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Too Much Energy, OKC Outlasts United’s Reserve and Forces Draw

Match 14, Post-Match Edition: OKC Energy find the net late into match. Poised to steal victory on the road, Energy keep starters in but, United defensively counters as match concedes to a draw 1-1 FT.

By Seth Biddulph | June 6, 2019 |

The return to The Lab didn’t exactly follow the script that New Mexico United (6-1-7) would have liked. United was unable to capitalize on a first-half goal with the match ending in a 1-1 draw against Oklahoma City Energy FC (5-4-5). 

As multicolored smoke billowed and rainbow flags waved in honor of Pride on the Pitch, United took to their home pitch for the first time in over a month. From the opening whistle, United controlled the pace of the match and found ways to deal with the press from Energy FC. Throughout the half, the momentum continued to build. With multiple shots threatening Cody Laurendi, it felt like it was only a matter of time before United would break through. 

In the 43rd United took advantage of winning multiple corners and made OKC pay. On the second corner of the sequence, Chris Wehan delivered a ball to the back post and Justin Schmidt would put a powerful header back towards goal. Instinctually, Devon Sandoval stuck out his foot to get the final touch before the ball struck the back of the net. 

“I’m always very proud of the club when they take the initiative and get the first goal,” said Coach Troy Lesesne. “We really limited them a lot in what they are good at.” 

The second half had a completely different feel to it. For those of us watching, the run of play after the break felt much like it did early in the season. Despite having the lead, United didn’t play like it. “We just weren’t able to get into a rhythm and get into our sets,” stated Lesesne.

For OKC, forward Deshorn Brown and midfielder Omar Gordon took the match by the horns and forced the issue. Their improved play allowed Brown to get into dangerous areas and test Cody Mizell. After a number of close calls, OKC was awarded a throw-in on the far side of the pitch. Gordon flicked on a header that would fall to the feet of a free running Brown. Taking the ball into the box, he would put a shot past Cody and into the side net, pulling the visitors level. Re-watching the sequence, Brown just got free from his marker and put himself in a position to take advantage of it.

In the post-match press conference, you could sense the disappointment in walking away with 1 point as opposed to 3 points. Troy and the players are very well aware that they haven’t always closed out matches. “It’s something we want to address. I think we get the second goal and its game over,” Lesesne would tell the assembled press. 

As frustrating as it is for fans that the club doesn’t have more wins, it’s even more so for the club. The stats certainly don’t reflect how the match ended up. United dominated the major stat categories.

– 65% possession
– 570 passes
– 16 shots, 6 on target
– 24 clearances

Seeing a stat line like this most folks would think United picked up the win. It all comes back to what has been seen since the first few matches. The club has to find ways to finish out matches. 

That being said, with the result tonight, United has exceeded their undefeated streak from earlier this season. It has now been eight matches since their last loss. It was mentioned in the preview that the current run is the more impressive of the two. And it’s hard to dispute that since five of those eight matches have been on the road. Yes, the club still picked up a point. Yes, they’re still top of the table. 

But this was against a club that has struggled on the road all year. It’s not wrong to expect more, we know that the players do. This was still a match that showed us how good defensively we can be. Maybe this means the club goes out and looks for increased help in the back line, maybe not. We’ve heard Troy say that they weren’t adding anyone else. 

I think our defense is vastly improved over the start of the season. Ethen Sampson has been a revelation in the right back position. Schmidt and Sam Hamilton have seen their chemistry grown exponentially. There’s a lot to be excited about with our defensive players. 

Player of the Match

Daniel Bruce – No, he didn’t score. No, he didn’t get an assist. But his play tonight was incredible. He made a lot of great plays throughout his time on the pitch and he had another good look at goal. It’s only a matter of time.

Match Notes

The announced attendance at tonight’s match was 13,574. This marks the second highest attendance total for United on the season.

Devon’s goal was his fourth on the year. 

Up Next

United will be in action again on Saturday night, June 8. In the finale of the short homestand, United will play host to Sacramento Republic FC with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m.

Photo Credit: BV Photos!

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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