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Match Day Preview: San Antonio FC v New Mexico United, Western Conference Throne Currently Up For Grabs

There’s No Place Like Home

By Seth Biddulph | May 4, 2019 | seekandstrikecollective@gmail.com

For New Mexico United (3-1-5) that’s especially true. Isotopes Park is quickly becoming a fortress for United and a place where the Western Conference doesn’t want to play. San Antonio FC (3-4-1) will have to overcome not only their woeful road record, but also the 12th man, the United supporters. With a record of 2-0-2 at home, United are undeniably at their best at home.

Sunday’s match is bound to be emotionally charged for United. With the combination of a last-minute draw with Portland, the expected crowd for Cinco de Mayo and playing in honor of the Schmidt family, the day is set to be the biggest of the season so far. United, and the supporters, will have to channel all of the energy and feelings into the match the right way.

Last week, New Mexico was pushed to the brink against Portland Timbers 2. After surrendering a two-goal lead, United managed to fight their way back level after a 93rd minute goal from USL Player of the Week, Kevaughn Frater. United have registered 11 of their 19 goals at home this season, showing that their attacking form is no fluke. Last week also showed that United’s defensive form still needs improvement, particularly in the second half. Of the 14 goals conceded by United this year, 10 of them have come after the break.  Given the away form of San Antonio, this could be an opportunity for the defensive unit to make strides towards those much-needed improvements.

After a midweek loss by Portland, United have a chance to take over first place in the standings with a win on Sunday.

Players to watch:

You’d probably expect me to say Kevaughn after his performance last week, and don’t get me wrong, I’d love to put him in here. However, I think this attack has become so varied that we could see a big match from some other players against a struggling side. 

Kenny Akamatsu – Two appearances in, Kenny had his first career start and showed flashes of why he can be very good in Coach Troy Lesesne’s system. Playing opposite Santi Moar, Kenny has the freedom to flow down the right-hand side and create opportunities. He had his first few shots of the season last week, only one of which was on target, but his ability on the ball was on display. We could potentially see his first goal for United this week.

I had Rashid Tetteh in my players to watch last week. Unfortunately, he was rotated out for a week of rest.  While I expect him to be back this week, I want to put the spotlight on someone else.

Manny Padilla – Featuring in eight matches this year, Manny has been extremely impressive in his appearances. One of Manny’s greatest strengths is his ability to adapt to the game flow, whether he’s streaming forward or dropping back in defense. On the year, Manny has yet to lose an aerial duel, has 20 clearances and nine interceptions. Manny’s ability to move the ball forward (47.9% of his passes) helps open up lanes for others, such as Kenny Akamatsu. The more time these two get together, the better the right side of the United will balance out the left and ultimately be very dangerous.

New Mexico Team Leaders:

Goals: Kevaughn Frater, Santi Moar (7)

Assists: Chris Wehan (3)

Chances Created: Josh Suggs (14)

San Antonio FC come into the week 3-2-0 in their last five matches. Each of their losses in that span were on the road. Their difference in form between home and away matches could be compared to the weather differences between King’s Landing and the area beyond The Wall in Westeros. They’ve been hot at home, but on the road, they’ve only managed two goals all season.  With a road record of 0-3-0, San Antonio have some things to figure out and they come into Albuquerque facing one of the best home teams in the league at a time when emotions are running high. 

In their most recent match, San Antonio defeated a struggling Tacoma club 3-0. Midfielder Jack Barmby recorded a brace and keeper Matthew Cardone was able to notch his second clean sheet of the season. Even with the recent upswing in form, the opponents have to be taken into account. Two of the wins were against two clubs in the bottom three of the conference.

Players to Watch:

Jack Barmby – With a brace against Tacoma, Barmby moved into a tie for the club lead in goals and now leads San Antonio in shots and chances created. Barmby has shown an ability to shoot from distance and it will be important for United to disrupt his vision and prevent those shots.

Kai Greene – One of the defensive leaders of the San Antonio squad, Greene has been a force in the back line. With 27 clearances, 15 interceptions, and 74 duels won on the season he will be someone to watch for.

San Antonio Team Leaders:

Goals: Éver Guzmán, Bradford Jamieson, Jack Barmby (3)

Assists: Brian Gómez (3)

Chances Created: Jack Barmby (15)

Discipline Report:

San Antonio will be without the services of defender Pascal Eboussi after being sent off against Tacoma. Eboussi received a straight red in the 60th minute for dangerous foul against Connor Drought. Eboussi went in for a tackle with a raised leg and went studs up into Drought’s right leg.

New Mexico forward Kevaughn Frater picked up his fourth yellow of the season against Portland last week. If Kevaughn picks up another, he will face a one match suspension for yellow card accumulation.

Cinco de Mayo 

In what will be United’s first opportunity to celebrate the holiday with their supporters, the club announced a full day of festivities, culminating with a 5:36 p.m. kickoff time. Among the festivities, fans will be treated to local musical acts and a fan festival prior to the match and the National Anthem will be performed by winner of The Voice Season 15, and Farmington, New Mexico native, Chevel Shepherd.

The kickoff time was originally set to 5:05 pm. Earlier this week, we learned tragic news about United defender, Justin Schmidt’s family with a loss of his father and his mother is in the hospital making a recovery. The club will be honoring the Schmidt family with a Moment of Silence that will now take place at 5:05 pm.

We posted the official release from New Mexico United on May 2, 2019. Since then, the team, supporter’s group, and fans in New Mexico have “UNITED” and raised 20,000 dollars in two days on the family’s go fund me page. Supporter’s Group, The Curse New Mexico teamed up with Starr Bros. Brewing Company and donated 15% of every dollar spent today during the hours of 12 pm to 6 pm. This is generally a busy time for the establishment. In addition, fans could make their own personalized armband with a message to Justin and his family. There will be armbands available at the Cinco de Mayo Fan Fest tailgate hosted by Doral Motors, The Curse Supporter’s Group, and Hispano Chamber of Commerce.

Isotopes Park is no stranger to having large crowds on Cinco de Mayo. In previous years the stadium’s primary tenant, the Albuquerque Isotopes renamed to Mariachis de Neuvo México, set single game records in 2018 and 2014 with 16,975 fans. The club is encouraging anyone coming out for the match to show up early as gates will open at 3:30 p.m. T

he match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 5:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Sunday, May 5. International viewers will be able to watch the match live on YouTube. ESPN+ is viewable online via the ESPN app or across a variety of mobile and connected living room devices, including Amazon’s Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and more.

Photo Credit: Josh Lane/NM United

Seth Biddulph is a beat writer for Seek & Strike Collective covering the beat on New Mexico United. Follow him on Twitter and join in on the conversation@SethBiddulph

Follow Our Instagram: @SeekandStrikeNM

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