By Seth Biddulph | July 13, 2019 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Most folks around a certain age are somewhat familiar with the song “Tubthumping” from the late 90s.
“I get knocked down / but I get up again / You are never gonna keep me down” – Chumbawumba
The chorus of the song describes what New Mexico United (6-4-8) has done time after time this year. Now that the Open Cup is behind us, it’s time for a new verse.
“I, I’m a new day rising / I’m a brand-new sky / To hang the stars upon tonight” – Foo Fighters
United is already one match into the back half of the schedule, and while it wasn’t a favorable result, we saw the return of Josh Suggs. In the limited time that he’s been back on the pitch, 75 minutes in two matches, he’s already made himself a presence in the back four. After such a long time off, it would be expected to see some issues finding his footing again, but that hasn’t been the case.
Professional footballers know that when they’re called upon, they have to give it their full potential. Josh has done that every time out. Neither he or anyone else on the club is afraid to take on any challenge.
The next challenge; defeat Fresno FC (8-2-7) without Kevaughn Frater and Juan Pablo Guzman. With each serving a suspension, Frater due to yellow card accumulation and Guzman due to a red card, the rest of the club will have to step up their game. In their place, Ryan Williams and Toni Soler may both be inserted into the team sheet. While not the only options available to Head Coach Troy Lesesne, this seems to be the most likely.
Frater’s suspension also puts more importance on the role that Santi Moar will play in the match. Moar finally found the net for the first time since May during the match against Minnesota United FC and it could be a sign of things to come. With any luck, the goal will spark something within Moar and he’ll be a regular on the score sheet again.
A start for Soler could be what he, and the club, needs right now. Over the past few matches, the midfield play has left much to be desired. A possible pairing of Soler and Saalih Muhammad would be a look we haven’t seen for some time and just might catch Fresno off guard.
Some may have questioned the defensive efforts of the club after the Minnesota match, but it can’t be forgotten that it was a top MLS club. Take out the deflections and the mistake by Justin Schmidt and suddenly it’s only a 2-1 match. The defense is greatly improved, but no back line is perfect. They have a chance to make a statement against Fresno FC on Saturday night.
United knows what has to be done as the season wears on. Realistically there have to be two goals; make the playoffs and win the Four Corners Cup. Make the playoffs and anything can happen.
Players to Watch
Toni Soler – It may be reaching for me to suggest Soler here or mentioning him as filling in for Guzman, but of the other midfielders, I think he’s got the best chance of helping shut down Fresno.
Josh Suggs – with him finding his match fitness, Suggs should be a force on both ends of the pitch. Fresno will have a tough time dealing with Suggs’ defensive prowess. He will have to be cautious to an extra though, as he is sitting on four yellow cards.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
- Goals: Frater (11)
- Assists: Chris Wehan (4)
- Clearances: Schmidt (65)
Fresno FC has started finding their stride in league play over the past few weeks. They have some momentum on their side since they are riding a three-match win streak. That may see an end as they try to go up against an improved, and refocused United squad.
The first time the two clubs met was United’s inaugural match at The Lab. That match ended in a 1-1 draw as United controlled the time of possession. But Fresno has improved since then and Qudus Lawal has been a big factor for them. With two goals during their current win streak, he’s now the club scoring leader and has improved his level of play greatly as the season has progressed.
One stat of note is that during their win streak, Fresno has been averaging 45% possession, which would play into United’s favor. Ramon Del Campo has been a stalwart in their defense and it shows with 70 clearances on the season. He could make life difficult for the United forwards throughout the night.
Players to Watch
Juan Pablo Caffa – one of Fresno’s key midfielders, he’s making a name for himself for finding key passes. He can create a number of opportunities for Lawal if given the chance.
Ramon del Campo – as mentioned above, he’s one of the better players on the Fresno defense. United need to get him out of rhythm and out of position with crisp ball movement and runs into the gaps.
Fresno FC Team Leaders
- Goals: Lawal (7)
- Assists: Jackson (5)
- Clearances: del Campo (70)
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 8:30 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, July 13. 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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