COLUMBUS – MLS NEXT Pro today announced the winners of three regular-season awards, honoring the best in the League’s inaugural season of play. Columbus Crew 2’s Laurent Courtois has been named Coach of the Year and goalkeeper Patrick Schulte has been awarded Goalkeeper of the Year. Schulte is joined by teammates defender Mo Farsi, midfielder Isaiah Parente and forward Jacen Russell-Rowe in the Best XI, which recognizes the league’s top players at each position.
LAURENT COURTOIS – MLS NEXT PRO COACH OF THE YEAR
In his first season at the helm, Courtois led Crew 2 to the best regular-season record (16-3-5, 55 points) in MLS NEXT Pro. Along the way, the team captured the Central Division Title and the Eastern Conference’s top seed in the upcoming MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs. Under his guidance, Columbus was first in the League in points, wins, goals for (55), goal differential (+40) and had the best record at home (11-1-0). The team also had the fewest losses and was tied for the fewest goals allowed (22). Courtois also saw Crew 2 players Jacen Russell-Rowe and Mo Farsi sign First Team contracts this summer.
Courtois was appointed to this position prior to the start of the season after most recently serving as the Under-19 head coach for the Crew Academy. He joined the Crew as the head coach for the Crew Academy’s U-17 team in 2019 before taking on the role with the U-19s in 2021.
Finalists for this award included Tacoma Defiance’s Wade Webber, Rochester New York FC’s Bruno Baltazar and St Louis CITY2’s John Hackworth.
PATRICK SCHULTE – GOALKEEPER OF THE YEAR AND BEST XI
A member of Generation adidas, Schulte was selected in the first round (12th overall) by the Crew in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft from St. Louis University. In his rookie season with Crew 2, Schulte started 15 games, playing all 1,350 minutes and allowing just 15 total goals. His goals against average (1.0) and win percentage (66.7%) were the best in the league among goalkeepers who played in more than half their team’s matches. The 21-year-old’s 10 wins were tied for the most in MLS NEXT Pro and his seven clean sheets were second in the League.
Other finalists for Goalkeeper of the Year were Rochester New York FC’s Caique, Toronto FC II’s Luka Gavran, Philadelphia Union II’s Matthew Freese and North Texas SC’s Antonio Carrera.
MO FARSI – BEST XI
Farsi signed with Crew 2 on March 18 and made his debut in the season opening match at Inter Miami CF II (March 26). Since then, Farsi appeared in a total of 18 matches for Crew 2, including 17 starts. Farsi finished the regular season with 10 assists, tied for most in the league with Inter Miami CF’s Romeo Beckham. In the regular-season finale on Sept. 18, Farsi entered at halftime and scored two goals and added an assist in Crew 2’s 9-0 victory over FC Cincinnati 2.
The 22-year-old made two appearances for the Crew’s First Team while on short-term loan prior to signing with the Crew senior team on July 22.
ISAIAH PARENTE – BEST XI
In his second professional season, Columbus Crew Homegrown midfielder and Crew Academy product Isaiah Parente appeared in 16 matches for Crew 2, scoring six goals and tallying five assists, while recording an 89.9 passing accuracy percentage. Parente recorded a brace on the road at FC Cincinnati 2 on Aug. 18 and had two assists in the regular-season finale against Cincinnati on Sept. 18.
Parente played for Crew Academy from 2015-2018, featuring for the Under-15/16, U-17/18 and U-18/19 sides prior to matriculating at Wake Forest University.
JACEN RUSSELL-ROWE – BEST XI
The first Golden Boot winner in MLS NEXT Pro history, Russell-Rowe led the league with 21 goals, five ahead of his closest competitor.
The 20-year-old signed with Crew 2 on March 18 and made an immediate impact. After scoring 11 goals in a nine-game span, he was rewarded with a Columbus Crew first team contract, becoming the first Crew 2 player to sign with the first team. Since then, Russell-Rowe has split his time between the MLS and MLS NEXT Pro teams. He appeared in 19 total games for Crew 2, starting all but the first two. He has also played in five MLS games, earning three starts and recording two assists in 207 minutes.
Russell-Rowe had five multi-goal games this season for Crew 2, which include a four-goal outing against FC Cincinnati 2 on Sept. 18 and braces against NYCFC II on Aug. 7, Cincinnati on July 17, Orlando City B on June 18 and Inter Miami CF II on June 9.
The Toronto native additionally has four assists to his credit.
The MLS NEXT Pro Best XI is as follows:
Patrick Schulte – Columbus Crew 2
Defenders (3): Mo Farsi – Columbus Crew 2, Kyle Hiebert – St Louis CITY2, Talen Maples – Houston Dynamo 2
Midfielders (4): Pedro Dolabella – Rochester New York FC, Aziel Jackson – MNUFC2, Isaiah Parente - Columbus Crew 2, Marlon Vargas – Tacoma Defiance
Forwards (3): Bernard Kamungo – North Texas SC, Jack Lynn – Orlando City B, Jacen Russell-Rowe - Columbus Crew 2
All awards were voted on by the head coaches and Chief Soccer Officers at MLS NEXT Pro Clubs, as well as League-wide broadcasters and content producers. The final award of the season, the first-ever MLS NEXT Pro MVP presented by adidas, will be announced Wednesday, October 5.
Columbus Crew 2 will open their MLS NEXT Pro playoff campaign by hosting Rochester NY FC in an Eastern Conference Semifinal, single-elimination match at Historic Crew Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3 p.m. ET. Back by popular demand for this first-ever Crew 2 playoff match and part of Historic Crew Stadium lore dating back to its opening in 1999, the “Buck-A-Brat” ($1 bratwursts) deal will be available to fans in attendance on Saturday.
Crew 2 finished the regular season with the best record in the league (16-3-5, 55 points) and as such will hold homefield advantage for the duration of the playoffs. Crew fans can save money by pre-purchasing tickets, with playoff strips starting as low as $35 for current Season Ticket Members. The playoff strip will include all three potential matches, and supporters will be refunded for any match not played. Additional pricing details and information on single-match tickets can be found here.
The 2022 MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs will continue the weekend of October 1 with the Eastern and Western Conference Finals and will culminate with the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Cup on October 8.
The full MLS NEXT Pro playoff format and schedule can be found here.