A 120-minute, seven-goal thriller between Columbus Crew 2 and Toronto FC II saw the regular season Champions claim the Eastern Conference title as Crew 2 advanced to the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Cup. Meanwhile, St Louis CITY2 managed to thwart a late Tacoma Defiance comeback In the Western Conference Finals, winning 2-1 to advance to MLS NEXT Pro Cup.
Here’s your MLS NEXT Pro Conference Finals edition of By The Numbers:
Crew 2 and TFC II traded goals all evening in the Eastern Conference final, scoring a total of seven goals across 120 minutes. It was the first-ever MLS NEXT Pro Eastern Conference match to head to extra time after regulation saw the two teams end in a 2-2 stalemate.
Paul Rothrock and Themi Antonoglou found goals for TFC II, with Antonoglou notching a brace. Crew 2 had four different goalscorers, none of which were leading goalscorer and MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot winner Jacen Russell-Rowe.
Noah Fuson opened the scoring, followed by a penalty kick goal from Isaiah Parente. Crew 2 then scored twice in extra time to advance thanks to an equalizing goal from Jordan Knight and a winner from Coleman Gannon.
New heights for TFC II
The inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign set a new benchmark for Toronto FC II. In the club's seven-year history, primarily playing in the USL ranks, TFC II had never made a postseason appearance. First-year head coach Giani Cimini's debut was an overwhelming success and set a new standard to build upon for the future.
Home teams prevail for second straight week
Home-field advantage continued to pay off as Crew 2 and CITY2 won their respective matches on their home ground, while the opening round of the playoffs saw all four matches end in the favor of the home side.
Crew 2 will host CITY2 in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Cup, and will be playing at Lower.com field rather than their usual Historic Crew Stadium.
Themi times two
TFC II forward Themi Antonoglou scored a stoppage-time stunner in regulation and added a second goal in the 94th minute of Extra Time to briefly keep TFC II’s season alive.
Antonoglou's first was a memorable direct free kick to kickstart TFC II's comeback effort.
The 21-year-old Toronto native officially sent the game off the rails once extra time kicked off, spotting Crew 2 goalkeeper Patrick Schulte off his line and punished with a chip shot from downtown.
Tomas Ostrák scores for second-straight game, helping CITY2 advance again
CITY2 midfielder Tomas Ostrak scored the opening goal for the second straight game, arriving in another crucial moment to help see his side advance to the next round of the playoffs.
Ostrák scored the opening goal in CITY2’s 2-0 win over North Texas SC in the opening round of the playoffs and followed that performance up with another goal in their 2-1 win over Defiance in the Western Conference Finals.
Ostrák had only scored one goal in the regular season for CITY2 but has gotten hot at the right time. The Czech signed for the club on March 1, 2022, as the organization prepares for its inaugural MLS season in 2023, but was not able to join the club until the summer transfer window from FC Koln in the German Bundesliga and made his CITY2 debut on August 6.