MLS NEXT Pro Opening Matchday Recap Blitz

On Sunday, two new faces in MLS NEXT Pro clashed in Matthews, North Carolina, with Huntsville City FC claiming two points on the road at Mecklenburg Sports Complex.

Crown Legacy FC pegged Huntsville City FC back twice in a 2-2 draw through 90 minutes; Jack Collison’s squad edged the hosts 4-3 on kicks from the penalty mark. A 93rd-minute equalizer from Crown Legacy’s Nicholas Scardina forced the shootout, while Azaad Liadi registered his first MLS NEXT Pro brace for Huntsville City FC.

Huntsville City FC struck first in the eighth minute as Liadi capped off a brilliant fast break by the visitors, which ended with the forward slotting home Kemy Amiche’s assist.

However, Crown Legacy FC would tie things up 1-1 in the 27th minute as Brandon Cambridge’s right-footed shot nestled into the middle of the Huntsville City FC net.

Despite immense pressure from Crown Legacy FC in the second half, Liadi propelled Huntsville City FC back in front after receiving a through ball pass from Jonathan Bolanos and scoring from close range.

Crown Legacy’s late pressure paid off, though, as Scardina’s left-footed strike gave the hosts one point in a thrilling MLS NEXT Pro debut for both clubs. Scardina could not keep Crown Legacy alive in the shootout, but both teams will be pleased with their overall performances in Week 1.

Opening Weekend Recap Begins Here!

Philadelphia Union II (1) - Orlando City B (3)

Orlando City captured an important opening weekend result by scoring first and never looking back in a 3-1 triumph over Philadelphia Union II.

OCB needed only five minutes to break the deadlock at Subaru Park, with Abdi Salim heading home Alejandro Granados’ cross for a 1-0 advantage.

After Orlando City B was kept out twice more in the early stages of the first half, Cristofer Acuna doubled the visitor's lead in the 17th minute. Franco Perez connected with Acuna before the 19-year-old celebrated his first goal of the 2023 campaign.

Union II fought to cut the deficit to 2-1 before halftime. Nelson Pierre and Christopher Olney Jr connected before Olney’s low drive beat Javier Otero to the bottom-left corner.

Jack Lynn’s headed goal in the 61st minute would be the icing on the cake for OCB as they held on for a 3-1 road win.

Inter Miami II (1) - Chicago Fire II (3)

Chicago Fire II used two second-half goals to pull away from Inter Miami II for a 3-1 road victory at DRV PNK Stadium.

Matteo Kidd and Edison Azcona traded goals in the first half with Azcona’s tally coming just 14 minutes after Kidd propelled visiting Fire II ahead. Azcona, the Dominican Republic international, tied things up with his first goal for the club.

Fire II flipped momentum in their favor just five minutes into the second half as Billy Hency’s cool finish off a Luka Prpa through ball assist made it 2-1. Alex Monis’ close-range finish in the 80th minute gave Fire II some breathing room to close out an important road triumph in Florida.

St Louis CITY2 (1) - Tacoma Defiance (1) (Defiance wins 5-4 in shootout)

The Western Conference Finalists from 2022 met for a rematch at CITYPARK with Tacoma Defiance edging St Louis CITY2 5-4 on penalties following a 1-1 scoreline through regulation.

Hal Uderitz scored in the penalty shootout and in the second half as Wade Webber’s side claimed two points on the road. Uderitz’s powerful headed finish in the 76th minute boosted the Defiance in front 1-0 as both teams struggled to break one another down.

However, Mykhi Joyner’s header off of a Braydon Sellers’ cross in the 94th minute tied things up for St Louis CITY2 and forced the teams to go to a shootout.

With the teams level at 2-2 in the shootout, Aaron Heard skied his effort, giving the Defiance an advantage to run away with the result. Frank Daroma, Travian Sousa, and Uderitz all scored on their spot kicks to capture an extra point for their squad.

New York Red Bulls II (1) - Columbus Crew 2 (1) (Crew 2 wins 3-2 in shootout)

Defending MLS NEXT Pro champions Columbus Crew 2 opened their defense on Sunday in New Jersey, with Laurent Courtois’ squad capturing two points in a 3-2 shootout result over New York Red Bulls II.

Abdi Mohamed’s 94th-minute equalizer helped Crew 2 force the shootout at Monclair State University following Wikelman Carmona’s seventh-minute opening goal for Red Bulls II.

Carmona’s missile in the match's opening stages gave the debuting MLS NEXT Pro team the early lead over the defending champions.

Crew 2 goalkeeper and former U.S. youth national team standout Brady Scott made four key saves as the match went on and even got some help from his left post as Red Bulls II tried to seal the result. Aidan Wolf’s cross was powered home by Mohamed in second-half stoppage time, sending the teams to a shootout.

Red Bulls II watched as Peter Stroud’s spot kick was saved by Scott before Amos Shapiro-Thompson, and Omar Valencia both missed their chances. Cole Mrowka’s successful penalty kick proved to be the deciding factor for Crew 2.

