MLS NEXT Pro: Austin FC II and MNUFC2 steal the show on opening night


Season II of MLS NEXT Pro kicked off with a bang in the form of six goals across two matches in the Western Conference.

Austin FC II took care of business in its league debut and treated those in attendance at Parmer Field to a thrilling 2-1 comeback win over in-state foe Houston Dynamo 2.

We also saw a snow game, where another brace took place. Diogo Pacheco’s heroics did most of the talking in MNUFC2’s first road win of the season. His two goals went a long way in putting together a convincing 3-0 win over Real Monarchs.

Here is a closer look at Friday night’s action:

Valentin Noël notches two in Austin FC II’s debut

Austin FC II made a statement in its first-ever MLS NEXT Pro appearance with a comeback win over 2022 Western Conference playoff contestant Houston Dynamo 2.

A scoreless first half set the stage for some drama, and Dynamo Dos’ Papa Ndoye broke the deadlock in the 49th minute for the first goal of the 2023 season.

The lead did not last long though - as Valentin Noël got open in the box in the 64th minute to poke in an equalizer that’ll go down in history as his side’s first-ever MLS NEXT Pro goal.

The 23-year-old Frenchman struck again in the 83rd minute, which was ultimately the final say as ATXFCII’s emphasis swiftly turned towards closing out the game.

There's no business like snow business for Diogo Pacheco

Who doesn't love a snow game?

You won't get an argument here. Or in the MNUFC2 camp after an ideal start to the season with a 3-0 road win over Real Monarchs at Zions Bank Stadium.

Diogo Pacheco opened his 2023 account with a memorable finish. The 24-year-old Portuguese-born forward got the ball in stride and made it look easy despite the slippery conditions to kickstart the scoring.

He slammed the door shut in the 81st minute. This time, Pacheco set himself up by bringing the ball into the box and rifling off a left-footed curled shot past the Real Monarchs goalkeeper to leave no doubt about his side bringing three points home.

It wasn't a one-man show, though.

In first-half stoppage time, Fatorma Conneh was in the right place at the right time. MNUFC2 striker Ekoue Mesanvi put together a long run and muscled his way through Real Moncarchs' backline to bring a chance to point blank, and Conneh made no mistake with the golden opportunity.