“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” -Rudyard Kipling
Match 10, POST-MATCH EDITION: New Mexico United command victory over San Antonio FC 3-0 in FT.
By Seth Biddulph | May 6, 2019 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The tenth match of the season is now recorded on the table and New Mexico United (4-1-5) sit alone atop the Western Conference. On a night filled with emotion and a record crowd of 15,023, United played their most complete match of the season. This matchup, between one of the best home clubs and one of the worst road clubs, played out as most would have expected.
United started off on the right foot against San Antonio FC (3-5-2). A second-minute shot from Moar sent SAFC keeper Matt Cardone scrambling, but the attempt curled just wide of the net. The hosts would take the lead only minutes later after Kevaughn Frater and Devon Sandoval linked up in the ninth minute. Frater made a fantastic move, passing the ball ahead and behind the back of SAFC defender Johnny Fenwick. Regaining possession, Frater laid the ball off to Sandoval who found the back of the net. Immediately after scoring, Devon went to the armband the club was wearing in tribute to Justin Schmidt and his family.
“We talked about it all week, it was a lot of emotion behind the game,” said Sandoval. “It was for Justin and his family.”
In his first start since the injury earlier this season, Devon started up front alongside Kevaughn. The duo was tasked with putting pressure on the SAFC back line.
“We changed our strategy a little bit coming into the match,” said Coach Troy Lesesne. “Having Kev and Dev up top together, it caused them (SAFC) some problems tonight.”
After the goal, both sides settled into the match and split possession for the remainder of the half. Despite employing a high press that visibly caused some moments of indecision, SAFC was unable to force any errors from United. Continuing their poor run of form in away matches, SAFC only managed one shot on target before halftime.
“At halftime, we talked about wanting to set the tone and dictate the game,” said Chris Wehan after the match. “We let it be known at the start of the half.”
United came out of the break firing on all cylinders and increased the pressure on San Antonio across the pitch. The press that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from United was much more effective in the second half. That reignited press opened up the pitch for United wingers Moar and Wehan to make some runs up the left side, getting in behind the San Antonio line multiple times early on.
Any indecision that had been caused by the San Antonio press in the first half was non-existent in the second. United had figured out how to effectively deal with the San Antonio press.
“It’s hot and at altitude. We knew if we stretched these guys out in the first half, we’d be able to pop the lid off in the second,” said United defender Sam Hamilton. Lesesne followed this up stating that it was the most complete performance of the season for the club.
In the 59th, Wehan would double the lead after a costly error by Cardone. As Moar streaked towards the left side of the box, a nifty piece of footwork allowed him to play the ball back to Wehan at the spot. This movement caused Cardone to come off his line and out of the goal area, leaving the net wide open and was punished for it. The finish from Wehan found the ball in the back-right corner. Chris wasn’t done yet.
Moments later, he would make a similar run up the left wing. Taking a chipped pass from Frater, Chris would power a right footed shot from a very tight angle past the SAFC keeper again, this time into the side netting, putting United up 3-0. Even after keying in on the left side for the entire first half, San Antonio was unable to contain United’s wingers.
Despite a solid first half, San Antonio looked completely hapless at times. Throughout the match, they struggled to connect on crosses, couldn’t get shots on target, and had several defensive lapses. Even the shots that were on target were no real threat to Cody Mizell. Mizell was quick to credit the rest of the club for the defensive effort.
“It was an eleven-man performance, always from the top. It started with setting our press up high, defending properly and smartly.” In response to the defense effectively keeping San Antonio out of the box Mizell joked, “Who doesn’t want to have to do anything for a job? It was good. It was a team performance.”
As it’s been reported, Justin Schmidt was not physically with the club, but he and his family were on the hearts of the players and the supporters. The club came out tonight each wearing a shirt with Justin’s number on the back and the front reading “We are United with the Schmidt Family”.
“We wanted to celebrate Justin the best way, with a full amount of love for him and his family,” said Lesesne. “I think our guys came out and showed what their character is, and really it’s just a special moment.”
United supporters group The Curse handed out yellow armbands to 10,000 fans as they entered the stadium in a show of support for the Schmidt family. Outside of the armbands, The Curse also organized a fundraiser to help support the family over the weekend.
There is also a GoFundMe for the family that has raised over $22,000 to date.
Player of the Match
If I have to pick an individual player, it would be Chris Wehan. The decision-making he showed, as well as, his ability to make runs to put himself in the right spot dictated each goal scoring opportunity that he had on the night.
Ultimately, I think tonight it should go to the entire club. It truly was a club effort handling the emotions of the night, playing a solid match, and getting the three points.
Daniel Bruce made his New Mexico United debut, subbing on for Moar in the 74th.
“I think if you ask any of these guys who they dislike playing against the most in training, its Daniel,” said Lesesne. “He’s the type of player that not only is he very good defensively, but he can create some stuff going forward as well.”
All three goals tonight were scored by former University of New Mexico Lobos. Interesting enough, Wehan and Sandoval shared the locker room for one season. Wehan redshirted in 2012, which was Sandoval’s final season at UNM.
The clean sheet is the second of the season for United and the third suffered by San Antonio.
New Mexico head out on a road trip that won’t see them return to Isotopes Park until June 5th. United have three matches in the next 12 days, the first being on Sunday, May 12 against El Paso Locomotive. They will then make their U.S. Open Cup debut on May 15th at Phoenix Rising.
Photo Credit: Adam Nish/Seek & Strike Collective
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