ATL UTD 2 (2) - New England Revolution II (3)

New England Revolution II scored three goals in 23 minutes against ATL UTD 2 and eventually hung on for a 3-2 road win at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

Aidan McFadden’s own goal boosted Clint Peay’s squad in front 1-0 before halftime, giving the visitors an advantage on the road. Jake Rohzansky and Pierre Cayet scored eight minutes apart just before the hour mark to extend Revs II’s advantage to 3-0 and give the visitors enough to hang on.

ATL UTD created some late drama with Raimar and Nick Fimirno scoring their first goals of the 2023 campaign, but it wouldn’t be enough for Steve Cooke’s squad.

Earthquakes II (3) - Galaxy II (0)

The MLS NEXT Pro edition of the Cali Clasico came from PayPal Park as Earthquakes II rolled past visiting Galaxy II by a 3-0 scoreline.

Ousseni Bouda and William Richmond scored five minutes apart in the first half to set the tone for Daniel De Geer’s squad. Bouda and Richmond roofed their attempts from point-blank range, giving the hosts a double confidence boost.

Eric De La Cerda produced several key stops in the second half to keep Galaxy II from clawing their way back into the match. The 21-year-old finished the match with a seven-save clean sheet in his MLS NEXT Pro debut. 

Martin Kwende Jr’s late goal gave Quakes II some insurance and condemned Galaxy II to a tough start in MLS NEXT Pro.

LAFC2 (0) - North Texas SC (1)

North Texas SC was one of several road teams to walk away with three points on Sunday following a 1-0 triumph over LAFC2.

Hope Avayevu’s ninth-minute goal proved to be the difference as North Texas SC earned a road victory and a clean sheet. Bernard Kamungo was one of MLS NEXT Pro’s deadliest finishers in 2022, but his connection with Avayevu led to the opening goal for North Texas SC.

Erik Duenas and Nathan Ordaz came closest to tying things up for LAFC2 before halftime.

Noah Dollenmayer was sent off for LAFC2 in the 50th minute for a second yellow card offense, hurting the hosts' chances of getting back into the match.

North Texas SC’s Julian Eyestone made three saves to preserve his first clean sheet of 2023.

Colorado Rapids 2 (2) - Sporting KC II (1)

Colorado Rapids 2 had to dig deep to earn three points in their season opener on Sunday, but two second-half goals propelled them to a 2-1 result over Sporting KC II.

Yosuke Hanya and Blake Malone helped Rapids 2 overcome a first-half deficit to start the season on a solid note. Nassim Mekideche propelled SKC II in front early, but the visitors could not walk away with a victory.

Mekideche’s 11th-minute left-footed finish off a set-piece situation boosted Benny Feilhaber’s squad in front, with Jack Doan playing distributor on the goal. SKC II was kept out five times later in the match before Rapids 2 equalized in the 59th minute.

After Calvin Harris ' previous effort struck the post, Hanya was in the perfect spot to tie things up. Hanya sent his rebound shot down the middle of the net to make it 1-1.

With both teams pressing for a winner, Blake Malone delivered in the 91st minute, volleying home in the box from a failed SKC II clearance.

Whitecaps FC 2 (2) - Timbers2 (1)

Whitecaps FC 2 claimed victory in its first match under new head coach Ricardo Clark, using two second-half goals to defeat Timbers2 by a 2-1 scoreline.

Following a goal-less first half, Kamron Habibullah sprung Whitecaps FC 2 in front with a perfectly-placed free-kick finish. Habibullah’s right-footed strike nestled into the bottom-left corner, making it 1-0 for the hosts.

Noel Caliskan’s long-range shot in the 55th minute tied things up for Timbers2, but Whitecaps FC2 didn’t need much time to retake the lead for good.

Habibullah assisted Antoine Coupland just two minutes later as Whitecaps FC 2 recaptured the lead for the second and final time. Max Anchor made four saves in the home win.

FC Cincinnati 2 (4) - TFC II (2)

FC Cincinnati used a three-goal second half performance to flip the script against TFC II and claim a 4-2 opening weekend victory.

Arquimides Ordonez scored twice in the second half for Tyrone Marshall’s squad, Gerardo Valenzuela also found the back of the net in Monday’s comeback win.

Jesus Castellano broke the deadlock for FCC2 in the seventh minute, but TFC II would fight back to take the lead before halftime. Reshaun Walkes tied things up at 1-1 in the 24th minute before Alec Diaz’s penalty kick finish in the 29th minute sprung TFC II ahead 2-1.

Ordonez’s close-range finish in the 47th minute started the busy second half for FCC2 before Valenzuela’s right-footed strike in the 56th minute boosted the hosts ahead 3-2.

After Ordonez struck the post in the 81st minute, the Guatemalan attacker finished his rebound to pad the ensuing victory.

Friday’s results:

Austin FC II (2) - Houston Dynamo 2 (1)

Real Monarchs (0) - MNUFC2 (3)