Montclair, N.J. (Oct. 1, 2023) – Chicago Fire FC II fell 4-1 in the opening round of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs against New York Red Bulls II on Sunday afternoon. MLS NEXT Pro Best XI midfielder Ibrahim Kasule scored twice for the home team, while Luka Prpa tallied the Fire’s lone goal of the match.
Hosting its inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Playoff match, New York pushed forward from the onset of the match. Following multiple forays into the Fire box within the opening 10 minutes, the Red Bulls earned their fifth corner kick. Wiki Carmona stepped up to deliver a perfect cross to Frank Ssebufu, whose opening goal set the tempo for the rest of the half.
Chicago immediately pushed numbers forward looking for an equalizer. In the 26th minute, the hosts took advantage as Kasule played a through ball into the Fire half to find O’Vonte Mullings. The speedy winger outraced the Fire defense to the ball and slipped it past Jeff Gal to double the lead.
The Red Bulls again exploited the Fire’s urgency to score before the first half came to an end. Omar Valencia picked off a pass being played out of the back. The left back then crossed to Kasule, who rifled a shot that Gal saved at point blank range. But the rebound fell in a favorable position for the midfielder, who cleaned up his own effort to make it a 3-0 lead going into the locker room.
With a three-goal deficit to start the second half, the Fire came out of the break looking to spark a comeback. Missael Rodríguez came off the bench and immediately created problems for the home side, earning a foul just outside the box in the 55th minute. After a few near misses in prior free kicks, Prpa did not miss a minute later. The perfect curveball found the upper 90 of the goal and reinvigorated the visitors as they sought to get back in the match.
The Fire created several chances throughout the rest of the half, including a corner kick that glanced off the woodwork and out. But the Red Bulls held on through 90 minutes and more, adding a goal in the last minute of stoppage time to clinch a place in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The whistle blew shortly thereafter to cap off an otherwise successful Chicago Fire II season.
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New York Red Bulls II 4:1 Chicago Fire FC II
RBNY - Ssebufu (1) (Carmona 1) 13’
RBNY - Mullings (1) (Kasule 1) 26’
RBNY - Kasule (1) 45’
CHI - Prpa (1) (WATCH) 56’
RBNY - Kasule (2) (Mosquera 1) 90+6’
RBNY - Stroud (Yellow Card) 45’
RBNY - Valencia (Yellow Card) 49’
RBNY - Nocita (Yellow Card) 55’
RBNY - Cabezas (Yellow Card) 64’
Chicago Fire FC II: GK Gal, D Ostrem, D Reynolds (Fuderer, 82’), D Ueland (capt.), D Burks, D Glasgow, M Borso (M. Rodríguez, 46’), M Leonard, M Casas (Nesci, 87’), M Gallina (Oregel, Jr., 46’), M Hency, F Prpa
Subs not used: GK Mišković, D Egan, D Leonard, D Rochester, D Blake
New York Red Bulls II: GK Rutkowski, D Valencia, D Nocita, D Gutierrez, D Berkley (Mina, 60’), M Carmona (Hall, 60’), M Stroud, M Estrela, M Mullings (Donkor, 73’; Mosquera, 82’), F Ssebufu (Cabezas, 60’), F Kasule
Subs not used: GK Meyer, D Reid, D Alexandre, F Sofo
Stats Summary: RBNY / CHI
Shots: 17 / 13
Shots on Goal: 8 / 5
Passing Accuracy: 64.6% / 76.3%
Saves: 4 / 4
Corners: 8 / 5
Fouls: 15 / 14
Offsides: 1 / 2
Possession: 40.8% / 59.2%
Referee: Anya Voigt
Assistant Ref 1: Brian Marshall
Assistant Ref 2: Katarzyna Wasiak
4th Official: Kevin Broadley