MLS NEXT Pro Matchday 5 Preview

Crew 2 beat Revs II

Matchday 5 of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season rolls on this weekend, with matches being played across Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this week.

Friday’s matches kick off from Gillette Stadium as New England Revolution II hosts New York Red Bulls II. Only three points separate the Eastern Conference clubs, as both are coming off opposite results on Matchday 4.

North Texas SC remains at Choctaw Stadium this weekend, with Real Monarchs making the trip to town. Monarchs are six points behind their Friday night opponents but have already won one match on the road this season.

Saturday’s lone match comes from Fifth Third Bank Stadium as ATL UTD 2 hosts Chicago Fire II. A victory for ATL UTD 2 could see them leapfrog Fire II in the East standings, but a result for the visitors could see them finish the weekend in the top four.

Sunday’s loaded slate is headlined by Crown Legacy FC’s home clash with Columbus Crew 2.

Here is a closer look at the Matchday 5 schedule:

Friday - 4/21

New England Revolution II vs. New York Red Bulls II

Opposite results for New England Revolution II and New York Red Bulls II on Matchday 4 could lead to another surprise on Matchday 5.

New England Revolution II suffered their first loss of 2023 after being shut out 3-0 by Columbus Crew 2 last Sunday. Clint Peay’s squad will be eager to bounce back and avoid a second-consecutive defeat by calling on several key youngsters to lead the way (Damian Rivera, Esmir Bajraktarevic, and others).

New York Red Bulls II earned their first victory last weekend and registered their first clean sheet in the process. AJ Marcucci made three saves against Huntsville City FC, while Ricardo Corday scored his first MLS NEXT Pro goal.

North Texas SC vs. Real Monarchs

North Texas SC swept the season series against Real Monarchs in 2022 and will be hoping for similar success in 2023, starting on Friday night. 

After suffering back-to-back defeats, NTX rebounded by handing MNUFC2 their first loss in a 2-1 result. Second-half goals from Theo Henrique and Herbert Endeley helped North Texas SC overcome a first-half deficit to move to 3-2-0 on the season. 

Real Monarchs have yet to win or score against North Texas SC in MLS NEXT Pro play, and Jamison Olave will hope both changes on Friday night. Goals have been a premium for the Monarchs this season, with only one goal scored through 360 minutes. 

Tyrone Mondi and Terron Williams are two leading choices for Monarchs to find the back of the net.

Saturday - 4/22

ATL UTD 2 vs. Chicago Fire II

ATL UTD 2 earned their first win of 2023 on Matchday 4, and now the goal for Steve Cooke’s squad will be to carry that form over to Saturday’s home clash with Chicago Fire II.

Nicolas Firmino came off the bench to score a brace in a 3-1 home victory over Orlando City B, giving him three goals so far. The former New England Revolution academy player has formed a strong partnership with Erik Lopez, who has two goals, and both will be eager to play the starring roles again this Saturday.

Back-to-back defeats for Chicago Fire II have seen them drop a bit in the East standings, but a victory on Saturday could help turn things around. After falling 1-0 to Columbus Crew 2, Fire II suffered a second-consecutive home loss, a 2-1 defeat to Philadelphia Union II.

Fire II have received at least one goal from six players in 2023, including attackers Alex Monis and Matteo Kidd.

Sunday - 4/23

Crown Legacy FC vs. Columbus Crew 2

Crown Legacy FC has enjoyed a promising start to life in MLS NEXT Pro, but a Sunday showdown with defending league champions Columbus Crew 2 could provide a good measuring stick match for the expansion side.

Jose Tavares’ squad sit top of the Eastern Conference with 10 points earned and ten goals scored through four matches. Brandon Cambridge leads the team with three goals, while David Poreba and Iuri Tavares have played the hero roles in recent results.

Defender Jack Neeley has been crucial at the back, playing every minute this season.

Columbus Crew 2 remain unbeaten in their quest to repeat as league champions, but a trip to Crown Legacy FC won’t be easy. Isaiah Parante, Jacen Russell-Rowe, and Marco Micaletto scored goals in a 3-0 Matchday 4 triumph over New England Revolution II.

A strong foundation of returning starters has surely benefited Laurent Courtois’ squad in 2023.

Philadelphia Union II vs. TFC II

It hasn’t been a great start for either Philadelphia Union II or TFC II in 2023, but both teams could change that on Matchday 5.

Philadelphia Union II claimed their first victory of the season after defeating Chicago Fire II 2-1 on Matchday 4 and will be hoping they can turn that into a first home win this Sunday. Marlon LeBlanc won’t be happy with his team’s 11 goals conceded, which are the most so far in the Eastern Conference.

Christopher Olney will be unavailable due to the US Under-17 men’s national team involvement, so Nelson Pierre and David Vazquez will lead the way offensively.

TFC II has struggled for consistency on both ends of the field, sitting bottom of the East with 0 points earned through three matches. The Canadian club has been shut out in back-to-back matches and will be hoping to rebound in a big way on Sunday.

Colorado Rapids 2 vs. St Louis CITY2

Colorado Rapids 2 puts their undefeated start to 2023 on the line against winless St Louis CITY2 on Sunday night.

Yosuke Hanya has helped Rapids 2 cruise to a 4-0-0 start, with the midfielder scoring in each of his first four appearances of 2023. Calvin Harris (two goals) and Blake Malone (one goal, two assists) have also been crucial for Rapids 2 in the final third. Abraham Rodriguez has a 0.86 GAA through three appearances in front of the net.

