Knockout tournaments tend to produce drama – late goals, upsets and much more. The first two days of MLS NEXT Cup delivered in that department, as the Round of 32 kicked off in Frisco, Texas.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest results from the weekend as teams chase year-end silverware in the 2022-23 campaign.
One of the biggest favorites in the youngest age group saw their tournament end at the first hurdle. After dazzling at the Generation adidas Cup, Philadelphia Union were down 2-0 early in the second half against Baltimore Armour in Saturday’s Round of 32 match. William Wnek and Mark Bozman provided the lead, and goalkeeper Jaxon Vanderhoof made several big saves. The Union’s Lennon Harrington scored a brace, including a last-minute equalizer. However, Vanderhoof stepped up again in the shootout, as Armour won 5-4 on spot kicks.
Facing LA Galaxy on Sunday, Baltimore came up short in a 2-1 loss. Midfielder Carter Clark opened the scoring, but the Galaxy had the answers. Enrique Martinez tied the game a few minutes after Clark’s opener and Robert Mejia Peralta bagged the winner.
New York Red Bulls’ talented forward duo of Julian Hall and Tanner Rosborough propelled them to a 2-0 win against St. Louis Scott Gallagher in the Round of 32. Scoreless at the half, the duo that have excelled all season rose to the occasion to deliver a spot in the next round. Hall delivered again on Sunday, scoring a brace in a 2-0 win over Colorado Rapids.
Two games, two narrow wins for Toronto FC. After besting Tampa Bay United by a 1-0 score, TFC picked up a second straight huge result, defeating LAFC on Sunday. Shola Jimoh scored the decisive goal in the victory against the MLS side.
One day after knocking out Orlando City SC, Seattle Sounders FC secured a quarterfinal spot. Two goals by Kelvin-Luis Brito provided the difference in a 3-2 win against Columbus Crew. It was a wild, back-and-forth matchup, with Jordan Dierks and Isaac Tortola exchanging goals in the first half. Brito bagged two goals in three minutes, which stood up despite a late consolation by Joah Benjamin.
Several of the higher seeds secured quarterfinal spots in the U-16 age group. After rallying on Saturday to a 2-1 win against Oakwood SC (Aiden Hezarkhani scored the winning goal), Strikers FC beat Inter Miami CF by a 3-0 score in the Round of 16. Goals from Cole Harris, Beckett Miller and Jason Castro propelled Strikers in that clash.
Other top teams advanced, including FC United. The Chicagoland side opened with a 4-1 win against KSA; the dynamic duo of Kamil Kowalczyk and Antonio Delgado helped secure a 3-2 victory on Sunday with a goal each against Total Futbol Academy.
Joining that duo is another top '07 side in Breakers FC. The Northern California outfit beat Hoover-Vestavia by a 3-1 score to open the tournament on Saturday. Facing a talented Toronto FC squad on Sunday, Breakers drew 2-2, advancing with a 5-3 win in a shootout.
Weston FC are alive as well, picking up a 2-1 win in the Round of 16 against LAFC. Quickfire goals from Brock Lucena and Roger Salgado erased Pedro Guimaraes’ opener, securing a spot in the quarterfinals.
A starring run from Colton Swan has the Michigan Jaguars alive thanks to a pair of penalty shootout wins. Swan scored two goals in a 3-3 draw against LA Surf, with Ren Sylvester adding the third. The Jaguars advanced thanks to a 9-8 shootout win. In Sunday’s matchup with a quality St. Louis CITY SC squad, Swan scored a late equalizer, and his Michigan side advanced with a 3-2 victory in the shootout.
There were several high-scoring matchups in the Under-17 age group, which kicked off on Sunday.
Defending champions Philadelphia Union defeated Portland Timbers to begin their time in Texas. Goals from forwards Sal Olivas and Edward Davis were enough in the 2-0 win.
A massive, offensive output from LA Galaxy won an all-MLS matchup against New York City FC. A torrid start to the game featured a hat trick from Julian Placias, while Taj Eagleston bagged a brace. Galaxy won 6-2, setting up a Round of 16 matchup against the Union.
Barca Residency Academy won 3-2 against a strong Bethesda SC squad with a late winner from Zachary Smuck. Barca jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first half with goals by Jordi Tornberg and Aidan Marquez. Bethesda struck back, restoring parity through Andrew Thorneburgh and Salif Leintu. Smuck eventually scored in the 88th minute to secure his side’s spot in the next round.
Homegrown signings Brian Romero and Nimfasha Berchimas helped fire Charlotte FC to a 3-1 win against Toronto FC. The duo scored goals sandwiched between an Aron John strike, setting up a Tuesday matchup with Orlando City.
Battling the age group’s top seed, D.C. United secured the upset of the round against Sockers FC. Neither side managed a goal in the 90 minutes, and with the match heading straight to penalties, D.C. triumphed by a 5-4 margin.
A massive performance from South Florida Football Academy’s Fernando Valenzuela secured an upset against Columbus Crew’s oldest age group. Valenzuela scored all three of his team’s goals in a 3-0 win for the Florida club.
Two goals by Samuel Mendoza kept another of the favored sides alive, as he tallied twice for Barca Residency Academy in a 2-0 win over City SC.
Another defending champion, New England Revolution, lived to battle another day. The Revolution survived a wild second half versus FC Golden State. Jesus Ochoa opened the scoring early in the second stanza. But the Revolution roared ahead, getting goals from Brandonn Bueno and Alexandru Parvu. Golden State equalized 2-2 late through Adan Alvarado, though the Revolution survived with a 4-1 shootout victory.
The drama of penalty kicks decided six of the 16 games in the oldest age group. Southern Soccer Academy trailed for the bulk of their matchup against FC Cincinnati, thanks to a Haroun Conteh goal. SSA’s Caleb Johnson scored late to keep his side alive, and the team triumphed 3-2 on penalties.