One of the most eventful matchdays of the MLS NEXT Pro season transpired in midweek, with three hat tricks scored in the same matchday for the first time in league history. A marathon shootout also highlighted action from Real Monarchs vs. Earthquakes II, and the playoff race in either conference continues to tighten up.
Here are the results from Matchday 21:
FC Cincinnati 2 (1) - Chicago Fire FC II (5)
Chicago Fire FC II's excellent form continues to make the midtable battle in the Eastern Conference an interesting one. Fire II impressed Thursday night, scoring five goals in a takedown of FC Cincinnati 2.
Alex Monis scored two goals, opening scoring with a powerful low drive that found the lower right corner and scoring with a cool finish just before halftime to put Fire II up 3-0. Luka Prpa scored a penalty kick in the first half, and Missael Rodriguez and Billy Hency each found the net late in the match. FCC2's Arquimides Ordonez pulled a goal back just before the final whistle.
NYCFC II (5) - Inter Miami II (0)
Matthew Myers tied the MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot lead in impressive fashion, scoring a first-half hat trick to help NYCFC II earn a dominant win over Inter Miami II at Belson Stadium.
Myers scored the first goal of the game just 51 seconds in, finishing off a chance started by an early cross into the box. NYCFC II won the ball high up the field in the 31st minute, allowing Myers to score again from close range. He completed the hat trick with a penalty kick converted just before halftime. Jonathan Jimenez added a fourth goal in the 68th minute, and Jonathan Shore scored a fifth in the 74th minute.
NYCFC II emerged from a three-game losing streak with the win, and lies just four points outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
Orlando City B (4) - New England Revolution II (5)
New England Revolution II came away from a trip to Osceola Heritage Stadium with three points and five goals scored, fending off a late comeback attempt from Orlando City B.
OCB's Rodrigo Schlegel started things off strong with a header goal in the 13th minute. Peyton Miller equalized in the 25th minute, and Revs II went ahead with an own goal in the 35th minute. OCB's Jhon Solis equalized in the 44th minute, but Jack Panayotou scored his second goal in his last three matches to give Revs II an advantage right before halftime.
Jordan Adebayo-Smith knocked a ball that sailed in the air over the line in the 49th minute, notching his second goal in as many games. Josh Bolma scored a penalty kick to give Revs II a 5-2 advantage. OCB fought back with goals from Favian Loyola and Nabilai Kibunguchy, but a man advantage thanks to an OCB red card just before halftime allowed the visitors a distinct edge.
Revs II stretched an unbeaten run to seven games, solidifying a second-place standing in the Eastern Conference. OCB has now gone three games without a win.
Huntsville City FC (1) - Columbus Crew 2 (1) (Crew 2 wins shootout 5-4)
Columbus Crew 2 picked up two points from a trip to Joe Davis Stadium, with Taha Habroune scoring an equalizing goal, and goalkeeper Stanislas Lapkes making one save in the shootout.
Habroune scored after a smart assist from Mataeo Bunbury in the 48th minute. His goal canceled out a finish from Adem Sipic in the 13th minute.
Crew 2 goes four points clear of Red Bulls II in third place in the Eastern Conference with the win, and five points now separate first from third place in the conference. Huntsville stays unbeaten, but broke a three-game winning streak with the shootout loss.
New York Red Bulls II (1) - TFC II (2)
TFC II academy players Dekwon Barrow and Myles Morgan scored late to bring TFC II a stunning victory in a road trip to MSU Soccer Park. Morgan headed in the winning goal at the death on the end of a long cross by Jordan Faria.
Red Bulls II's Amos Shapiro-Thompson scored the opening goal in the 23rd minute, with a heads-up play that caught the opposing goalkeeper off his line. TFC II goalkeeper Luka Gavran made nine saves to keep his team in shooting distance until the final minutes.
Atlanta United 2 (3) - Crown Legacy FC (1)
Atlanta United 2 found some relief from a difficult run, finding their first win since June 25 in a surprising takedown of Eastern Conference leaders Crown Legacy FC. Nick Firmino maintained his status as the outright golden boot leader with a goal and assist.
