MLS NEXT Pro Matchday 7: Friday Night Rewind

Matchday 7 of MLS NEXT Pro action kicked off on Friday night with a quartet of matches including a pair for both conferences. 

Eastern Conference-leading Crown Legacy FC remained unbeaten on Friday night after edging Orlando City B 3-2 in a top-two clash. Iuri Tavares’ brace led the way for the hosts in a thrilling affair from North Carolina. 

Columbus Crew 2 rode a first-half strike from Marco Micaletto and a stellar individual performance from goalkeeper Stanislav Lapkes to defeat Huntsville City FC 1-0 at home. 

Tacoma Defiance and Sporting KC II both earned road victories on Friday in the late night Western Conference slate. Wade Webber’s Defiance fought back to defeat Real Monarchs 2-1 at Zions Bank Stadium while SKC II used goals in each half to defeat Earthquakes II 2-1 at PayPal Park. 
Here's a recap of how the action unfolded on Friday night:

Crown Legacy FC (3) - Orlando City B (2)

The top two Eastern Conference clubs clashed at Mecklenburg County Sportsplex on Friday with Crown Legacy FC walking away with their latest victory. 

Jose Tavares’ squad used a pair of second-half goals to overcome a halftime deficit in a 3-2 comeback win over Orlando City B. Thiago and Iuri Tavares both celebrated goals two minutes apart as Crown Legacy FC remained unbeaten in regulation. 

Tavares’ second-minute opener boosted the hosts in front 1-0, but Orlando City B struck back twice before halftime to earn some valuable momentum. 

Moises Tablante finished off a fast break in the 39th minute to make it 1-1 before a Jack Neeley own goal boosted OCB in front just six minutes later. However, Crown Legacy FC increased their pressure in the second half and eventually flipped the script in their favor. 

Thiago’s long-range effort in the 71st minute landed in the top-left corner of Javier Otero’s net to make it 2-2. Not long after the restart, Crown Legacy FC grabbed the lead for good as Nicholas Scardina’s through ball pass was slotted home by Tavares for his second tally of the match. 

Crown Legacy FC would hang on for their sixth victory of the season, moving five points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Columbus Crew 2 (1) - Huntsville City FC (0)

Columbus Crew 2 earned their second-straight win after shutting out Huntsville City FC 1-0 on home soil. 

Marco Micaletto scored the lone goal of the match in the 19th minute while Columbus Crew Academy goalkeeper Stanislav Lapkes earned Man of the Match honors with his seven-save clean sheet. 

Thomas Roberts’ through ball pass allowed Micaletto to slot home Crew 2’s opening goal as Laurent Courtois’ men claimed an early advantage.

Oliver Wright was denied twice by Lapkes in the first half while Jonathan Bolanos’ effort was also repelled before the interval. 

Wright was denied a third time early in the second half as Huntsville City FC pushed for a tying goal. Tyler Freeman’s long-range shot was gathered by Lapkes in stoppage time before Azaad Liadi’s last-gasp effort was also claimed by the young goalkeeper. 

Crew 2 hung on for an important home victory to continue chasing Crown Legacy FC for top spot in the East.

Earthquakes II (1) - Sporting KC II (2)

Sporting KC II rebounded from back-to-back defeats on Friday to defeat Earthquakes II by a 2-1 scoreline at PayPal Park. 

Andrew Draper’s first-half finish paired with Josh Coan’s second-half penalty kick goal propelled Benny Feilhaber’s squad to their second road win of the season. Rodolfo Castro pulled one back for Quakes II, but it wasn’t enough to help Quakes II earn at least one point in a shootout. 

SKC II started on the front foot with Sebastian Cruz being denied by Emi Ochoa before Pau Vidal rattled the post with a right-footed strike. Draper would boost SKC II in front just two minutes later, giving the visitors a 1-0 advantage after 24 minutes.

Ochoa was guilty of allowing SKC II’s second goal of the match midway through the second half after bringing Coan down in the box. Coan would slot the ensuing spot kick into the bottom-left corner, making it 2-0 at PayPal Park.

Rodolfo Castro pulled one goal back for SKC II in the 78th minute, but the hosts would not find an equalizing goal to force a shootout.

SKC II leapfrogged Quakes II into the top five of the Western Conference standings, moving to 11 points earned on the season.

Real Monarchs (1) - Tacoma Defiance (2)

Tacoma Defiance used a second-half comeback to not only down Real Monarchs on Friday, but to also extend their winning run to three matches. 

Eythor Bjorgolfsson and Braudilio Rodriguez both celebrated goals to help the Defiance claim a 2-1 road victory. Duncan Jarvie’s 61st-minute goal helped boost Real Monarchs in front, but the Defiance fought back to remain in the top four of the Western Conference standings. 

Both teams went into halftime goalless after Abdoulaye Cissoko’s penalty kick was punched away by Fernando Delgado in the 41st minute. Delgado also repelled the follow-up chance, keeping the sides level at 0-0.

Jarvie, who replaced Tyrone Mondi in the first half, received a pass from Gilberto Garcis in the 61st minute before drilling a shot down the middle of the Defiance goal. It was Jarvie’s first MLS NEXT Pro goal. 

However, the Defiance would battle back quickly as Bjorgolfsson’s top-shelf finish tied things up at 1-1 just five minutes later. 

Rodrigues’ 88th-minute finish proved to be the winner for the Defiance, helping complete a road comeback. The attacking player rounded a Monarchs defender before rifling home the winning goal for his second tally of 2023.