The First Installment of the Long-awaited Rio GranDerby!
By Seth Biddulph | May 11, 2019 | firstname.lastname@example.org
I-25 and I-10 may run into each other in Las Cruces, but on Sunday, New Mexico United (4-1-5) and El Paso Locomotive FC (3-2-3) collide head-on just one hour south of there at Southwest University Park. The two expansion clubs are primed to develop a deep rivalry.
Only a four-hour drive separates the two, making it highly likely that the series could see a lot of fans travel to support the clubs. All week the supporters’ groups for both clubs have taken to social media, bantering ahead of the match. Even Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller got in on the fun, sending out a tweet in support of United.
Both clubs have had mixed results in their last five matches. United has been able to pick up 8 of a possible 15 points, while El Paso was able to pick up 9 of 15. Each club has reasons to feel optimistic about the matchup. El Paso is on a two-match win streak and United is coming off of a 3-0 win after a heart wrenching week.
United and El Paso have had opposite stat lines so far this year. While United is scoring a goal every 40.9 minutes (2.2 goals per match), El Paso is only scoring one goal per match. At the other end of the pitch, El Paso has conceded far fewer goals than United, 7 to 14. Granted, they’ve also played two fewer matches, but that may actually work in favor of New Mexico. As the season has progressed, this New Mexico club has already overcome adversity and shown a lot of growth. The attack has become more fluid and the defense has solidified. Outside of an 11-minute stretch against Portland, the club has been at their best over the past three weeks.
Against this defense, United must maintain a high level of intensity throughout the match. The club needs to get off to a fast start and not take their foot off the gas. If the match remains tight, El Paso could pull off what would be perceived as an upset. Ball movement is going to crucial to the United game plan.
Players to Watch
Okay. I haven’t exactly been lighting the world on fire with my Players to Watch. That being said, I think I’m due. I have faith in Kenny (Akamatsu) and he’s going to get his goal.
Josh Suggs – Josh has shown an incredible ability to create. He’s got a ton of pace for a fullback and has no problem making long runs. Against El Paso, Josh could be in for a big night defensively.
Devon Sandoval – In his first start back, Devon found the net early. Putting in a solid shift, Dev looks ready to have a big night. His work rate and physicality are going to cause problems for El Paso.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Santi Moar, Kevaughn Frater (7)
Assists: Chris Wehan, Kevaughn Frater (3)
Chances Created: Kevaughn Frater, Josh Suggs (15)
Locomotive will have to figure out a way to put more shots on goal in order to have a chance in this match. Of 90 total shots, only 8 have found the back of the net. That’s only an 8.9% conversion rate, far below that of United. With no regular scoring threat, their goals have been spread across five different players. Most of their goals have come from within the box and will try to break down the United back line.
With the lack of any offensive consistency, El Paso relies heavily on its defense. Just like Portland last week, watch for El Paso to key in on the left side. By taking away passing lanes on the left and in the back, it can cause some moments of indecision for United. Ultimately, El Paso will need to work to overcome a below average chance created rate against United who allows fewer than five shots on target per match.
Players to Watch
Sebastián Contreras – Quite possibly the most dangerous offensive player on the roster, Contreras has already contributed 2 assists, 18 shots and 16 chances created. A matchup between Juan Guzmán and Contreras could be a lot of fun to watch.
El Paso Locomotive FC Team Leaders
Goals: Edson Partida, Jerome Kiesewetter, Derek Gebhard (2)
Assists: Sebastián Contreras (2)
Chances Created: Sebastián Contreras (16)
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 6:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Sunday, May 12. 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: 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
Social Media Tags: #RioGranDerby , #ELPvNM,