The second half of the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro regular season kicks off with plenty of action-packed games to watch. A total of nine matches through three days sees 18 teams fighting to climb up the standings or solidify a playoff position. Either way, the stakes of every game only ramps up from here. With that being said, here is a deeper look at each team as they go into their Week 14 matchups:
The first match of Week 14 is an Eastern Conference heavyweight bout between top seeded Columbus Crew 2 and fourth placed Rochester New York FC.
RNY FC hosts Crew 2 at Monroe Community College after defeating New England Revolution II in a shootout last week. In addition to that win, the home side has four regulation wins and another shootout win in its last seven games. A complete turnaround from the club’s struggles early in the season. Key contributors have been Pedro Dolabella and Gibran Rayo as both players have four goals with Rayo also tallying three assists. RNY FC have created momentum, but now they look to maintain it to continue to climb the Eastern Conference.
Crew 2, on the other hand, is looking to continue its rampage on MLS NEXT Pro. The club has the most points in the entire league with 30 and has won its last three games by scoring 15 goals and only conceding three. The away side is also looking to avenge its last defeat before its current three-game winning streak, which was against RNY FC. With both sides in incredible recent form, this match has potential of being a contender for game of the season.
The second game on Friday is a Western Conference matchup that has both teams coming off victories last week and are looking to extend their winning form.
The homestanding Whitecaps FC 2 are currently fourth in the West after defeating North Texas SC 3-1. This also marks the fourth straight home game for WFC2, posting a 2-0-1 record in that span entering Friday’s match. Look out for forward Theo Collomb as he scored a brace last week in his second appearance for the club.
After losing 6-1 to Tacoma Defiance, Earthquakes II has won consecutive games with the latest being a 1-0 win over Real Monarchs. The Quakes II have hovered around mid table in the Western Conference all season but its recent form indicates the side is making a push to make the playoffs when it's all said and done. This is also the second time the club has faced WFC2 with the last time being a 2-0 defeat. The result may be different now that the Quakes II are putting it all together.
Saturday action begins with two Eastern Conference sides that are looking to not only bounce back from losses but spark new life into their seasons.
FC Cincinnati 2 is coming off a 4-0 defeat against Inter Miami II and currently are bottom of the East standings. It’s not all doom and gloom for FCC 2 as the side won twice before suffering a defeat last week. Look for the club’s defense to step up in this match as the side has only recorded one clean sheet and has the second worst goal difference in the conference.
Orlando City is also coming off a difficult loss after falling 6-1 to Columbus Crew 2 last week. The away side is only two points ahead of FCC 2 in the standings, after losing three out of its last four matches. FCC 2 was one of the teams that handed City B a loss following a 5-3 result. City B will look to forward Jack Lynn to ignite an offense that has only scored three goals in its last three matches.
A tale of two completely different seasons is on display Saturday evening when second seeded St. Louis CITY2 take on last place Real Monarchs.
CITY2 can’t be stopped at the moment. The club is second in the West after going unbeaten in its last four matches with three of them being regulation victories. Despite squeaking out a 2-1 win against Sporting KC II last week, CITY 2 continue to light up the league with its incredible depth as five players have three or more goals this season for the club.
It’s a different story for Real Monarchs. The team has yet to win a game so far this season, only managing to grab two points from draws against Whitecaps FC 2 and Timbers2. Midfielder Pedro Fonseca has been the lone bright spot with four goals. However, Real Monarchs are going to need more goals if it hopes to break its skid after only scoring one goal in its last six games.
Sunday kicks off in a similar way Saturday ended with one team looking to solidify its playoff position and the other looking to jump start its season.
Chicago Fire II is the latter with the club tallying 11 points in the East which is good for ninth place. The team is also coming off a shootout defeat last week and two regulation losses prior to that. Despite the string of poor results, Fire II has shown glimpses of its potency up top especially in its 6-2 win over Toronto FC II. The side will have to muster more goals this week if it hopes to win its first game in three weeks.
So far so good this season for New England Revolution II as the club sits second in the East with 25 points. However, the team is coming off a shootout defeat to RNY FC last week. It may seem like Revs II have been a force to be reckoned with in the conference, but most of the team’s wins have been decided by a one goal margin. The backline is to credit for that, but in order to lock up a playoff spot Revs II will look for the offense to step up in the second half of the season.
The Western Conference takes center stage Sunday evening in a showdown between the top seed and the fifth seed.
Despite dropping to the fifth seed after three straight defeats, Houston Dynamo 2 are still a problem in the West as the club is only six points off first place. In order to close that gap, however, Dynamo Dos must regain form in front of goal this week to break the skid as the team from Houston has only scored one goal in three games. Look for forward Papa Ndoye to step up, especially in the absence of forward Roberto Avila after he signed with the Houston Dynamo in May.
Tacoma Defiance have flown to the top of the Western Conference after being unbeaten in its last nine games, including six regulation wins and three shootout victories. Yet, the club is only one point ahead of St. Louis CITY2 and North Texas SC in the standings, showing the Western Conference has been extremely competitive all season. The last top-5 team in the conference the Defiance has defeated in regulation was Houston Dynamo 2 in May. Tacoma will look to send a message to the rest of the West if they manage to win this game.
Two teams in the top six in the Western Conference are taking each other on in this matchup as third seed North Texas SC plays sixth seed Minnesota United FC 2.
North Texas SC is coming off a 3-1 defeat to Whitecaps FC 2 last week, but prior to that were on a three-game winning streak. NTSC is third in the West for a reason, the team always bounces back. The club has yet to lose consecutive games so far this season, so look for North Texas to continue that trend behind its dynamic offense led by forward Bernard Kamungo.
MNUFC2 is also coming off a defeat last week as the Earthquakes II won 2-1. However, the club has won twice before that which included a 5-1 win over Colorado Rapids 2. Look for the offense to step up once again in this match if MNUFC2 is to win, which would propel the team past Houston Dynamo 2 in the standings.
Despite being close to the bottom of the Western Conference, both teams have won a game in the past two weeks and are hungry for more wins.
Timbers2 is coming off its first win of the season as it upset Houston Dynamo 2 last week 2-1. Prior to that, the club lost six straight games with its only points on the season coming from two shootout wins. Last week’s victory was a huge step in the right direction to say the least. Now consecutive wins are in the team’s sights as it would move the club past its opponent this week in the standings.
Colorado Rapids 2 only has nine points in the West, but yet has a lot at stake this week against Timbers2. A loss would drop the team to tenth in the standings, not an ideal start to the second half of the season. But going against a leaky Timbers2 defense may see the Rapids 2 score some much needed goals to secure all three points.
An Eastern Conference rivalry caps off Week 14 of MLS NEXT Pro action as Philadelphia Union II look to leapfrog New York City FC II in the standings.
Contrary to its status in fifth place in the East, Philadelphia Union II have had a rough few weeks. The club is coming off a shootout win over Chicago Fire II, but lost three straight prior to that with all of those defeats being shutouts. A win over its New York rivals would surely launch the Union II back to its winning ways from early on in the season.
New York City FC II, on the other hand is third in the East but also is underwhelming for its position in the standings. The team is coming off a 2-0 defeat to Toronto FC II last week and must win this week or other clubs including Union II will move past them. Anticipate a close game as both sides look to climb up the Eastern Conference standings.