Matchday 4 of the MLS NEXT Pro season got underway with three intriguing score lines on Friday before coming to a close with nine matches on Sunday. Defending MLS NEXT Pro Cup winners Columbus Crew 2 shined with a shutout win over New England Revolution II while Austin FC II blanked St Louis CITY2 to remain unbeaten in 2023.
Several MLS NEXT Pro clubs earned their first victories of the new season as LA Galaxy II, New York Red Bulls II, Philadelphia Union II, and ATL UTD 2 all walked away with three points on Sunday.
Let's blitz through the rest of the matchday and take a look at all the action that took place on Matchday 4.
Columbus Crew 2 (3) - New England Revolution II (0)
Defending MLS NEXT Pro Cup Champions Columbus Crew 2 picked up a statement victory on Sunday, blanking New England Revolution II by a 3-0 scoreline in their 2023 home opener.
Jacen Russell-Rowe set up Isaiah Parante for Crew 2’s opening goal as the midfielder delivered a low strike after only seven minutes. The defending MLS NEXT Pro MVP doubled Crew 2’s lead in the 17th minute, taking Yaw Yeboah’s headed pass in stride before unleashing a long-range shot into the top-left corner.
Marco Micaletto came off the bench in the second half and capped the final score at 3-0, picking up a pass from Coleman Gannon and slotting his right-footed shot into the bottom-left corner.
17-year-old Stanislav Lapkes registered a two-save clean sheet for Crew 2.
Austin FC II (2) - St Louis CITY2 (0)
Austin FC II remained unbeaten in MLS NEXT Pro play on Sunday after shutting out St Louis CITY2 by a 2-0 scoreline at Parmer Field. David Rodriguez and Micah Burton both delivered second-half goals as Brett Uttley’s squad claimed their fourth victory out of five matches.
Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez registered two assists in the home victory for Austin FC II.
Both teams had ample opportunities to break the deadlock before halftime, but both Damian Las and Christian Olivares were up to the task for their respective clubs.
Ocampo-Chavez led a fast break in the 66th minute which was capped off by Rodriguez’s left-footed finish in the 18-yard box.
With CITY2 fighting for a tying goal, Austin FC II put the match out of reach as Ocampo-Chavez connected with Burton for an insurance goal. Burton’s low drive into the bottom-right corner sealed the shutout win.
Chicago Fire II (1) - Philadelphia Union II (2)
Philadelphia Union II overcame a first-half deficit at SeatGeek Stadium to claim their first victory of the season. Brandan Craig’s penalty-kick finish paired with David Vazquez’s first goal of the year helped Marlon LeBlanc’s squad claim a 2-1 road win over Chicago Fire II.
Missael Rodriguez’s first-half goal boosted Fire II in front after just 13 minutes. Rodriguez picked up possession after pickpocketing a Union II defender before unleashing a top-shelf finish into the top-right corner.
Union II did not lie down though as Craig was hauled down in the box by Richard Fleming in the 70th minute. Craig stepped up from the penalty spot and equalized for his first goal of 2023.
Vazquez sealed the comeback victory just 10 minutes later, getting on the end of Nelson Pierre’s cross and watching his shot nestled into the back of the net. The goal marked the 1,000th tally in MLS NEXT Pro history.
New York Red Bulls II (1) - Huntsville City FC (0)
New York Red Bulls II also walked away with their first MLS NEXT Pro win of 2023, edging Huntsville City FC 1-0 at MSU Soccer Park.
Ricardo Gorday played the hero for Red Bulls II, delivering the lone goal of the match from a tight angle before halftime. Oladayo Thomas fed Gorday a pass in the box before Gorday cut onto his right foot and shot past Elliot Panicco.
Huntsville City FC came close to equalizing in the 55th minute as Ollie Wright’s right-footed blast struck the right post. However, that would be the visitors best offensive look as Red Bulls II hung on for three points.
Red Bulls II goalkeeper AJ Marcucci made three saves to earn his first MLS NEXT Pro clean sheet.
ATL UTD 2 (3) - Orlando City B (1)
ATL UTD 2 snapped their three-match winless run to start the MLS NEXT Pro season by breezing past Orlando City B 3-1 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
Erik Lopez set the tone with his opening goal from the penalty spot before Nicolas Firmino added a brace in an 11-minute span.
ATL UTD 2 needed only 25 minutes to grab the lead, watching as Lopez stepped up from the spot and sent Javier Otero the wrong way for a 1-0 advantage.
Lopez played distributor on ATL UTD 2’s second goal of the half, setting up Nicolas Firmino for a left-footed finish before halftime. Firmino’s left-footed shot deflected off an OCB defender and found the bottom-right corner for a 2-0 lead.
