Austin FC II overcame a second half deficit to defeat Columbus Crew 2 by a 3-1 scoreline in the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Cup on Sunday night at Lower.com Field, winning a fourth consecutive road playoff match to be crowned league champions.
The first big chance fell Austin’s way, when Christo Vela’s low strike tested Columbus goalkeeper Stanislav Lapkes. In the 27th minute, MLS NEXT Pro Goalkeeper of the Year Damian Las made a massive save to deny Clay Holstad with his left leg in a one-on-one situation. Austin midfielder David Rodríguez nearly opened the scoring in spectacular fashion with a powerful shot from distance in first half stoppage time.
Moments after halftime, Crew 2 took the lead from the penalty spot. Noah Fuson won the foul, and Thomas Roberts converted the attempt for the hosts. The Verde & Black equalized in the 70th minute with a spot kick of their own, as Alonso Ramírez sent Lapkes the wrong way following a foul on Valentin Noël.
Noël then netted the match-winner himself with 13 minutes remaining, curling in a beautiful right-footed strike from the edge of the box. Austin got an added cushion thanks to a Columbus own goal forced by CJ Fodrey just three minutes after taking the lead, and effectively saw out the game to win MLS NEXT Pro Cup in their inaugural season. Noël was named the MLS NEXT Pro Cup Most Valuable Player for his performance.
CLB (1-0) – Thomas Roberts (penalty kick) 49’
ATX (1-1) – Alonso Ramírez (penalty kick) 70’
ATX (1-2) – Valentin Noël (assisted by CJ Fodrey) 77’
ATX (1-3) – Diego Almeida (own goal) 80’