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United Must Overcome Switchbacks FC Along Path to Advance in US Open Cup

By Seth Biddulph | May 29, 2019 |

Is May over yet? I keep asking myself that and I’m sure New Mexico United are asking themselves the same thing. With the finale of what has become a five-match trip waiting for them tomorrow, the end is in sight. Since May 5th, United have been to El Paso, Phoenix, Colorado Springs, Austin and now return to Colorado Springs for the second time. After six matches in 24 days, they will finally get to come home.

The most impressive part of it all? United is undefeated in May, picking up 10 out of a possible 12 points in league play and advancing to the third round of the U.S. Open Cup.  They now have a four-point lead in the Western Conference and are on the brink of facing an MLS club in the Open Cup. If you had told United supporters before the season began that we would be in this position, you probably would have been laughed at.

Head Coach and Technical Director Troy Lesesne put together a talented and driven group of players. It hasn’t always been easy, especially with this schedule, but the players have responded to every challenge. Lesesne has even said that the club hasn’t reached its full capabilities yet. That’s saying something considering United lead the league in goals scored and currently hold the top two spots in the Golden Boot race.

Colorado fell to United 3-1 and could not find an answer to Kevaughn Frater. It makes me wonder what they will be able to do against a United side that will have Santi Moar back. As confident as United will be riding the first winning streak, they can’t look past Colorado.

After Wednesday, United will have a week until their next league match, so I wouldn’t expect to see much rotation in the team sheet. I do expect a lot of movement on the pitch. With a full complement of threats, Moar could see a number of early chances. United must stick to what has been successful; have an effective high press and create space for Moar and Frater. Having Chris Wehan opposite of Moar could give United an improved attack on the right wing.

In the first match against Colorado, Ethen Sampson had a great outing. I fully expect Sampson to be the key to the United defense. One thing that United should expect is to have to deal with lots of crosses from Colorado. Despite having a high percentage of crosses Colorado failed to connect throughout the match and their attack suffered for it.  If United can deal with this effectively, they’ll punch their tickets to the fourth round.

Players to Watch

Devon Sandoval – I know I talked about Moar and Frater up above, but Devon is going to have an important role to play. He’s become more of a link-up player and has created many opportunities throughout the season. Watch his play and see how his movement and passing create those chances for others.

Ethen Sampson – Probably our most reliable defender since he stepped onto the pitch, Ethen more than dealt with Colorado’s attack in the first match. I also expect him to make some runs on the right side and we’ll see spaces open up for Wehan behind him.

New Mexico Team Leaders

Goals: Frater (10)

Assists: Wehan, Frater, Josh Suggs, Manny Padilla (3)

Saves: Cody Mizell (43)

Switchbacks FC has its work cut out for them. In their last five matches, they’ve conceded nine goals while only scoring two. They are 1-4-0 during that stretch, the only win coming over FC Denver. Their most recent match did show significant improvements in their overall play, but a missed penalty helps them snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (or a draw).

Mike Seth and Kwasi Donsu are going to be two targets to watch for. Seth did manage the only goal against United the last time out and Donsu their goal against FC Denver. The key to their play, as I talked about above, is their ability to cross. Any time a club has success crossing the ball they’re going to have chances to score. Colorado has to improve on their accuracy and conversion rates. Across all competitions, they are averaging less than one goal per match.

Defensively they aren’t much better. Conceding over 1.5 goals per match plays right into how good the United attack is. That being said, they aren’t terrible on defense and have had several low scoring matches. They just haven’t found a way to turn those defensive efforts into results. In order for Colorado to have a chance, they will have to devise a way to get United off balance. That’s no small task with the weapons United has available.

Colorado has nothing to lose in the Cup match this week and could cause United some issues if they aren’t careful.

Players to Watch

Shane Malcolm – I had Malcolm as a player to watch in the last matchup and while he didn’t get on the sheet, he made life difficult for United at times. He is a mismatch waiting to happen.

Mike Seth – As mentioned he was the lone goal scorer for Colorado last time. He was able to create a goal from a tough set piece situation and could be dangerous in this match.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Team Leaders

Goals: Jordan Burt, Malcolm (3)

Assists: Seth (2)

Saves: Abraham Rodriguez (24)

Photo Credit: Christopher Mack/Seek & Strike Collective

The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 7:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Wednesday, May 29. 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. The match will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team and can be streamed on

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

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Twitter: @SeekandStrikeNM Instagram: @SeekandStrikeNM

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