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Nothing Left to Pour into New Mexico’s Open Cup Run

Post-Match Edition: Down 1-0, Minnesota United FC score 6 unanswered goals to advance to the Semifinals.

By Seth Biddulph | July 11,2019 | seekandstrikecollective@gmail.com

And just like that, the clock struck midnight. Cinderella is going home and the big guy is moving on. 

New Mexico United’s Open Cup run ended tonight with a 6-1 loss to Minnesota United FC. It’s been an incredible run for United in their inaugural season, 2-1-0 (really 1-1-1 since the Colorado match counts as a draw) against the MLS is something that USL clubs only dream of. 

We all knew that it would be a true test of the club’s ability going up against one of the hottest teams in MLS right now. Without Kevaughn Frater or a fully fit Josh Suggs, there was a sense that United wouldn’t be able to pressure Minnesota United’s defense. For the first eight minutes of the match, the complete opposite happened. United came out firing on all cylinders and may have taken the Loons by surprise. 

In a sequence that saw United get two attempts at a corner, the second paid dividends for the visitors. After a short kick on the attempt, Chris Wehan would find a wide open Santi Moar at the top of the box. For the first time since May 25, Moar would find the back of the net. 

Before United fans could finish celebrating, Minnesota forward Angelo Rodriguez would pull the hosts level with the first of five first-half goals for the Loons. Rodriguez would add two more in the 18th and 45th. Darwin Quintero and Jan Gregus would each have goals as part of the barrage as well, in the 16th and 23rd respectively. Miguel Ibarra would cap off the scoring with a sixth for the Loons in the 62nd. 

Player of the Match

Angelo Rodriguez – What more needs to be said that a first-half hat trick. He took advantage of United mistakes and showed why Minnesota has been on a hot streak. 

USOC Post-Mortem

I sat down to write this a couple of hours after the match and this is actually my second go at it. Initially, I had what was basically a play by play of the night, but I felt this match and the Open Cup run deserves a post-mortem of sorts. 

Watching this match, it would be easy to say that there’s nothing positive to take away from it. To an extent that’s true, but it’s important to keep in mind that the Minnesota United FC roster has a salary of over $9 million. They’re one of the best clubs in the MLS this season and had been on a five-match win streak heading into tonight. (The USL does not publish player salaries, but most projections say that clubs typically pay ~ 250k-500k per year for player salaries.)

United didn’t have Frater. Even in the minutes leading up to the match, I saw lots of confusion about why he wasn’t in the team sheet. He was a victim of the yellow card accumulation rule for USOC. His absence shows that we don’t have the depth to continually compete against MLS clubs. The bigger conversation though is about the accumulation rule itself. In other competitions, yellow cards received prior to the quarterfinals are wiped away. 

For lower division clubs, not having this as part of the rules puts them at a distinct disadvantage. By having to play multiple matches before even making it this deep in the tournament, they’re at risk of not having their best players available. USSF/USOC needs to revisit this rule and make adjustments to make it more fair to all.

No other club had to play as many matches on the road as United. Five road matches in five rounds, that’s rough no matter who the club is. Pair that with already long road trips during league play and it’s going to have a negative effect on the players. This brings up three points, the first being USOC needs to be flexible on the pitch guidelines. The Lab is a fantastic place and could have been host to at least one USOC match. Look at the USOC attendance in most of the matches, there were some that have fewer than 400 fans in the stands. United could have easily put 12k in the stands. 

Second, every MLS club should have to travel for at least their first match. When they entered the fourth round of the 21 clubs that took part, only 6 had to travel. Just think of what the forced travel for MLS clubs could mean for attendance numbers of the lower division clubs. Just think of the growth that could help bring to the sport. Imagine what would happen if MLS entered in the third round. Could you imagine NYCFC having to travel and face Forward Madison or Florida Soccer Soldiers? 

Third, United Albuquerque needs a soccer-specific stadium. This would eliminate part of the issues brought up in points one and two. Club owner Peter Trevisani has come out and said the club is looking at possible locations. Not only would this benefit United, but Albuquerque FC and Albuquerque Sol. 

For the first time I can recall, MLS clubs finally took the Open Cup somewhat seriously. Now, United did defeat FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids, but each of them used many of their second team players. Tonight, Minnesota United put out a team sheet very close to what they use in league play. Atlanta United did the same. That’s a sign of respect for what USL has done. 

For New Mexico United, the loss means they can go back to focusing on chasing the USL Championship. As great as the run has been, it’s had a major effect on the club’s situation in the standings. When the Cup started United was sitting first in the Western Conference. Now, they find themselves sitting 7th and looking at how to catch up to the surging Phoenix Rising. There’s plenty of time left for the club to do it and they’ve got the talent to.

It’s now 21 days until the next home match. This club is deserving of a sellout and more when they get back. We as fans couldn’t have asked for more from them.

Up Next

United look to get back into the swing of league play as they head to Fresno to take on Fresno FC at Chukchansi Park. The Foxes have been on the uptick of late in their form, winning their last three matches. The match will take place on Saturday, July 13 at 8:30 pm (Mountain).

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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