That’s the amount of rest that Phoenix Rising FC will have had before kickoff. By baseball standards four to five days rest is common. In the world of football, however, that’s a very short turnaround. I don’t know what their practice schedule is like but that leaves them time to perhaps a couple of walkthroughs or even a full practice. Oh, did I mention that Phoenix was at home the whole time?
That’s the eight ball that New Mexico United is behind. United just played on Sunday night in a very physical match against El Paso. I imagine the club stayed in El Paso on Sunday night and traveled on Monday in an attempt to get least one day of rest. There really hasn’t been a lot of time for United to prepare between the two matches. Coach and Technical Director Troy Lesesne probably spent some time on it last week, but how much we don’t know. There probably wasn’t much practice time because you never want to overlook a league match.
One saving grace for United is that they’ve already had success in Phoenix. In their second match of the season, United was able to put three goals up against Rising and led for much of the match. That was another physical match during which United earned a total of six yellow cards. Fortunately, none of those cards will come into play for the Cup match and neither will the red card that was given to Santi Moar on Sunday night.
Since that early match, United have gone 4-1-4 and have shot to the top of the table. We saw a little different lineup on Sunday and could be in for more changes against Phoenix. In this busy time Coach Lesesne knows that rotating players is going to be essential to the club’s success. Although the club roster is smaller than others, we have seen that everyone is able to contribute.
For United to be successful today, they will have to find the same level of energy we saw against San Antonio and Real Salt Lake. With that energy level, we saw the offense clicking and our best defensive efforts of the season. Devon Sandoval has prior Cup experience and that leadership will play a major factor in the match.
Players to Watch
Santi Moar – It’s been a few weeks since Santi found the back of the net. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been productive. He made major contributions to the attack against San Antonio and hasn’t stopped his movement. He had a rough night against El Paso, getting a red card, but look for that to just fire Santi up.
Cody Mizell – I’ve seen a few different keepers throughout the league now and Cody is one of the best. His vision of the field and ability to react has been key in every match this year. Without his reflexes, United could be at a completely different spot in the standings.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Moar, Kevaughn Frater (7)
Assists: Chris Wehan, Frater, Manny Padilla, Josh Suggs (3)
Saves: Mizell (36)
It could be said that Phoenix was gifted the draw in the first match. Two penalties were awarded and both were converted by Samuel Asante. Since then Phoenix has not shown any consistency in their play. Yes, they are 3-2-3 in their matches since, but they have struggled at times against clubs in the lower half of the standings. In this time though, they have discovered a true scoring threat in Adam Jahn.
Phoenix has two keys to victory this week. The first is to feed forwards Jahn and Junior Flemmings. Putting the ball at their feet has led to good things in recent weeks. The second key is to stop the United attack, something they didn’t do well in the first match. Rising will need to look at what San Antonio and El Paso did and work from that to close down and force United out of rhythm.
Players to Watch
Adam Jahn – With three goals in the past two matches, Jahn has become a star for Phoenix. United will need to force him to make bad looks and close down to keep him under control.
Solomon Asante – 30. That’s the number of chances created by Asante so far this year. Always a danger on the ball, his vision is opening up the pitch for others like Jahn.
Phoenix Rising Team Leaders
Goals: Jahn (5)
Assists: Asante, Flemmings (4)
Saves: Zac Lubin (20)
U.S. Open Cup News
The possible third round pairings were announced yesterday. If New Mexico United win today, they would face the winner of the FC Denver and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC match.
The resulting 3rd round match would take place on May 29th. The downside for United; both of the Colorado-based clubs are listed as the host for a third-round match against United. This would mean a 5th road match in May.
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 8:30 p.m. (Mountain) tonight. 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.
Image Credit: 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