The first two 2022 MLS NEXT Cup champions were revealed after the U-16 and U-15 finals took place in Frisco, Texas on Saturday.
DC United 1, Strikers FC 0
D.C. United secured the first trophy of the weekend, with the U-16 MLS NEXT Cup producing a tight affair at Toyota Stadium.
The clock had barely hit five minutes as Sydney Aggrey recorded his fourth goal of the tournament. A long ball out of the back line aimed for Aggrey looked like it would be a routine clearance for Dalton Bulowski, but the D.C. striker came out of nowhere to knock the ball loose before taking a touch on the edge of the box and shooting low to the goalkeeper's right.
The California side had the ball in the back of the net in the 67th minute after Marcus Lee, the tournament MVP, sent a cross into the center of the box that Maxim Scordo was able to slip in. Unfortunately for Strikers FC, Lee played the ball from out of bounds, leaving D.C. United with a goal kick and, crucially, the lead.
Chances were plentiful for both sides. Dylan Kaye was forced into an outstanding save in the 83rd minute to stop D.C. United from extending the lead after Gabriel Cossio found Noel Calix unmarked on the edge of the area. Kaye followed that up seconds later, tipping away a point-blank header by Dash Papez.
Garry Zhang almost closed the match out with a goal deserving of any final. After a stunning mazy run through the Strikers' midfield and defense, Zhang went to lift the ball over the keeper only for Ryker Joutz to make an impressive recovery run to block the shot with a last-ditch lunge.
U16 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs Individual Awards
- Golden Boot: Sydney Aggrey - D.C. United, Ignacio Alem - D.C. United, Roka Tsunehara - De Anza Force, and Daniel Baran - Sockers FC
- Best Goalkeeper presented by Allstate: Luke Peacock, D.C. United
- Golden Ball: Marcus Lee, Strikers FC
Inter Miami CF 2, Real Salt Lake1
Miami made a fast start, scoring in the 13th minute off the head of Victor Fung. The goal came from a fantastic cross by Santiago Morales – son of RSL legend Javier – after a corner was recycled back to Miami's No. 10.
Morales played in the FC Dallas academy before moving to Miami and made the most of this homecoming. Santi started and finished a wonderful passage of play by curling a first-time shot from outside the area into the back of the net in the 26th minute to double Inter Miami's lead.
RSL got on the board 10 minutes later from the spot. Tyler Austin put in a rough challenge on Tyler Moisa, and Zavier Gozo duly obliged from 12 yards for his fifth goal of the tournament.
Inter Miami closed out the second half effectively, pressing RSL to cut off the supply to Gozo. Fittingly the game finished with the ball at the feet of its MVP, Morales, after a fantastic display to close out the first night of MLS NEXT Cup finals.
U15 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs Individual Awards
- Golden Boot: Zavier Gozo, Real Salt Lake
- Best Goalkeeper presented by Allstate: Will MacKay, Real Salt Lake
- Golden Ball: Santiago Morales, Inter Miami CF