Post-Match Edition, United advance to Round of 16 by winning in Penalty Kicks against Rapids.
By Seth Biddulph | June 13, 2019 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Survive and advance.
We’ve all heard it time after time when it comes to March Madness. New Mexico United are doing just that in the U.S. Open Cup. In the previous rounds of the Cup, United overcame Phoenix Rising FC after penalties and defeated Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. This time it was against an MLS club.
Over the past few weeks, Colorado Rapids has been one of the hottest clubs in MLS and came into the match expecting to continue the trend of MLS dominance in The Cup. I don’t think the Rapids really knew what to expect from the USL expansion club.
Colorado came out with wholesale changes to their team sheet, including eight different starters from their previous match. Not surprisingly, and quite possibly part of the reason for their defeat, Colorado left Tim Howard and Kei Kamara out of the team sheet. United, on the other hand, put out what was quite possibly their strongest team sheet of the year.
It was apparent from the opening whistle that United was more than up for the challenge. Within minutes Devon Sandoval would open the scoring with his third goal of the tournament. Following a third-minute corner, Santi Moar would head the ball towards goal and Sandoval was there to put it away.
Cole Bassett would give the home side a chance for hope on the 29th. Going one on one with Cody Mizell, Bassett would put the ball about two inches too high and out of play.
Colorado would manage to pull level in the 35th with a Diego Rubio header to the near post.
It was around this point that the match started to break down. In the first half alone, there were six yellow cards issued. By the end of the night, that number would hit double digits. Colorado looked frustrated as they couldn’t adapt to how United was playing.
From the beginning of the match, Daniel Bruce and Keegan Rosenberry would find themselves going toe to toe. Whatever Daniel was doing, you could see that it got to Rosenberry. As early as the second minute, there was a chance that Rosenberry could have been sent off. By some miracle, he was allowed to stay on the pitch.
After ending the first half in a 1-1 draw, Colorado would come firing off the line in the second half. Less than two minutes in, Nicolás Mezquida would take advantage of a mistake from Sam Hamilton. Gathering the loose ball after a poor back pass Mezquida would put the hosts on top.
Colorado’s confidence would take a hit in the 72nd. Axel Sjöberg would pick up a second yellow with a hard tackle and was sent off, bringing Colorado to 10 men. With the man advantage, United would dominate time of possession for the rest of the half. You could see the game-plan for United on display even more so than the first half. Ball movement was crisp, players weren’t making mistakes, and they calmly went about their business.
As time wound down, it’s hard to say that some folks didn’t start to lose faith. Where those folks were, it definitely wasn’t at Salt Yard. With five minutes of stoppage time, United had one last chance to prevent a loss.
At the death, Kevaughn Frater would launch a missile from his left and in the blink of an eye, the match went to extra time.
In an interesting twist of strategy, Coach Troy Lesesne only used one substitute during regulation while Colorado used all of theirs. Prior to the match making it to extra time, the decision to do so was questionable, but it paid off for the United side to be able to have fresh legs come on during the extra time. Although United had momentum on their side and the man advantage, they couldn’t put Colorado away and the match would go to penalties.
United had been in this same position against Phoenix and had to be feeling confident in their ability to convert.
For Colorado, first up was the U.S. international star, Kellyn Acosta. United keeper Cody Mizell would guess incorrectly and Acosta would take the lead.
Frater would respond in kind by burying a shot in the right corner.
Danny Wilson was next up for Colorado, but his shot was saved by a diving Mizell giving United a chance at the lead.
Finishing out the second round, Moar would bury his shot as well and United was up 2-1.
Rosenberry, who probably should have been off the pitch, would give Rapids faithful hope as his shot would find the net after Mizell’s got a touch to it.
Sandoval was next for United and converted the third penalty going right down the middle.
Needing a conversion to stay alive, Sam Nicholson would launch his attempt over the bar and giving Chris Wehan a chance to close out the match. Up stepped Wehan and with a powerful shot to the top left corner United was through.
Player of the Match
Really the whole club deserves it, but it goes to none other than
Kevaughn Frater – with a last gasp goal at the end of regulation, his 12th across all competitions, Frater propelled United to the next round.
Through three Open Cup matches, United has 360 minutes of open play under their belts.
All three of their matches have gone to extra time, and two of those have gone to penalties.
With four subs being available due to extra time, in an interesting strategic choice, Lesesne only used two on the night.
Round of 16
With the win tonight, New Mexico United have earned a spot in the Round of 16. Starting with this round, the remaining clubs will be in an official bracket and pairings will be drawn at 8 a.m. MT on June 13. The matches will take place between June 18 and June 23.
United return to league play on Saturday night, June 15 as they continue their road trip at Las Vegas Lights FC.
Photo Credit: Juan Lebreche/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
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