this season. They were the last remaining MLS NEXT Pro side to do so.
Debutant, former Borussia Dortmund star and Switzerland international Roman Burki made his debut for the club ahead of their inaugural MLS season in 2023. Burki’s arrival was announced on March 16, but he did not make his debut until this past weekend.
Philadelphia Union II snap seven-game losing streak in match that saw red three times, three goals in final 10+ minutes
Union II’s emphatic 3-1 victory over Orlando City B in week 19 snapped a seven-game losing streak, earning an important three points on the road. However, the final stretch of the match saw three red cards handed out and three goals scored in a wild ending.
Matt Real opened the scoring for the guests in the 52nd minute, but then Union II goalkeeper Matthew Freese was sent off for a last-man foul in the 69th minute. Just eight minutes later, OCB goalkeeper Javier Otero was sent off too and chaos and goals erupted.
OCB’s Ethan Subachan equalized in the 85th and Jesus Bueno doubled Union II’s lead in the 87th minute. The dagger came from Nelson Pierre in stoppage time, with the third and final goal of the evening.
A 96th-minute red card to OCB’s Diego Pareja was the cherry on top of a wild Eastern Conference clash.