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US Open Cup: From Springs to Rapids, United Keep Head Above Water

Post-Match Edition, Colorado Switchbacks almost upset New Mexico United. United find net as Full Time expires. United score winning goal in added extra time, 2-1 AET.

By Seth Biddulph | May 30, 2019 | seekandstrikecollective@gmail.com

MLS, here we come.

No, we’re not coming to join the league. We’re coming to show you what it means to be United.

Last night’s match was the sixth in 24 days for New Mexico United. As easy as the club made it look at times, Head Coach Troy Lesesne would be among the first to tell you that stretches like this are always hard. We’ve talked a lot about squad rotation and keeping players fresh for each match. I’ll be the first to admit when I’m wrong and earlier this week I predicted that we wouldn’t see much rotation for the Open Cup match against Colorado Springs. 

Well, I was wrong. 

There were six changes to the starting eleven from the weekend match against Austin Bold. According to ESPN.com, United came out in a 4-2-3-1. I didn’t see it that way as the match got underway; the way United moved it looked more like the 4-4-2 that we have grown accustomed to. Playing in their home black kit, United started fast, making pushes into the attacking third twice in the first minute. For the rest of the first half, each club would have extended periods of possession, but neither could make that final push and break the deadlock.

United couldn’t put together that final touch and Colorado couldn’t connect on their crosses. These were some of the keys for each side if they wanted to come away victorious. Although every player in the team sheet for United had seen starts throughout the year, this eleven didn’t seem to be in unison at times. That’s not to say they didn’t play well in the first half, they certainly did. It just seemed out of sync. 

Colorado changed its game plan at the half and came out with a high press that wasn’t shown at all in the first half. This change in tactics paid dividends for Switchbacks within minutes. In the 52nd, Jordan Burt would take possession near the top of the box and with a yard of space, his left footed shot would curl into the bottom left corner. Santi Moar had attempted to chase Burt down from behind, but United failed to close down on him and gave him too much space to work with. You could see the reaction of United keeper Cody Mizell as he tried to get his side fired up. 

Over the next several minutes United would make their first two substitutions, bringing on Devon Sandoval and Juan Guzman. These changes played a key factor in pushing back against the momentum that Colorado had been building. 

You could see United making better plays, reading the pitch better, and being much more decisive. In the 65th Sandoval would go down under a challenge from Abdul Rwatubyaye that looked very dangerous. Looking at the replay, Rwatubyaye left his feet and clearly took Sandoval’s legs out from under him. One of a number of dubious calls, or no-calls, by the referee, it seemed to set a tone for the remainder of the match.

Kevaughn Frater and Sandoval would combine for a sequence of attempts in the 72nd, both of which were saved by Colorado keeper Abraham Rodriguez. With time starting to wind down and the intensity building, United had started to come to life. 

Frater would link up with Chris Wehan in the 87th and at that point, those of us watching at Salt Yard, as well as United supporters around the state, knew the night would be ours. Cool as you would like, Wehan took the pass from Frater near the spot and put a left-footed shot into the back right corner as Rodriguez guessed the wrong direction. 

Into extra time we would go and it didn’t take long for United to assert themselves. Daniel Bruce would make a run into the left side of the box and would be taken down. Although it looked soft, the referee called for a penalty kick in favor of United. Switchbacks captain Rony Argueta would lose his composure and bump the referee, causing her to go down, earning himself a red card. The resulting penalty would see the USL scoring leader go up against the youngest keepers in the league. Frater approached the ball and with a slight stutter got Rodriguez to commit to his left, leaving the net wide open for Frater to convert.

Now with a man advantage, United would put a lot more pressure on Colorado, nearly earning themselves a wider margin multiple times. Seeing out the remainder of the match with a 67% possession rate, United would advance to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. 

Player of the Match

The referee – with both good calls and bad, the referee turned the match in extra time.

I’m kind of kidding. Once again this season, United has seen some questionable officiating during its match. It can be argued that she missed some fouls, and even a penalty, that should have been called as well as awarded cards that shouldn’t have been. 

Kevaughn Frater – the club as a whole fought back from a deficit, but with a goal and an assist, Kevaughn was instrumental in United getting the win. 

US Open Cup

The fourth round draw took place earlier this morning and United was placed in a group with Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United and Sporting Kansas City. The group covers the largest geographical area of the eight groupings that were announced. United will face off against Colorado Rapids in the fourth round.

Up Next

United finally return home after a five-match road trip. New Mexico will be back at The Lab on Wednesday, June 5th as they take on Oklahoma City Energy FC. The match will be a special night for the club as they host their first ever Pride night. 

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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