Week 19 of the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season is jam-packed with intriguing matchups that could determine the playoff prospects of many teams.
Let’s dive in and take a look at each of the nine games this weekend:
In a battle of Western Conference foes, Whitecaps FC 2 and Houston Dynamo 2 kick off Week 19 of MLS NEXT Pro action.
Whitecaps FC 2 let a valuable point slip by them last weekend after their defense gave up a late goal to Earthquakes II in a 3-2 loss. WFC2 are currently on the border of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with 29 points and will need to earn some points to continue their battle for fourth place with North Texas SC.
Dynamo 2 scored a first-half stoppage time goal to earn a 1-0 victory at home over MNUFC2 and remain the only undefeated team at home this season. Thanks to their five-game unbeaten streak, Houston Dynamo 2 is now only two points away from the top spot in the Western Conference standings with 35 points. A result at Swangard Stadium could catapult them to first place by the end of the weekend.
In a rematch of their April 10 matchup, Fire II head to Rochester to face off against RNY FC at Monroe Community College. Caique proved a key figure for Rochester in their first matchup stopping a critical shootout penalty and awarding RNY FC the two points.
RNY FC is currently in third place in the Eastern Conference with 29 points and will look to bounce back at home after falling 2-0 to FC Cincinnati 2 last weekend.
After taking last week off, Chicago Fire II will look to get back in the win column after stumbling against Orlando City B on July 17. Keep an eye out for Fire II Academy product Victor Bezerra who impressed many by recording a hat trick against OCB.
Starfire Sports Complex will be the site of one of the most intriguing matchups of Week 19 when St Louis CITY2 visits Tacoma Defiance on Saturday.
Currently holding the first and second spots in the Western Conference, Defiance and CITY2 last met on April 10 and provided a 7-goal thriller, with CITY2 coming out on top.
Defiance has not dropped points in all of July and has outscored their opponents 12-4 in the three games they played.
CITY2 earned a valuable 2-0 victory over fellow Western Conference opponent North Texas SC last weekend. Led by forward Josh Dolling and Swiss international goalkeeper Roman Burki, CITY2 have all the tools to make a deep run in the playoffs if they can continue their outstanding play.
Tyrone Marshall’s men seem to have RNY FC’s number this season taking two out of the three games they played this season after their 2-0 victory last Friday. With this victory, the Orange and Blue have earned 12 points, and while they remain at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, they can now build some momentum heading into the last stretch of the season.
Inter Miami II earned a 1-0 victory last time they faced off against FC Cincinnati 2 on April 23. Earning three points this week is crucial for Inter Miami’s playoff chances as they hang on the border of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 23 points.
MNUFC2 have fallen on hard times after losing their third consecutive game against Houston Dynamo 2 last weekend. With 24 points, the Loons still have plenty of time to catch up to the Western Conference leaders but need to start earning points as soon as possible.
Shannon Murray’s side has lost six straight games after their June 19 victory over Houston Dynamo 2. If they can earn a win over MNUFC2, they could hurdle past Real Monarchs and out of the bottom of the Western Conference.
The two Northeast Division opponents have met twice this season, with New England Revolution II taking a narrow 1-0 victory on May 14 and TFC II earning the shootout victory on July 3.
Since their last meeting, New England Revolution II has lost back-to-back games, giving up eight goals while only scoring once. Clint Peay’s side will need a good performance against TFC II if they wish to hold on to fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Young Reds have gone unbeaten during their last six MLS NEXT Pro outings, with their previous game seeing them defeat Philadelphia Union II by 2-1. Last Saturday, TFC II displayed great form during the MLS NEXT Pro Invitational when they beat Chelsea’s U-21 side in a shootout.
This game has been chosen as one of two MLS NEXT Pro Game of the Week for Week 19. An extended preview of this match will be available soon.
Since their last victory on June 26, North Texas SC has given up 12 goals in four games, with four of those goals coming in a loss at the hands of their next opponent Sporting KC II. Currently, in fourth place in the Western Conference with 31 points, Pa-Modou Kah and his coaching staff will need to look for answers for a team that looks to be running out of steam after a great start to their season.
Sporting KC II started July, earning back-to-back victories but have now lost consecutive games against Real Monarchs and Tacoma Defiance. A win over North Texas SC could see them leapfrog MNUFC2 for seventh place in the Western Conference and back into the playoff picture.
The last match of Week 19 will see Earthquakes II hosting a Real Monarchs side fresh off their impressive MLS NEXT Pro Invitational performance.
Real Monarchs secured a shootout victory over Chelsea FC’s U-21 side during their first game and then earned a convincing 2-0 win over the Wolverhampton Wanderers FC U-21s during their second game. With momentum now on their side, Real Monarchs will look to continue their excellent play against MLS NEXT Pro competition.
Meanwhile, Earthquakes II is looking to earn its third victory in July to continue its ascent in the Western Conference standings. Currently, in sixth place, a win could bring Quakes II closer to a playoff spot.