Iuri Tavares opened scoring for Crown Legacy in the 19th minute, but ATL UTD 2 struck back in the 30th minute with Chris Gloster assisting a Noah Cobb header goal. Orji Nelson Chukwuma brought ATL UTD 2 the lead with a goal off a corner kick in the 47th minute, and Firmino scored on yet another corner kick goal in the 55th minute. The goal was Firmino's 13th of the season.
ATL UTD 2 broke a five-game losing streak with the win. Crown Legacy remains the Eastern Conference leaders, but ceded some momentum to surging teams just below them.
Colorado Rapids 2 (1) - Houston Dynamo 2 (3)
Houston Dynamo 2 made it three wins in a row, taking down Western Conference leaders Colorado Rapids 2 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Rapids 2's Diego Rubio opened scoring with an impressive shot into the upper right corner in the 18th minute. Dynamo Dos took the lead in a flash later on in the half. Diego Gonzalez equalized in the 39th minute, and Isaiah Reid scored less than a minute later, shooting into the lower right corner from just outside the box. Jacob Evans added another goal for Dynamo Dos, and goalkeeper Xavier Valdez saved a penalty kick.
Dynamo Dos is on a five-match unbeaten run that has seen them ascend to fifth in the Western Conference. Rapids 2 remains the Western Conference leaders.
Los Angeles Football Club 2 (0) - MNUFC2 (1)
Cameron Dunbar's penalty kick made the difference in a tightly contested Western Conference battle. MNUFC2 moved into a playoff position with the win, and the club continues excellent form with only one loss in the past five matches.
Dunbar sent his penalty kick into the lower left side of the goal in the 23rd minute. The MNUFC2 attack generated 13 shots with five on goal. Goalkeeper Fred Emmings made three saves in the clean-sheet performance.
Real Monarchs (1) - Earthquakes II (1) (Quakes II wins shootout 10-9)
Earthquakes II came away with the extra point after one of the most entertaining shootouts of the season in MLS NEXT Pro. Spot kicks went six extra rounds, as Quakes II outlasted Real Monarchs to win 10-9. The shootout was the longest in MLS NEXT Pro history, surpassing the previous record of 10 rounds set by Quakes II vs. LA Galaxy II on June 29.
Quakes II struck early, with Eduardo Blancas finishing off a pass from Will Richmond in the 10th minute. Real Monarchs equalized in the 68th minute with Zavier Gozo finishing off an excellent team passing sequence.
Road form continues to be Quakes II's calling card, as the team has gone three straight matches on the road unbeaten.
Tacoma Defiance (3) - Sporting Kansas City II (1)
A hat trick from Braudilio Rodrigues powered Tacoma Defiance past Sporting Kansas City II at Starfire Stadium Wednesday night. Rodrigues' hat trick was the fastest in MLS NEXT Pro history, with Rodrigues striking three goals in the span of 26 minutes.
Rodrigues opened scoring with an incredible shot from distance in the 30th minute. Rodrigues got on the end of a cross from Travian Sousa to score a second goal in the 46th minute. He completed the hat trick with by slotting past the goalkeeper in the 54th minute. Defiance maintained the advantage despite a red card in the 68th minute, and SKC II pulled a goal back with Vitor Dias scoring in the 81st minute.
Defiance stretched an unbeaten streak to three games, and capitalized on Rapids 2's loss on the same day to move within one point. SKC II remains fifth in the Western Conference.
Timbers2 (6) - LA Galaxy II (1)
A hat trick from Diego Gutierrez and Timbers2's highest scoring output of the season resulted in a dominant win over LA Galaxy II at Providence Park.
Florian Monzon started things off, scoring his eighth goal of the season in the seventh minute. Gutierrez doubled the lead, dribbling past multiple defenders before firing into the lower left corner, in the 29th minute. Gutierrez chipped past the goalkeeper to score again in the 55th minute. He completed the hat trick in the 66th minute, scoring one minute after Noel Caliskan made it 4-0. Julian Bravo tacked a sixth goal on in the 81st minute, and Galaxy II's Axel Picazo scored his second goal in the past two games to pull one back.
T2, enjoying three wins from the last five games, inched closer to playoff contention into ninth place in the Western Conference.