Matchday 6 of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season kicks off with a bang as two Western Conference contenders meet in Texas.
Friday’s opening match of the weekend comes from Parmer Field as Austin FC II hosts MNUFC2 in a Western Conference affair. Five points separate the two top-four squads with Austin FC II unbeaten so far at home and MNUFC2 winning three of their five road matches so far this season.
A fully loaded Sunday slate kicks off from Columbus as defending champions Columbus Crew 2 hosts Inter Miami II. Colorado Rapids 2 welcomes North Texas SC to town in the Western Conference’s opening match of the night, while Crown Legacy FC visits NYCFC II in a top-six Eastern Conference clash.
Here is a closer look at the Matchday 6 schedule:
Austin FC II vs. MNUFC2 (7 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
Austin FC II remains unbeaten at Parmer Field to start their 2023 season and the chance to move to 5-0-0 comes this Friday against MNUFC2.
Brett Uttley’s squad has scored two goals or more in each of their four home victories this year, outscoring their opponents 9-2 over that span. Although Austin FC II did not come away with three points in California on Matchday 5, they do have Valentin Noel’s production (four goals, one assist) to call on once again this weekend.
MNUFC2 started off strong this season, but since then have suffered back-to-back defeats to North Texas SC and Whitecaps FC 2, dropping to fourth in the West. After only conceding two goals through their opening 270 minutes, MNUFC2 have conceded seven in the past two weeks, a theme that will need to change against a rampant Austin FC II attack.
Britton Fischer has been a key defender for Cameron Knowles’ squad and will try to lead a strong defensive performance on Friday night.
Columbus Crew 2 vs. Inter Miami II (5 p.m. ET, MLSNEXTPro.com)
Columbus Crew 2 returns to Historic Crew Stadium on Sunday with hopes of a bounce-back performance against Inter Miami II.
Laurent Courtois’ squad was shut out in last week’s 1-0 road loss to Crown Legacy FC, which was the first time the club failed to score a goal since July 2022. Despite several of last season’s standout stars now with the first team, there are still plenty of goalscoring options for Courtois to rely on.
Noah Fuson, Gibran Rayo, and Marco Micaletto will look to improve on their two combined goals in 2023.
Inter Miami II earned their first home win on Matchday 5, outlasting Huntsville City FC 4-3 at DRV PNK Stadium. Four different players found the back of the net including offseason acquisition Jake LaCava and 17-year-old defender Cesar Abadia-Reda.
A total of seven different players have contributed goals for Federico Higuain’s squad, an early testament to the depth of Inter Miami II’s scoring options.
New England Revolution II vs. FC Cincinnati 2 (5 p.m. ET, MLSNEXTPro.com)
New England Revolution II have lost back-to-back matches in recent weeks and will be seeking an immediate turnaround against FC Cincinnati 2 at Gillette Stadium.
Clint Peay’s squad has been shutout in the last 180 minutes, falling to Columbus Crew 2 and New York Red Bulls II in recent matches. After scoring 10 goals through their first three matches, Revs II are struggling to string opportunities together in the final third.
Jordan Adebayo-Smith remains a handful for opposing defenders with two goals and one assist to his name so far in 2023.
FC Cincinnati 2 have earned four points over their last two matches, moving them to seventh place in the Eastern Conference. A 3-2 home win over Sporting KC II on Matchday 5 saw three different players contribute goals including 20-year-old defender Kai Thomas, who remains a top prospect in the FC Cincinnati program.
19-year-old Jesus Castellano (two goals in 2023) is also a promising talent to watch.
ATL UTD 2 vs. Philadelphia Union II (6 p.m. ET, MLSNEXTPro.com)
Both ATL UTD 2 and Philadelphia Union II have turned it around in recent weeks and will be hoping to walk away with three points on Sunday.
ATL UTD 2 have defeated Orlando City B and Chicago Fire II in back-to-back matches, scoring five combined goals and conceding just one. Nicolas Firmino has been on fire for ATL UTD 2, scoring four goals over that span while midfielder Erik Lopez has also been influential (one goal, two assists).
Philadelphia Union II have earned four points from their last two matches, including a shootout win over TFC II on Matchday 5. However, Marlon LeBlanc will be hoping his backline can deliver a shutdown performance on Sunday after conceding 14 goals through five matches.
