The first round of the MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs concluded with a bang on Sunday after St Louis CITY2 narrowly defeated North Texas SC and Tacoma Defiance prevailed over Houston Dynamo 2 in a shootout to see the top two seeds advance to Western Conference Finals.

Houston Dynamo 2 and Tacoma Defiance deliver an MLS NEXT Pro classic

The lights shone bright Sunday night as Houston Dynamo 2 and Tacoma Defiance brawled to a dramatic finish to close out the MLS NEXT Pro Semifinals. 

Tacoma Defiance climbed back from a two-goal deficit to defeat Houston Dynamo 2 in a 5-4 shootout win Sunday night at Starfire Sports Complex. 

The match was forced into extra time and eventually a shootout after it finished 2-2 in regulation.

Both teams scored three spot kicks until Dynamos Dos midfielder Paulo Lima missed to give the home side the advantage. 

Defiance converted its next two penalties and sealed a thrilling shootout win to complete the comeback.

Dynamo Dos led the game 2-0 late into the second half after scoring a goal in each half.

Forward Beto Avila gave the visitors the lead in the 40th minute after pouncing on a mistake from the Defiance goalkeeper to blast the rebound into the net. 

Dynamo 2 carried the momentum into the second half and made it 2-0 within the first five minutes following a bullet header from midfielder Jacob Evans.

Despite missing defender Talen Maples, who was part of the MLS NEXT Pro Best XI, the Dynamo Dos backline still managed to contain Defiance’s prolific offense for most of the game.

However, the Defiance scored two goals to save its season. The first being a penalty in the 84th minute converted by Marlon Vargas and the second being an own goal by Paulo Lima.

The match finished with both teams shooting over 40 shots, scoring four goals and nine spot kicks.

But against all odds and on the brink of elimination, Tacoma Defiance pulled together as a team to level the score line and ultimately win in a shootout to advance to the conference finals.

Second-half surge lifts St Louis CITY2 over North Texas SC to advance to the Western Conference Finals

It took nearly 15 total shots and several close chances, but Western Conference top seed St Louis CITY2 ultimately outlasted a resilient North Texas SC side 2-0 Sunday evening to advance to the conference finals. 

Two second-half goals from midfielders Tomas Ostrak and Celio Pompeu secured the playoff win for CITY2 at Ralph Korte Stadium after a scoreless first half.

Despite holding NTSC to zero shots and creating most of the chances in the first 45 minutes, CITY2 couldn’t find the breakthrough against the NTSC backline that held firm and even cleared several shots off the line.

Ostrak eventually broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute by slotting home a cross from Pompeu at point blank to finish a CITY2 counter attack. 

On top of the assist, Pompeu doubled the advantage and sealed the win with a clinical penalty in stoppage time after the ball hit a North Texas SC defender on the hand in the box.

NTSC didn’t go down without a fight, however, as the visitors threatened to find an equalizer before the penalty and finished the game with 55% possession of the ball. 

But the team from Texas ultimately couldn't overcome the shot disparity as CITY2 outshot the away side 14-7 with five more shots on target. 

The CITY2 backline played a huge role in limiting NTSC’s firepower by shutting down top goal scorer Bernard Kamungo as the forward didn’t manage a shot on goal.