The third week of MLS NEXT Pro action kicks off on Friday, with nine games taking place over the course of the weekend. Here is a closer look about where each team stands heading into their Week 3 matchups:
Real Monarchs found a star from the spot last weekend when Pedro Fonseca executed both of his penalty chances to save a point at home in the 2-2 draw with Whitecaps FC II. While the Monarchs will have Fonseca, they will be without defender Ethan Zamora, whose accumulation of two yellow cards last weekend saw him suspended for Friday.
MNUFC 2 is looking for its first MLS NEXT Pro victory on Friday. The Minnesota side fell 3-1 and 2-0 to North Texas SC and Sporting KC II in the season's opening weeks, with winger Justin McMaster standing as the lone goal scorer so far.
TFC II announced its new home, York Lions Stadium, on Monday and looks to christen it with the first MLS NEXT Pro win in club history. Last week, TFC II fell to FCC2 in a hard-fought 2-1 result where defender Themi Antonoglou opened the scoring.
NYCFC II tied with Orlando City B 2-2 before falling in the shootout last weekend. The New Yorkers head to the great north also looking for a franchise first MLS NEXT Pro victory despite depositing two regulation goals in each of their first two games.
Another match where both sides are looking for the first win of the season. Chicago Fire II is looking to close out its two-game home stretch after last weekend's shutout at the hands of Crew 2.
RNY FC, on the other hand, has to wait until next week for its home opener and looks to get a critical first road victory of the season. Thanks to Dante Brigida, the goal opened up for Rochester New York FC last weekend but was not enough to overcome New England Revolution II in the 3-1 defeat. This Thursday, RNY FC defeated Lansdowne Yonkers FC 1-0 to move to the third round in the U.S. Open Cup.
North Texas SC clawed back for an equalizer in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Tacoma Defiance before marching on to win the shootout to stay unbeaten in 2022. We're still only two weeks removed from Tarik Scott's opening day brace off the bench and awaiting his first start of the season, which could come on Sunday.
Rapids 2 also battled to a 1-1 draw against Sporting KC II in the inaugural weekend. Striker Yosuke Hanya earned his first-ever professional goal and looks to positively kick off the Colorado side's two-game road trip. Rapids 2 looks to be one of the stingy defenses in the league so far this season, allowing only one goal so far, which is tied for second best.
The number one team in the MLS NEXT Pro Top 5 Rankings, Union II, represents one of the four squads in the five-goal club early in the season and is tied for first place in the Eastern Conference. On Tuesday, Union II conceded a heartbreaker in second-half stoppage time to force a shootout in which it edged Inter Miami II.
Columbus Crew 2 found their first goal last weekend, and it was a crucial one that made the difference in a 1-0 win over Chicago Fire II. Striker Noah Fuson was the magic man and should look to carry that over in what looks to be Crew 2's toughest test of the young season.
What's more, the parent clubs also square off this weekend in MLS play for a mini rivalry weekend of sorts.
It remains to be seen if the Cascadia Cup rivalry spills over into MLS NEXT Pro play, and Sunday will be our first chance to find out. Whitecaps FC II play host at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, British Columbia looking for another big performance from goalkeeper Isaac Boehmer who was good for three saves in regulation and two in the shootout against Real Monarchs last weekend.
Timbers2 regroup after a bye week. In the opening week, they fell 2-0 to Earthquakes II and offered four shots. Head coach Shannon Murray is looking for his first goalscorer to lead the way to the team's first victory on Sunday.
This matchup has been selected for Game of the Week and an extended preview can be found here.
A battle of the unbeaten in the Western Conference should make for some excellent viewing. Conference leader Houston Dynamo 2 has the opportunity to open up a gap in the West if it can continue its early winning ways and is on the cusp of MLS NEXT Pro's first-ever three-game winning streak.
After two weeks, Dynamo Dos is the only perfect team left standing in MLS NEXT Pro, and SKCII presents a real threat to that stat with its three goals in two games. Each score has come from a different scorer, showing real diversity in coach Benny Feilhaber's attack. A victory over the team from Houston could lead to another fun celebration.
CITY2 had a bye week last weekend, which followed its famous inaugural game win over RNY FC in Week 1 to open the season. In that 2-0 win, Vitor Dias and Wan Kuzain led the way with their goals. Like RNY FC, the team from St. Louis also clinched a spot in the next stage of the U.S. Open Cup with a 2-goal victory over USL Championship side Indy Eleven on Tuesday.
Defiance is looking for a positive start on the road after going unbeaten (1W-1D) in the first two weeks of the campaign at home. Look for striker Alfonso Ocampo-Chávez to extend his scoring streak if he finds an opportunity. So far, the 20-year-old California native is tied for the MLS NEXT Pro scoring lead with three goals.