Brandan Craig remains one of Union II’s top defensive talents.
Chicago Fire II vs. New York Red Bulls II (6 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
Only three points separate Chicago Fire II and New York Red Bulls II coming into Sunday’s showdown from SeatGeek Stadium.
Chicago Fire II have been one of the better defensive sides in the Eastern Conference, conceding only six goals in five matches. However, offensively things have been pretty quiet with Fire II scoring only once during a three-match losing streak.
Luka Prpa’s three assists have been important for Ludovic Talliander’s attack, but the young midfielder might be called on for goals to help Fire II snap their streak this weekend.
New York Red Bulls II have earned back-to-back shutout wins in MLS NEXT Pro for the first time in their history. Wikelman Carmona’s three goals have been key for Ibrahim Sekagya’s squad while goalkeeper AJ Marcucci’s 10 saves and two clean sheets have also been very important.
Both Carmona and Marcucci will be among the ones to watch for Red Bulls II on Matchday 6.
Colorado Rapids 2 vs. North Texas SC (6 p.m. ET, MLSNEXTPro.com)
Colorado Rapids 2 has yet to lose in regulation in 2023, but a visiting North Texas SC squad will be a tough test for Erik Bushey’s men.
Rapids 2 were shut out for the first time this season in a Matchday 5 shootout loss to St. Louis CITY2. After scoring 10 goals through their four-match winning streak to start the season, Rapids 2 were outshot by CITY2 in an eventual shootout defeat.
Yosuke Hanya, Blake Malone, and Calvin Harris have seven combined goals this season and will be eager to find the back of the net this weekend.
North Texas SC will look to kickstart some consistency in the Western Conference after suffering three losses in their past four matches. A 1-0 loss to Real Monarchs on Matchday 5 was the second defeat this season in which NTX was shut out in the process.
After relying heavily on Bernard Kamungo in 2022, goals have been hard to come by with NTX only scoring five times in six matches. Hope Avayevu and Jose Mulato remain two talented attackers that will be looking to be the go-to scorer this season.
Orlando City B vs. TFC II (6 p.m. ET, MLSNEXTPro.com)
TFC II hasn’t had much go well for them in 2023, but one road point against Philadelphia Union II on Matchday 5 could be a promising turnaround moment.
Gianni Cimini’s squad fought back from an early 2-0 deficit at Subaru Park last Sunday before eventually falling 5-4 in a shootout after a 3-3 regulation scoreline. Five different players have found the back of the net for TFC II including Hugo Mbongue and Jesus Batiz.
Both scored in Chester last weekend and will have some confidence to build off of in Florida.
Orlando City B earned two points on Matchday 5 in a thrilling 8-7 shootout against NYCFC II after the two Eastern Conference clubs finished level 2-2 through 90 minutes. Nabi Kibunguchy’s first MLSNEXT Pro goals for the club helped OCB claim a first-half advantage before NYCFC II fought back to force the shootout.
Kibunguchy is one of several talented defenders in the OCB backline, which also includes U.S. youth national team defender Alex Freeman.
Real Monarchs vs. Timbers2 (6 p.m. ET, MLSNEXTPro.com)
Two Western Conference clubs coming off important Matchday 5 wins will square off from Zions Bank Stadium on Sunday night.
Real Monarchs welcome Timbers2 to town after earning their second victory in the past three matches. Jamison Olave will be confident in his side’s ability to frustrate teams defensively after registering clean sheets against Earthquakes II and North Texas SC.
Gennaro Nigro leads the team in duels (61) and minutes played among defenders for Monarchs (303).
Timbers2 earned their first victory and clean sheet since Decision Day 2022 and after ending a three-match losing streak to start the season, the visitors will be hoping to make it back-to-back results on Sunday.
Selmir Miscic’s stellar free kick goal paired with Noel Caliskan’s third goal of the season was all Timbers2 needed to defeat LAFC2 2-0 on Sunday. Both remain impactful attacking players and will be key on whether or not Timbers2 can earn their first-ever road victory.
St. Louis CITY2 vs. Whitecaps FC 2 (6 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
St. Louis CITY2 are still seeking their first regulation win of 2023 heading into Sunday’s home clash with Whitecaps FC 2.
