By Seth Biddulph | July 6, 2019 | email@example.com
The second half of the season kicks off in earnest for New Mexico United (6-3-8) on Saturday. When they finally take the pitch, it will have been 14 days since they were last in action.
The break gives United a chance at a fresh start.
We all know that league play wasn’t kind to United over their past few outings, but that’s all in the past. And who better to take on in their return to the pitch than Real Monarchs SLC (6-6-3). This matchup gives United their first chance at a league play rematch in club history.
The first time around, United dominated Real 5-1 at The Lab. New Mexico will be looking for a similar result at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman Utah.
Kevaughn Frater and Santi Moar combined for four of the five goals during the first meeting. The duo ran roughshod during that match, taking advantage of a reformed Monarch midfield. Since that time, Frater has continued his assault on the top of the Golden Boot race since then, as well as, adding three goals in Open Cup play as well. Moar, on the other hand, hasn’t found the net since the May 25th match against Austin Bold.
It’s not for a lack of effort though. Moar leads the club in shots with 39 and his accuracy on those attempts sits at an amazing 69.2% (27/39). I think it’s safe to say that Moar is due.
Since the Bold match, New Mexico’s last league victory, the club only has three goals in league play. A lot of the struggles can be attributed to the workload that has been placed on the club. Between league play and the continued success during the Open Cup, United has played 12 matches since the start of May. We expected tired legs to be an issue, perhaps not quite to this extent though.
There has been one very important positive from the run of matches though. United’s defense has found some consistency (Las Vegas and Sacramento excluded) and the players have been developing in front of us. We now have options in the back with the return of Justin Schmidt and the emergence of Ethen Sampson. Josh Suggs has had time to rehab and, barring any setbacks, his return is expected any day now. We know that he’s been training with the club, so it’s entirely possible that he could be back as soon as this weekend.
United has grown as a club and is no longer taking anyone by surprise. What does that mean for United though, when opponents are seeing match film and have more time to prepare? It means it’s time to show them just how good they are.
This match could jumpstart United as the back half of the season get underway and give them momentum heading into their next Open Cup match. Watch for United to get back to moving the ball efficiently, holding the midfield and a solid defensive outing this Saturday. If they can limit Real Monarchs chances, we could see another three points added to the season tally.
Players to Watch
Kevaughn Frater – Due to the recent surge from Phoenix Rising and Solomon Asante, Frater has slipped to second in the Golden Boot race. But if asked he’ll tell you that he’s not focused on that. And I for one believe him. This has been a club effort all year long and you can bet that Frater will be looking to help give the club momentum before they head to Minnesota next week, without him. The league hasn’t figured out how to stop Mr. Big Goal yet, and I don’t expect Real Monarchs to be the ones to do it.
Sam Hamilton – With the absence of Suggs in the back four, Hamilton has stepped up his play tremendously. Hamilton will work to contain Douglas Martínez, who has come on strong in recent weeks for Real Monarchs.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
- Goals: Frater (11)
- Shots: Moar (39)
- Blocks: Schmidt (15)
Real comes into the match in a strange position. Currently 14th in the table, the lowest they’ve been in years, they’re riding high on a three-match win streak. Their most recent victory came with a cost, however. Head coach Martin Vasquez resigned after the match, leaving the club to name Jámison Olave as its interim manager. Olave has been with the club in a coaching position since 2016, so it’s likely that not much will change under his watch.
The more interesting question is how will the players respond to the sudden departure?
We looked at Maikel Chang earlier in the season, but recently he’s taken a back seat to the previously Douglas Martínez. With 5 goals in as many matches, he’s given Real a viable threat up top. Probably the most important thing for Real during their recent matches is that they picked up their first two road wins of the season, ending a road winless streak that stretched back into 2018.
Real started the season strong at home, registering back-to-back clean sheets. In the five home matches since, they’ve gone on to allow 14 goals. They’re vulnerable at the back, which is something we saw at The Lab. With the turmoil within the club and a tough opponent coming in, the odds are not in their favor in my eyes.
Players to Watch
Let’s kill two birds with one stone.
Maikel Chang and Douglas Martínez – it’d be easy to just pick them just because they’re the leading goal scorers for Real. And to be honest, that’s part of the reason. But really, it’s the combination play of the two and their ability to create mismatches with their movement. United will have to find a way to contain both of them in order to pick up three points.
Real Monarchs SLC Team Leaders
- Goals: Chang, Martínez (6)
- Shots: Chang (28)
- Blocks: Karen Ryder (6)
Four Corners Cupdate
Real actually kept themselves alive in the chase for the Four Corners Cup during their recent win streak. A 2-1 victory over Colorado Springs Switchbacks kept their slim chances afloat for the time being.
A loss this weekend against New Mexico would eliminate Real from the possibility of winning the Cup. Any other result would keep them alive again while diminishing United’s chances.
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 8:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, July 6. 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
Photo Credit: Josh Lane/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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