By Seth Biddulph | June 5, 2019 | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s about time that New Mexico United (6-1-6) returned home. After spending a month abroad, United finally get to play at The Lab again.
Since the loss to Reno on April 20, United have played in seven matches. United’s record over the course of these seven matches is 5-0-2 (3-0-2 USL, 2-0 Open Cup play). The past five matches have been on the road. United have managed to win on the road and are currently on a 3-game win streak (2 USL, 1 Open Cup). One of the contributing factors to the team’s win streak has been fan support.
Over the course of the month, United supporters have traveled to every match. United supporters were even named the fans of the match by the Colorado Springs Switchbacks broadcasters during the first match with them. Throughout the season, both Coach Troy Lesesne and the players have said just how much they draw on their fans and the energy they generate. There is no greater example of this than the previous match at home, which happened to be on Cinco de Mayo. In what was a special night for the club and fans alike, the 15,000+ in attendance saw United put on one of their best nights of the year.
For United, the first match this week, against Oklahoma City Energy FC (5-4-4), is bound to be another memorable night. With ticket sales creeping ever closer to a sellout, the roar of the crowd as United takes the pitch is sure to be heard from all corners of New Mexico. The return of the club is special for another reason. Across the nation, we just started celebrating Pride Month and United will be able to celebrate this at home with their fans. United pride themselves on inclusivity.
The club launched a pride-themed awareness campaign in mid-May, which hit all social media platforms. The players were given the opportunity themselves on what pride means to them. Every few days a new player profile appeared on the club’s social media account. At the time of this matchday preview, all of the players have appeared except hometown hero, Devon Sandoval. My anticipation is that he will appear closer to kickoff time. It has been the club’s watermark on initiatives to bring Sandoval in last on concepts. Here are some of our favorite player submissions.
“Love Wins.” – Manny Padilla, Defender
“Love has to be free and there should be protection for ALL couples. Love doesn’t hurt. Hate does.” – Toni Soler, Midfielder
“I love seeing people smile, and if I can put a smile on someone’s face by standing up for something great than myself, United as one for a bigger purpose in life, I’m in!” – Kevaughn Frater, Forward
This campaign has allowed the players and fans to express themselves and show just how amazing this community can be. Pride month takes on a different level of significance for many folks. For many, it’s an opportunity to come together and show love and appreciation for every lifestyle. For others, it’s a celebration of who they are. The thing is though, every day should be that way. Every day we have a chance to build relationships and build our communities. United is doing just that. From day one the club has talked about uniting the state and everyone within it.
The club is a perfect example of that happening. United have come together and unified under the crest and are leading the way in the Western Conference. There’s no shortage of confidence in the club and they look to continue carrying it forward. In their most recent match, a 2-1 victory over Switchbacks FC, United fought the entire match and worked their way back from being a goal down. In the process, they made club history and advanced to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. The Open Cup match is a true testament to the efforts the club has put together on the pitch and pure evidence to the success they’ve earned along the way. This is going to be absolutely necessary for the coming weeks, tonight especially.
Energy FC is not a club to be overlooked. In reality, none of the clubs in the USL can be. With the league’s leading scorers, Kevaughn Frater and Santi Moar, both back in the mix United will need to get both men clean shots on goal. Last week United struggled at times to deal with the Colorado defensive formation and we could see a similar game plan from Energy. The way United can deal with this is to create movement. Although it’s something we’ve watched the club do all season, there’s more to it than just the players running. It’s making key passes and getting their opponents out of rhythm. I expect to see Josh Suggs back in the eleven and of the things that he does so well is moving into spaces where defenses don’t expect to find him. When he does this, you can see it draw defenders away from the spaces in the midfield and the wings where Moar likes to play.
In spite of failing to close down on the one goal by Switchbacks last week, United did have a very good performance defensively. The effort during that match allowed only two shots on target in 120 minutes. There really wasn’t anything Switchbacks could do, even with Cody Mizell finding a switchblade on the pitch, to put the ball into the back of the net. Justin Schmidt and Rashid Tetteh will be key in the middle of the defense. Watch for United to close down on the Energy forwards and prevent them from getting clean looks.
Players to Watch
Juan Guzman – Since a brief absence a few weeks ago, his presence in the midfield has helped stabilize the form of United. Guzman has the ability to take control of the pitch and his link-up play can create some chances for United.
Santi Moar – After a brace in the last league match, Santi is focusing in again. If United can feed Santi in and around the box, it’s only a matter of time until he puts another in the net.
New Mexico Team Leaders
Goals: Kevaughn Frater (10), Santi Moar (9)
Assists: Kevaughn Frater, Josh Suggs, Chris Wehan, Manny Padilla (3)
Saves: Cody Mizell (43)
Oklahoma City is another club with mixed results this year. Their 1-3-2 road record is a little surprising given that they are averaging 1.6 goals per match. Although they are unbeaten in the past five matches, all of those have been at home. In their last road match though, they lost to Austin Bold 2-1. Their recent results do give them some confidence coming into the match this week, a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay and a 0-0 draw with LA Galaxy 2, were both hard-fought matches. It will be interesting to see if they can carry that momentum forward as this will be their first of three consecutive matches on the road.
Much like United what dealt with in May, Energy is in the middle of a period of matches coming on short rest. This could help play into the favor of United, who have had a week between matches. For Energy to have success in Albuquerque, they will need solid play from Alexy Bosetti and Omar Gordon. These two have been the catalyst for Oklahoma City so far this year and their success hinges on them getting good looks. United’s midfield-play and closing down will need to show improvement over the last match to prevent Bosetti and Gordon from having a good night.
Defensively, Energy is allowing 1.5 goals per match. That’s good news for United. The league leaders in scoring could be in for a big night if Energy can’t contain them. We’ve seen clubs have success by disrupting Frater and Moar, I just don’t know if Energy has the ability to stop them for a full 90 minutes.
Players to Watch
Alexy Bosetti – Bosetti is probably the most dangerous player on the pitch for OKC. With 30 chances created already on the season, he’s bound to be a top priority in Lesesne’s game plan. His ability to get to ball up the pitch and into the goal area is going to cause issues for United if they don’t deal with him.
Atiba Harris – Harris is by far Energy’s best defender. With 60 clearances, 16 blocks, and 23 interceptions he’s crucial to the defensive form. He has the ability to make great reads on where play is heading and then follows it up with solid play.
Oklahoma City Energy FC Team Leaders
Goals: Deshorn Brown (6)
Assists: Omar Gordon (4)
Saves: Cody Laurendi (42)
The match will be streamed live on ESPNews and ESPN+ beginning at 7:00 p.m. (Mountain). 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 www.1017theteam.com.
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
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