Bobby Murphy’s squad did earn two points in a 5-4 shootout result over Colorado Rapids 2, which could add some needed momentum for CITY2. However, their three goals scored are the third-fewest in MLS NEXT Pro this season, something Murphy will hope changes immediately.
Akil Watts and Aziel Jackson both enjoyed positive U.S. Open Cup performance midweek and will be looking to bring that form back to CITY2.
Whitecaps FC 2 lead all MLS NEXT Pro teams with 15 goals scored this season, including 13 in their last three matches. A 5-2 home victory over MNUFC2 on Matchday 5 was an early-season statement win for Ricardo Clark’s men, who earned Matchday of the Week honors in the process.
Johnson is one of nine players to contribute at least one goal for Whitecaps FC 2 and one of three to have two tallies or more this year.
LAFC2 vs. Earthquakes II (6:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
Two Western Conference clubs desperately needing three points on Sunday are LAFC2 and Earthquakes II who will meet on Matchday 6,
LAFC2 are still seeking their first victory in MLS NEXT Pro and have been shutout in three of their five matches so far. Erik Duenas and Ladji Malle have each contributed one goal apiece for LAFC2, but more will be needed if the hosts want to defeat Earthquakes II on home soil.
Earthquakes II suffered back-to-back losses in recent weeks, losing to Real Monarchs and Colorado Rapids 2. Daniel De Geer’s squad started off strong with two-consecutive victories, but haven’t found the back of the net since.
William Richmond and Ousseni Bouda are two of Quakes II’s four goal scorers so far in 2023.
NYCFC II vs. Crown Legacy FC (7 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
First meets sixth in the Eastern Conference as Crown Legacy FC travels to NYCFC II on Sunday night.
Jose Tavares’ squad remained unbeaten in 2023, riding a 4-1-0 record into a trip to Belson Stadium this weekend. Four-consecutive victories including a 1-0 Matchday 5 triumph over Columbus Crew 2 have Crown Legacy FC flying high with 13 points earned.
Patrick Agyemang became the club’s fourth player to score this season, joining Brandon Cambridge, David Poreba, and Iuri Tavares on that growing list.
NYCFC II have rebounded from a Matchday 2 loss to New England Revolution II by earning seven points out of a possible nine over the past three weeks. Five different players have contributed goals for NYCFC II including Samuel Owusu and Nico Benalcazar who scored at Orlando City B last weekend.
Stevo Bednarsky has been an important two-way midfielder for NYCFC II so far, leading the team with 10 interceptions and ranked second with 48 duels.
Sporting KC II vs. Houston Dynamo 2 (8 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV)
Sporting KC II and Houston Dynamo 2 will both be seeking a bounce-back performance on Sunday after suffering defeats last weekend.
Houston Dynamo 2 fell 2-1 on Sunday against Tacoma Defiance, which was the third defeat out of five matches for Kenny Bundy’s squad. Other than a 3-1 road win over St. Louis CITY2, Dynamo Dos have struggled to create chances in the final third, scoring just six goals in five matches.
Beto Avila and Papa Ndoye have three combined goals and will be among the players who Bundy will turn to kickstart his offense.
Sporting KC II fell 3-2 at FC Cincinnati 2, ending a three-match unbeaten run in league play. Pau Vidal leads the team with four goals while Andrew Draper has contributed three assists from his midfield position.
Both will be relied on to create chances as SKC II aims to eclipse the 10-point mark so far in 2023.
Tacoma Defiance vs. LA Galaxy II (11 p.m. ET, MLSNEXTPro.com)
LA Galaxy II have rebounded in recent weeks from a three-match losing streak and should be full of confidence heading into a Matchday 6 trip to Tacoma Defiance.
Galaxy II earned two points in a 5-4 shootout result over West-leaders Austin FC II, giving the California-based club back-to-back positive performances. Axel Picazo became the fourth Galaxy II player to score a goal this season, joining Aaron Bibout, Brandon Tellez, and Paulo Rudisill on that growing list.
Tacoma Defiance sit sixth in the West table after earning their second victory of the season on Matchday 5. A 2-1 road victory over Houston Dynamo 2 witnessed Hal Uderitz scoring his third goal of 2023 and continuing to be Defiance’s best-attacking threat so far.
Paul Rothrock’s four assists have also been crucial for Defiance following his move from TFC II this offseason.