Defending MLS NEXT Pro Champion Columbus Crew 2 might have clinched their playoff berth back in Matchday 24, but it was in bittersweet fashion as it came from third-party help as they fell to Orlando City B.
That set the scene for the Capybaras to return to Florida and reclaim some power against Inter Miami II in Matchday 25. The mission was accomplished to the tune of 5-0 and there was plenty to like about it, which made Crew 2 the easy choice to earn Team of the Matchday honors.
2023 newcomer Gibran Rayo's hat trick naturally garners most of the attention. The 21-year-old winger notched three goals in the span of 38 minutes to complete a first-half feat rarely seen in all of soccer. On a personal level, it was the second hat trick of Rayo's MLS NEXT Pro career, and he became the first player to have a three-goal outing with two different teams.
The performance was rounded out with goal contributions from fellow newcomer Matteo Bunbury and club mainstay Noah Fuson. Isaiah Parentae Abdi Mohammed, and Jordan Knight all got on the scoresheet with assists.
The dominant performance set up a straightforward task of preserving a clean sheet, and 17-year-old goalkeeper Stanislav Lapkes was up to the task. His three saves bested a 1.07xGA prediction and marked his third clean sheet of the campaign.
The win gives the defending champs a clean sweep of Inter Miami II on the year (3-2 win in May).
Surprisingly, the award is Crew 2's first MLS NEXT Pro Team of the Matchday honor in 2023.
Crew 2 look to follow up Sunday's convincing performance when they host NYCFC II in Matchday 26, hosting it on Friday, September 8. It will be a critical matchup for the visitors, who are working to stay alive in the playoff race. You can catch that match and several others on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.