St Louis CITY2 has been off the pace from last season’s impressive debut campaign, but a shock win over Rapids 2 could be exactly what Bobby Murphy’s squad needs. Michael Wentzel and Max Schneider have played every minute so far for CITY2.

FC Cincinnati 2 vs. Sporting KC II

Sunday’s busy slate also features the first-ever meeting between FC Cincinnati 2 and Sporting KC II.

FCC2 has failed to win their last two matches, most recently falling short in a 7-6 shootout vs. Huntsville City FC. Arquimides Ordonez leads the way with four goals in two appearances but might be destined for a larger MLS role after his start last week for Pat Noonan’s squad.

Morgan Marshall is a clever player to watch, with two assists already under his belt in 2023.

Sporting KC II extended their unbeaten run to three matches after a 4-0 romp over Real Monarchs on Matchday 4. Benny Feilhaber’s squad set the tone early with a first-half goal and never took their foot off the gas by adding three more tallies after halftime.

Pau Vidal leads the team with three goals in 214 minutes of action.

Inter Miami II vs. Huntsville City FC

Only one point separates Inter Miami II and Huntsville City FC in the East standings, with both seeking a bounce-back result on Sunday.

Inter Miami II has been shut out in consecutive weeks, and Federico Higuain will be looking for his attacking players to step up at DRV PNK Stadium. Not only have Inter Miami II registered the fifth-fewest shots in MLS NEXT Pro (33), but have only forced 13 saves through four matches.

Lukas Meek and Edison Azcona will try to add to their combined two goals for Inter Miami II.

Huntsville City FC are still searching for their first victory of 2023, but have been in every match so far. Jack Collison’s squad have picked up two shootout results through four matches while only losing by one goal in each of their two regulation defeats.

Ollie Wright and Kemi Amiche have one goal a piece in 2023 for Huntsville City FC.

Orlando City B vs. NYCFC II

Sunday night’s showdown between Orlando City B and NYCFC II should provide a good test for both top-five clubs.

OCB fell 3-1 at ATL UTD 2 on Matchday 4, suffering their first loss of 2023. Martin Perelman’s squad conceded first and never recovered at Fifth Third Bank Stadium, watching their unbeaten start end. OCB are unbeaten at home still, though, and will be relying on Javier Otero (10 saves) to keep the dynamic NYCFC II attack at bay.

NYCFC II’s 2-0 road win over TFC II gave Matt Pilkington’s squad their second-consecutive win after a season-opening loss on Matchday 2. Matthew Myers’ brace propelled NYCFC II to a shutout win at York Lions Stadium, giving the 22-year-old his first MLS NEXT Pro goals.

Alex Rando and Matt Freese have one clean sheet a piece for NYCFC II this season.

Houston Dynamo 2 vs. Tacoma Defiance

Tacoma Defiance returns to action on Matchday 5 with a Sunday trip to face Houston Dynamo 2.

Wade Webber’s squad will be fighting to offer more in the final third after recording a league-low 18 shots through three matches. Abdoulaye Cissoko leads Defiance with three goals this season but could use help from others if the Western Conference club wants to get back to their 2022 form.

Houston Dynamo 2 have also had issues finding the back of the net, being held to only five goals scored through four matches. Kenny Bundy’s squad have been held to one goal or fewer in three of their four matches, which is a worrying sign.

However, goalkeeper Xavier Valdez has been one of the shining stars for Dynamo Dos after making two key shootout saves vs. LAFC2 on Matchday 4.

LA Galaxy II vs. Austin FC II

Austin FC II’s undefeated streak will be put to the test on Sunday, with Brett Uttley’s team visiting an LA Galaxy II side coming off their first victory.

Austin FC II sit top of the Western Conference with 13 points earned through five matches, including a 4-0-0 home record. Valentin Noel and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez have become a strong 1-2 punch for Austin FC II this season, totaling six goals and three assists.

Aaron Bibout’s hat trick propelled LA Galaxy II to their first victory of 2023, a 4-3 road win over a tough Whitecaps FC 2 on Matchday 4. Bibout came into the match with one assist to his name but walked away with a major confidence boost to earn MLS NEXT Pro Player of Matchday 4 honors.

Galaxy II will want to clean it up defensively after conceding two goals or more in three of their four matches to date.

Timbers2 vs. LAFC2

Two teams desperately needing a victory will meet at Providence Park as Timbers2 host LAFC2.

Timbers2 are still searching for their first points of 2023 after a tough start in conference play. 22-year-old Noel Caliskan has accounted for two of Timbers2’s three goals, and the attacking midfielder will be pushing to lead the way on home soil.

LAFC2 have also struggled to find the back of the net, scoring just two goals in 360 minutes of action. A 4-1 shootout loss to Houston Dynamo 2 on Matchday 4 continued the frustrating start for LAFC2, which missed three of their four spot-kick opportunities.

Julian Gaines has been one of LAFC2’s lively attackers so far, though, completing 89% of his passes and totaling five shots.

Whitecaps FC 2 vs. MNUFC2

Two Western Conference clubs trying to get back on track this week are Whitecaps FC 2 and MNUFC2.

Swangard Stadium will play host to their first head-to-head meeting of 2023, with only one point separating them in the table. Whitecaps FC 2’s ten goals are tied for the most in the Western Conference, while MNUFC2’s nine tallies are behind the conference leaders.

Diogo Pacheco (MNUFC2) and Kamron Habibullah (Whitecaps FC 2) have played important roles for their clubs. They will be looking to add to their respective three goals apiece in a crucial matchup on Sunday night.