Frisco, TX (Tuesday, June 20, 2023) - The intense Texas heat beat down on the RSL Academy U-15 team as they took the pitch against CF Montreal in the Quarterfinal of MLS NEXT Cup. Both sides were informed that two water breaks would occur during each half to combat the heat. The Canadian side took the lead first, capitalizing on a corner that was not cleared in time. RSL had to wait until the 80th minute for Omar Marquez to bring the game level from a freekick right at the edge of the box. The match headed to a shootout, where after 13 rounds Montreal emerged victorious, and RSL Academy was eliminated.
The effects of the heat were evident from the opening whistle as both sides struggled to keep possession. With the match being contested primarily in the middle third, quality chances were few, except from set pieces. In the 7th minute, Montreal served an in-swinger that connected with a forward’s head. The ball bounced into the ground and just wide of Will Mackay’s goal. In the 12th minute, Marquez had an identical chance from Luca Moisa’s corner, but his header hit the ground and bounced over the crossbar.
One minute later, Marquez was nearly the beneficiary of another Moisa assist, latching onto a curling through ball before sending his shot barely over the crossbar. The Canadian side took the lead in the 28th minute, the chance, again, coming from a corner. An out-swinging cross was allowed to bounce twice in the box, falling to a Montreal player who lashed the ball past Mackay.
Javier Martinez tried to bring RSL level early in the second half, launching a dangerous looking shot at goal from distance. The Montreal goalkeeper scrambled to his post to watch it go just wide of the target. In the 48th minute, Montreal had the opportunity to double the lead, but the right winger chose to go for goal from an acute angle instead of finding a pass and hit the side netting of Mackay’s goal. RSL might have had a penalty in the 58th minute when a Montreal defender handled the ball in the box, but the center official waved for play to continue.
As the match was drawing to a close, Marquez once again found himself behind the backline and in on goal. A Montreal defender tripped him up, got sent off for the foul, and Marquez stood over the freekick just outside the box. With the final kick of regulation, Marquez blasted the ball past the goalkeeper’s left hand and into the back of the net, forcing the match into a penalty shootout.
The shootout would last 13 rounds. Montreal missed their first spotkick, and RSL missed their second. Mackay was able to come up with a save in the third round, but Montreal’s keeper made a save in the fourth round to keep the score level. Both sides sent player after player to the spot, eventually circling back to the initial shooters as neither side was able to gain the lead. In the 13th round, the Montreal goalkeeper pulled off another save to send the Canadian side through to the semifinals.