Firmino showed off his long-range ability in the 56th minute, taking advantage of a clear opportunity from OCB and finding the back of the net from outside of the box.
Orlando City B pulled a consolation goal back in the 90th minute through Cristofer Acuna’s penalty kick goal, but suffered their first loss of the season in the process.
Houston Dynamo 2 (0) - LAFC2 (0) (Houston Dynamo 2 wins shootout 4-1)
Houston Dynamo 2 earned multiple points for the second-consecutive week after defeating LAFC2 4-1 in a shootout following a goal-less 90 minute affair.
Veteran goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell made a total of 10 saves, including two key shootout saves to lead the way for Dynamo Dos in spotkicks. After both teams scored in Round One, Tarbell denied Noah Dollenmayer and Nathan Ordaz on respective attempts.
Charles Auguste stepped up and delivered the winning spot kick to seal the two points for Kenny Bundy’s squad.
Tarbell was busy during regulation as well, denying Julian Gaines and Yekeson Subah in the second half from finding the back of the net. Ordaz was stopped twice in the final minutes of the match as Tarbell finished with eight saves prior to the shootout.
LAFC2 remains winless through four matches in 2023.
Earthquakes II (0) - Colorado Rapids 2 (2)
Colorado Rapids 2 remained perfect to start the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro campaign, using two second-half goals to down Earthquakes II 2-0 at PayPal Park in San Jose.
Pariss Mitchell’s deft finish five minutes into the second half paired with Yosuke Hanya’s fourth goal of the season helped Rapids 2 pick up the road victory.
After a goalless first half, it was Rapids 2 who found paydirt through constant pressure.
Jackson Travis took advantage of some lackadaisical passing out of the back from Quakes II and made the hosts pay after intercepting a cross. Travis’ headed pass upfield allowed Pariss Mitchell to race into the box before sliding a left-footed shot into the bottom-right corner.
Hanya’s right-footed shot in the 90th minute sealed the victory for Rapids 2 and condemned Quakes II to their second-straight home defeat.
Whitecaps FC 2 (3) - LA Galaxy II (4)
Aaron Bibout’s first-career MLS NEXT Pro hat trick was enough for Galaxy II to claim their first win of 2023, as the visitors held off Whitecaps FC 2 by a 4-3 scoreline at Swangard Stadium.
Galaxy II struck first using Aaron Bibout’s header in the second minute to break the deadlock. Carson Klein’s dangerous cross was finished by Bibout for his first goal of the 2023 season.
However, Whitecaps FC 2 equalized before halftime as Gloire Amanda delivered a powerful header of his own in the 44th minute. Amanda watched as his header landed in the top-right corner making it 1-1.
Kamron Habibullah’s third goal of the season propelled Ricardo Clark’s squad in front after 51 minutes, but Bibout would tie things up at 2-2 just five minutes later.
Paulo Rudisill’s right-footed finish in the 59th minute made it 3-2 for Galaxy II, giving the visitors their second lead of the evening.
Whitecaps FC 2 fought their way back though in the 74th minute as Giovanni Aguillar’s header from Antoine Coupland’s cross landed into the center of the goal.
With both teams trying to earn a winning goal, Bibout would deliver for Galaxy II in the dying moments. His right-footed strike into the bottom-right corner with two minutes to play handed Galaxy II their first victory of the season.
North Texas SC (2) - MNUFC2 (1)
North Texas SC scored two second-half goals to overcome an early deficit at Choctaw Stadium and claim a 2-1 win over MNUFC2.
Zaydan Bello’s top-shelf finish in the 16th minute boosted MNUFC2 in front following a set-piece situation. The Australian midfielder made no mistake by scoring his first MLS NEXT Pro goal.
Carl Sainte, Yeicar Perlaza and Theo Henrique were all denied by Fred Emmings later in the half as MNUFC2 remained in the lead.
Henrique wouldn’t be denied a second time though as the defender tied things up in the 60th minute. Emmings was beaten to the top-right corner as Henrique helped North Texas SC get back level.
North Texas SC’s late pressure would lead to the winning goal as Herbert Endeley’s right-footed strike capped off a frantic period in the MNUFC2 box. Nayrobi Vargas’ shot was saved by Emmings before an eventual rebound was slammed home by Endeley for a late 2-1 lead.
NTX moved to fourth place in the West while MNUFC2 suffered their first loss and dropped to third place.
Crown Legacy FC (3) - Inter Miami II (0)
TFC II (0) - NYCFC II (2)
Real Monarchs (0) - Sporting KC II (4)
Austin FC II kicked off MLS NEXT Pro Matchday 4 with a hearty 3-0 win over North Texas SC.