Week 18 of the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro regular season is packed with league action over the weekend with a nine-game slate, with each match having critical implications on playoffs standings.
Let’s take a deeper a look at every matchup this week:
Friday, July 22
Timbers2 vs. Earthquakes II (4 p.m. ET)
A Western Conference bout between the Timbers2 and Earthquakes II at Providence Park in Oregon, Washington kickoffs week 18 of MLS NEXT Pro.
The home side, Timbers 2 is currently on a four-game losing streak with the latest loss being a 2-1 defeat last week against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. Despite being bottom of the Western Conference for the majority of the season, Timbers 2 could leapfrog to ninth in the standings with a win as Real Monarchs compete in the MLS NEXT Pro Invitational this week.
As for the visitors, Earthquakes II is coming off a disappointing 2-1 defeat against Colorado Rapids 2. However, prior to that the club was unbeaten in its last five matches with four of them being regulation wins. The Quakes II currently sits in the sixth seed and is six points from cracking into the top four in the West. A win could continue the playoff push for the team from North California, but another loss could stall the momentum from past results.
Rochester New York FC vs. FC Cincinnati 2 (6 p.m. ET)
The second game of the weekend is a tale of two teams trending in different directions in the last few match weeks.
Rochester New York FC will host FC Cincinnati 2 at Monroe Community College as the club seeks to extend its winning streak to four consecutive games. RNY FC is also unbeaten in its last five matches and is currently the second seed in the Eastern Conference. However, with New York City FC II and New England Revolution II closely trailing behind three points will prove vital to remain top two in the East.
FC Cincinnati 2, on the other hand, is bottom of the Eastern Conference and has lost five straight games. The club is yet to score in two weeks and will look to break the skid to spark a turn of good results.
Sporting KC II vs. Tacoma Defiance (8 p.m. ET)
The top seed in the Eastern Conference is in action when Tacoma Defiance visits Sporting KC II at Mercy Victory Field Friday evening.
Tacoma Defiance is coming into this week following a 3-2 win over Minnesota United FC 2 which marked its third win in four matches. Looking even further back, in its last 10 games the club has scored 29 goals and has conceded nine with three games being clean sheets. All that being said, the Defiance only tops the Western Conference by a single point, so a road win this week is practically a must-have victory.
As the host, Sporting KC II will have the home field advantage to boost the morale of the players who are coming off a 1-0 defeat to Real Monarchs. Currently the club is the eighth seed in the West, but a win this week could help the team jump to as high as sixth if other results hold. Prior to the loss, SKC II won consecutive games so look for remnants of that winning form to shine through if the team is to secure all three points.
Sunday, July 24
Columbus Crew 2 vs. New England Revolution II (5 p.m. ET)
Sunday action begins with two Eastern Conference juggernauts battling for all three points as the top-seeded Columbus Crew 2 host the fourth-seeded New England Revolution II.
Crew 2 currently holds the most points in the league with 35 as the team is unbeaten in its last six played matches and has not lost since late May. In addition to scoring four goals or more in six matches this season, the team’s defense has also been suffocating as it conceded the least amount of goals in the league with 12 and recorded 10 clean sheets so far. All things point to Crew 2 winning at home, but facing any top four team from a conference will be no small task.
Despite being the fourth seed in the East, the New England Revolution II is yet to secure three points since its 2-1 win over Orlando City B on June 11th. Its latest loss was a 4-0 defeat to NYCFC II last week. Look for the visitors to push the tempo to net multiple goals in order to end the skid.
New York City FC II vs. Inter Miami CF II (8 p.m. ET)
As New York City FC II hosts Inter Miami FC at Belson Stadium, it marks the third time these teams face each other this season with the team from New York taking the previous two matchups.
One of those games being a 7-0 drubbing in April, so look for Inter Miami II to avenge these defeats in this matchup. The visitors are currently on a three-game winning streak with the club scoring 10 goals and conceding twice in that span. With the offense clicking right now and the team hungry to crack the top four in the East, Inter Miami II will cause problems for NYCFC II.
That being said, NYCFC II is the third seed in the East and has been a constant presence in the conference all season so far. Prior to its 1-0 loss to RNY FC last week, the team was on a three-game winning streak and scored 14 goals in that span. And now with forward John Denis leading the league with 13 goals, NYCFC II is more dangerous than ever.
Houston Dynamo 2 vs. Minnesota United FC 2 (8:30 p.m. ET)
To round off week 18 of MLS NEXT Pro action is Houston Dynamo 2 hosting Minnesota United FC 2 at AVEVA Stadium Sunday evening.
The home side is coming off a 3-3 deadlock in regulation against North Texas SC that ended in a 4-3 shootout win for Dynamos Dos. Now the club is unbeaten in its last four matches and is sitting in third place in the West. However, with the opportunity to move into first place if Tacoma Defiance and St. Louis CITY2 falter expect Dynamo Dos to unleash its prolific frontline.
It’s a different story for MNUFC2 as the team has lost consecutive games with the latest being a 3-2 defeat to Tacoma Defiance. The team is currently the seventh seed in the West, but with a string of victorious results the team from Minnesota could possibly crack the top four.