As the inaugural season of MLS NEXT Pro winds down, several teams continued to fight for playoff positioning in the standings this past week. Only four teams from each conference can make the tournament, meaning now every match has added pressure.
Let’s take a look at which teams rose to the occasion in this week’s MLS NEXT Pro Top 5 team rankings:
Houston Dynamo 2 are now riding an eight-game unbeaten run following a 1-1 draw with Colorado Rapids 2 that ended in a 5-4 shootout loss. In that eight-game span the team scored 16 goals and conceded 8 times with three games ending in clean sheets.
Forward Kyle Edwards netted his fourth goal of the season and his second in two matches last week against Rapids 2. His four goals and two assists in nine games so far highlight the depth of the squad with six players having three or more goals.
The team from Houston is currently third in the Western Conference with four games remaining. If Houston Dynamo Dos can keep up this form, a playoff berth is almost certain.
Previous Ranking: 3
Next Match: vs Minnesota United FC 2, August 2
Make that two straight wins for St Louis CITY2 after a 4-1 win against Whitecaps FC 2. Overall the team has won four of its last five matches and currently sits in second in the Western Conference with five games remaining in the season.
The depth of the squad, especially, has been on full display as of late as six different players scored in the last matches for the club. Meaning the team from St Louis is ready to face any team as the season winds down and playoff spots are decided.
However, that must hold true in the coming weeks as the team takes on Houston Dynamo 2 and North Texas SC, both of which closely trail CITY2 in the Western Conference.
Previous Ranking: 5
Next Match: vs Earthquakes II, August 21
Another team who is scorching hot right now is Toronto FC II as the club improved to nine games unbeaten. The 2-1 win over Rochester New York FC also marked the team’s fourth consecutive win, moving the Canadian side to second in the Eastern Conference.
Forward Reshaun Walkes scored his third goal in two matches last week as well. Other instrumental players in this run include midfielders Paul Rothrock who has five goals and 5 assists and Julian Altobelli who has five goals and an assist.
The club has six games remaining and is only above sixth-placed New England Revolution II by three points. Every game has added pressure by the week, but TFC II has stepped up and delivered so far.
Previous Ranking: 4
Next Match: vs FC Cincinnati 2, August. 21
The Western Conference top seed lands in the second spot in the MLS NEXT Pro Top 5 Rankings following a 2-1 loss over Minnesota United FC 2. The defeat snapped a five-game winning streak for the team from Tacoma.
Despite losing last week, the Defiance are still atop of the West thanks to players like midfielder Marlon Vargas who has 12 goals and six assists and forward Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez who has nine goals and four assists.
Along with the starpower up front, the team has two clean sheets and only conceded four times in the last five games. The Defiance have been among the best teams all season and might win it all when it’s all said and done.
Previous Ranking: 1
Next Match: vs Sporting KC II, August 20
Despite being held to a thrilling 3-3 draw last week against FC Cincinnati 2, Columbus Crew 2 are the top team in the MLS NEXT Pro Top 5 Rankings. The game marked the second week straight the team scored three goals and prior to a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia Union II the team was unbeaten in seven games.
Midfielder Isaiah Parente scored a brace in the draw and forward Jacen Russell-Rowe also scored a brace the week before. Safe to say scoring goals is no problem for Crew 2, but defensive lapses may cost the team later in the playoffs after the club gave up a 2-0 lead against FCC 2.
The silver lining is the team is 10 points clear atop of the Eastern Conference and has five games remaining in the regular season to fine-tune those mistakes in the back. And with an offense led by Russell-Rowe, who has 15 goals, any game is winnable.
Previous Ranking: 2
Next Match: vs Orlando City B, August. 20