December 11, 2023 by Travis Clark | Courtesy of www.mlssoccer.com
The 2023 MLS NEXT Fest concluded Sunday, ending six days of high-end soccer spanning four age groups.
There were countless moments of quality and impressive performances both individually and collectively.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the teams that excelled at the tournament in Phoenix, Arizona.
South Florida Football Academy scored two goals each in all three of their games, and their defense repeatedly stepped up. Nicholas Silva and Alejandro Ramírez ensured the team rallied to win after going a goal down; that duo scored again in a 2-0 win over IDEA Toros Fútbol Academy. In Sunday’s finale, it was Silva who scored both goals in another come-from-behind win, 2-1 against FC Westchester.
FC Delco, after engineering a 2-1 win against a talented FC United squad, swept through three group-stage games with three victories. Six players accounted for the team’s seven goals, and the Pennsylvania-based side finished with a 3-0 defeat of Phoenix Rising.
BW Gottschee, Bethesda SC and Players Development Academy were also among the teams that went perfect in showcase matches.
Among the MLS academy squads competing against each other, Chicago Fire won their trio of games. All three came against high-caliber opponents: New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union and Inter Miami CF.
While the first team captured MLS Cup 2023 presented by Audi, Columbus Crew’s U-15s finished their time in Arizona with two wins and a draw. That included a strong defensive performance, securing two 1-0 victories. Dacian Delgado, Jamil Danjaji, Prince Forfor and center back Gianmarco Di Noto scored the goals.
Several squads navigated through their respective Showcase groups with three wins: Alexandria SA, Inter Miami CF, Real Jersey FC, Barca Residency Academy, Sacramento Republic, Orlando City Seminole, Philadelphia Union, Capital City SC and LAFC among them.
Alexandria’s attack led the way in their three victories; two players scored hat tricks in two different games. Charlie Desautels scored five goals overall, including three in the final game. Charles Waller tallied three in one game as well, a 6-0 rout against Ventura County Fusion.
Inter Miami CF grinded towards two 2-1 wins, finishing the week with seven goals from six different players. Jeremy Ortela’s pair of goals in a 3-1 victory against Chula Vista FC led the way.
A big 4-1 result for Real Jersey FC over Napa United set the tone for the New Jersey-based club’s success. Griffin Jenkins led the way with three goals, scoring once in each game. Danny Ordonez chipped in two, while Cody Klym’s late winner helped pick up a 2-1 win in Sunday’s finale against the West Florida Flames.
New Jersey powerhouse Players Development Academy enjoyed a stellar showing in Arizona, winning all three games via 12 goals scored and just two conceded. Joshua Hwang and Ronan Hogg led the way with three goals apiece.
Several other showcase sides swept through their groups: Vardar, Cedar Stars Academy-Monmouth, New York Soccer club, Jacksonville FC, Bethesda SC and Beachside SC among them.
Weston FC were also among the sides to post three wins. The South Florida-based club showcased the region’s depth, highlighted by a 4-2 win against a talented BW Gottschee squad in the final game. Brock Lucena’s winner in the opening game, a 1-0 defeat of LA Surf, kicked things off. Lucena scored again, breaking the seal against the Dallas Hornets. Mateo Garcia Piekut and Jake Reich accounted for the decisive goals in the 3-2 victory. Santiago Pita’s two goals headlined the final match with Gottschee.
Four MLS Academy squads won their trio of games, with Philadelphia Union, LAFC, Charlotte FC and Inter Miami CF sweeping through. The Union nabbed a pair of 3-1 wins against Sporting Kansas City and the Columbus Crew, before wrapping things up with a 3-0 defeat of Real Salt Lake. Inter Miami bested three teams by one goal each: the Crew (3-2), Austin FC (2-1) and St. Louis CITY SC (2-1).
Jude Terry and James Arteaga fired LAFC to a 2-0 win in the opener against Austin FC. Adriano Samayoa’s two goals set the tone in the second match, a 5-0 victory versus a talented New England Revolutionsquad. Emir Ponciano, DeCarlo Guerra and James Lane were also among the goal-scorers. Arteaga and Matias Wanchope teamed up with a Guerra goal to triumph over Toronto FC, 3-1, to wrap up the event.
Connecticut-based Beachside SC won against a trio of tough opponents in the oldest age group. After opening with a win against a talented Weston FC team (2-1), they beat FC United (3-1) and Strikers FC (2-1). Benjamin Bilden led the way by scoring four goals, including a brace against Weston. Ryan Schachter, Sam Sansone and Reamon Curis were also among the goals.
While the bulk of MLS sides don’t field MLS NEXT squads in the oldest age group, FC Dallas topped a trio of league opponents. FCD opened with a 4-0 win against Minnesota United, before edging Chicago Fire FCand New England Revolution by identical 2-1 scorelines. Eight players scored the eight goals, including North Texas SC signings Leo Orejarena and Dylan Lacy.
Another Northeast squad, Intercontinental FA, fared well and bagged three wins by scoring nine goals and conceding just one. Gui Meireles ensured that would be the case, as he scored the winning goal – his second of the week in Arizona – in a 2-1 victory against FC Delco. Davi DeSouza scored three times in three games, while Thomas Angelone chipped in two goals of his own.
Cedar Stars Academy-Bergen scored 12 goals in three group games, which were all wins. Frankie De Francesco’s three goals led the way, while Devin Conway and William Altirs were credited with two goals apiece.
A strong defense for IMG Academy laid the foundation for three wins, as the team nabbed a pair of shutouts, wrapping things up with a 3-1 win against Rochester NY FC. Nacho Doglioli scored the lone goal in the team’s opener, a 1-0 defeat of Sacramento United; Preston Plambeck led the way with two goals each in the second and third games.