2019 USL Championship Regular Season – Match 16
New Mexico United at Las Vegas Lights FC
Cashman Field – Las Vegas, NV
June 15, 2019 – 8:30 PM MT
STREAMING: LIVE on ESPN+ for US, YouTube for INT’L
By Seth Biddulph | June 14, 2019 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Once again, New Mexico United (6-2-7) has embarked on a long road trip, starting this past Wednesday, and are now facing four matches in an eleven-day span. The second of those matches will take place against Las Vegas Lights FC (4-6-3) on Saturday night.
After a historic Open Cup win over Colorado Rapids, United is looking to get back in the win column in league play. After their last two league matches ended in disappointment, the club was able to rebound in spectacular fashion. While Devon Sandoval and Kevaughn Frater bookended the match against Rapids with great goals, Chris Wehan and Cody Mizell slammed the door shut during penalty kicks. With much of the squad playing the full 120 minutes, expect to see some rotation for the match against Las Vegas.
How much rotation though, is the question. Coach Troy Lesesne knows that he’s going to need to keep some legs fresh, not only for next week’s Open Cup match but also for this long stretch ahead of them. For the Sacramento match, we saw seven changes to the starting eleven. I expect to see a similar number of changes but with a much different outcome this time.
I expect Ryan Williams to start in one of the forward positions next to either Sandoval or Frater. Williams has started 7 times this season, played in 10 of 15 matches, netted 2 goals and has one assist. Williams is highly favored to be a choice on Saturday’s starting eleven. Williams, who played with Charlotte Eagles (USL League Two) last season, is on track to bag more than 6 goals this season. Williams scored the equalizer back in the match against El Paso Locomotive to help United earn a point on the road. With Williams leading the line, United stand a very good chance of coming out of Vegas with three more points.
United’s back four have dealt with some changes throughout the season, but have shown improvement every week. In the absence of Josh Suggs, Mizell continues to wear the captain’s armband and has been a vocal leader for the club. If you ever get a chance, watch Cody during a match. His constant communication and knowledge of the game have been a big influence on this club and have helped the defensive form develop.
Despite their strength at home, where Las Vegas has only allowed three goals, they haven’t been able to maintain that consistency. This is something that United can take advantage of by spreading the ball and keeping the pressure on their back line.
Players to Watch
Kenny Akamatsu – With Daniel Bruce most likely out after playing Wednesday night, I expect to see Kenny get the start. Given his form in his last few appearances, Kenny could be just what United needs to get the offense going against Lights FC.
Rashid Tetteh – Just like with Kenny, I expect to see Rashid get the start as well. With how well Sam Hamilton and Ethen Sampson have been performing, it’s been hard to get Rashid minutes. I think he will get the start and will be key to stopping the attack.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
- Goals: Frater (10)
- Assists: Wehan, Manny Padilla, Suggs, Frater (3)
- Chances Created: Santi Moar, Wehan (19)
Lights FC is a hard club to quantify. They’re undefeated at home and winless on the road. In league play, they’ve scored more than two goals four times, scored one goal five times, and have been kept scoreless five times. Although their attack is very much feast or famine, they have found most of their success from within the box (18 of 19 goals scored).
Lights FC will be without their leading scorer Irvin Parra due to conduct related to a goal celebration and subsequent Instagram post. Irvin Parra has found the most success for Lights FC. With eight goals on the season, he’s the focal point of their attack. His pace and ability to finish are his most dangerous attributes. The next closest players in scoring are Samuel Ochoa, Preston Tabort Etaka and Gabe Robinson, whom have combined for 6 goals.
Gabriel Robinson and Thomas Olsen are the major reasons for the success that Lights FC has had this year. Lights FC is third in the league with six clean sheets and is hoping to post another against United. With a heavy rotation expected, they could be in line for another. No matter whom United sends out though, it will be a tough matchup for Lights to handle.
Players to Watch
Christian Hernandez – Lights FC has a tremendous creator in Hernandez. With 32 chances created on the year, he’s putting his team into positions where they can flourish. He’ll most likely match up against Justin Schmidt and it will be interesting to see how the two go at each other and who will win the most duels
Samuel Ochoa, Preston Tabort Etaka and Gabe Robinson could be impact players in Parra’s absence based solely upon goals scored for the team.
Las Vegas Lights FC Team Leaders
- Goals: Parra (8)
- Assists: Christian Hernandez, Parra (3)
- Chances Created: Hernandez (32)
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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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