MLS NEXT Pro Matchday 27: Recap Blitz

The penultimate MLS NEXT Pro 2023 Matchday is in the books.

The stage is set for Decision Day drama next Sunday, but the respective conference leaders took center stage in statement matchups.

Eastern Conference leaders Crown Legacy FC took down Revs II, who were vying for the record books with their (now halted) 12-game unbeaten streak.

In the West, Rapids 2 used a brace from Rémi Cabral to add to their season-long power struggle with Austin FC II.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Here is a closer look at the stories from Matchday 27:

Sunday, September 17

Crown Legacy FC (1) - New England Revolution II (0)

The top two teams in the East battled through some rainy conditions in addition to stiff competition. The nervy contest could very well have been a preview of the Eastern Conference Final in a few weeks, and if so, it just proved nobody can go unmarked for even a second. 

It wasn't one of either side's regulars to break the deadlock, but a youngster who opened his professional account. 15-year-old Charlotte FC Homegrown Nimfasha Berchimas made his third start of the season and was good for the game-winner in the 42nd minute to ensure his side stayed unbeaten at home in 2023.

Philadelphia Union II (2) - Huntsville City FC (1)

Union II took care of business at home in perhaps the most critical matchup of the Matchday in terms of playoff fates. 

Neil Pierre and Stephan Stojanovic notched a goal in each half respectively which was enough to secure a win that, for now, has them in the driver's seat for their playoff berth on Decision Day. 

It was far from easy work, though. Union II and HCFC swapped red cards in the second half, which set the scene for a sprint to the finish where Huntsville City FC's Azaad Liadi converted a stoppage-time penalty but ultimately his side ran out of time to make any further noise in the final two minutes. 

Huntsville City FC also remains at large for a playoff spot but will need some third-party assistance to get over the line next Sunday.

FC Cincinnati 2 (0) - Columbus Crew 2 (4)

The defending champs swept their in-state rivalry in convincing fashion. 

Gio De Libera, Coleman Gannon, Taha Habroune, and Anges Bohui all combined for four unanswered goals that sent Crew 2 into Decision Day in third place in the East, which should see them in a "pick-em" position for their first-round playoff opponent if they take care of business in the finale.

MNUFC2 (3) - SKC II (2)

MNUFC2 did their part in controlling their playoff fate in their penultimate Matchday. 

Academy man Kage Romanshyn Jr. delivered a goal and assist each, and was co-starred by Juan Mosquera and Emmanuel Iwe in a win that kept them in the driver's seat for Decision Day.

St Louis CITY2 (4) - Galaxy II (1)

The defending Western Conference champions went out with a bang in their last scheduled home match. 

Nearly 10,000 fans showed up to CITY2's home regular-season finale and were rewarded with a goal fest that earned a second-straight playoff berth. 

CITY2 benefitted from an own goal, but Wan Kuzain, Caden Glover, and John Klein's goals made this one a no-doubter. 

Klein got on his bike to deliver a Goal of the Year candidate to stamp the win in the 75th minute.

Houston Dynamo 2 (1) - North Texas SC (3)

A Texas-sized grudge match saw North Texas SC cast some doubt on Dynamo 2's playoff hopes. 

Jose Mulato, Henri Santos, and Tomas Pondeca combined to outdo the game-opening goal from Dynamo 2's Papa Ndoye. 

The result places Dynamo Dos below the line heading into Decision Day, which puts their return to the playoffs in jeopardy.

Atlanta United 2 (3) - Inter Miami II (3)

A hard-fought rally wasn't enough to spare Atlanta United 2 from playoff elimination in their final home match of the season. 

Inter Miami II's Lawson Sunderland notched a first-half brace, and Tyler Hall rounded the first frame out with a goal to put the visitors in a favorable position. 

Noah Cobb, Nick Firmino, and Kofi Twumasi found goals that kept thoughts of a needed regulation win alive, but ran out of time.

The home side took the shootout spoils that serve as a small consolation prize.

Saturday, September 16:

Whitecaps FC 2 (2) - Earthquakes II (5)

Quakes II maintained their excellent road form with a hearty win in Vancouver. Eduardo Blancas led the way with a brace and an assist, while Oussseni Bouda and academy man Alexander Chow rounded out the scoresheet. 

Quakes II's outburst outdid contributions from Malcolm Johnston and Amir Ghaasemi to keep them in the playoff race ahead of Decision Day next week.

Friday, September 15:

NYCFC II (3) - TFC II (3) (NYCFC II wins shootout 4-1)

Reigning MLS NEXT Pro Player of the Matchday Ronald Arévalo hit the net in back-to-back weeks and got his side off to a hot start in what turned out to be a thriller. Stephen Turnbull and Jonathan Jiménez got NYCFC II to three goals in regulation, but it wasn't enough to earn all three points.  

Alec Diaz's brace for TFC II (goals coming just one minute apart) kept his side in it and primed to capitalize on an 88th-minute penalty, which Reshaun Walkes handled with style. 

NYCFC II goalkeeper Alex Rando's save made the difference in the shootout where his shooters went four-for-four to close it out.

Chicago Fire FC II (1) - Orlando City B (1) (OCB wins shootout 4-3)

Orlando City B can call themselves a playoff team after their two-point outing on Friday. 

In doing battle with Fire II, who was working on a clinch scenario of their own, Wilfredo Rivera found a later equalizer to set up a shootout where goalkeeper Javier Otero made two big saves to secure the extra point. 

Fire II can thank Sergio Oregel for the opener and for salvaging one point that keeps them alive in the Eastern Conference playoff picture for Decision Day.

Austin FC II (1) - Colorado Rapids 2 (2)

In one of the top-shelf viewing options of Matchday 27, Rapids 2 delivered a statement with a road win over one of their Western Conference playoff peers.

Rémi Cabral extended his red-hot scoring form with a brace to best Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez's lone goal for ATXFC II.

That sets Cabral at 16 goals on the season and within striking distance of the Golden Boot leaders (18) which should make for a fun item to track on Decision Day.

LAFC2 (4) - Timbers2 (0)

20-year-old striker Leo Flores led the way for LAFC2, to the tune of notching a hat trick. He benefitted from two trips to the penalty spot in the 32nd and 75th minutes and knocked in a header off a deep cross from the run of play in the 61st.

Any thoughts of a Timbers2 comeback would have been ambitious but were officially thrown out the window when Aaron Wibowo put in one final goal in the 89th minute.

Real Monarchs (0) - Tacoma Defiance (3)

Braudílio Rodrigues' latest multi-goal affair paced the Defiance to a road. He rose his season tally to 15 and extended his personal scoring streak to four games in a row, which should be a welcome sign with their playoff berth right around the corner. 

Raul Migletti contributed  in between Rodrigues' goals to make for a low-stress road trip to Utah.