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New Mexico United Leaves with Three from The City of Trees

By Seth Biddulph | July 25, 2019 | seekandstrikecollective@gmail.com

SACRAMENTO – Daniel Bruce rockets a long-range shot in the 89th gives New Mexico United the 2-1 victory over Sacramento Republic FC at Papa John’s Park on Wednesday.

Before the match even started, United fans were expressing concern across social media about the team sheet for the night. A surprise to everyone, Kevaughn Frater was left out of the 18. On the broadcast, they mentioned a suspension due to yellow card accumulation, but that was served the week prior. So, the question remained, where was Frater? (SB: I reached out to the club, but at the time of writing did not receive an answer.)

The trip to Papa John’s Park started not unlike other matches we’ve seen so far this year. New Mexico United had an early opportunity, but it was cut short by the referee’s inability to blow his whistle.

Just as the clock was passing the two-minute mark, Kenny Akamatsu made a run into the area from the right side but was taken down from behind. While many United fans were likely calling for a penalty, the referee thought otherwise and allowed play to continue. It’s just the latest poor call, or non-call in this case, that United has experienced this year. Having seen similar situations be called against them throughout the year, it would have been easy to let it affect them early in the match. United, being the fighters that they are though, wouldn’t let that early decision by the referee deter them for long.

After a fantastic through ball from Juan Pablo Guzman, Chris Wehan would find himself on the attack. Going full speed at Dekel Keinan, Wehan would take the ball onto his right foot and put a screamer past Rafael Diaz and into the back-right corner to put the visitors up in the 10th.

Sacramento began to come alive after the near-miss from Santi Moar on the 22nd minute. Over the next ten minutes, Sacramento put a lot more pressure on the United defensive third. Villyan Bijev’s curler came close, but a diving save from Cody Mizell kept the ball out of the net and gave United a chance to slow down the attack from the Republic.

Bijev and Iwasa were starting to make an impact on the match, but it would be United who looked to be the more dangerous of the two sides. Wehan and Moar would each get chances from near the top of the box, but each would be deflected and saved, respectively.

Devon Sandoval would pick up a questionable yellow as the half came to a close. On what was a 50/50 ball, Sandoval would both take possession and collide with Republic defender Ray Saari. It appeared as though Sandoval won the ball fairly and would have had a 1-on-1 situation with Diaz, but once again the referee stopped play and decided to show the yellow, effectively ending the threat from United for the half.

As the match progressed the level of physicality picked up and played into the hands of United. While United seems to relish the physical play, Sacramento didn’t handle it well. Sacramento’s frustrations started to boil over and their level of play suffered for it.

Where you could see United come out and play more methodical after the half, Sacramento was playing more on edge and trying to force the issue. The frantic style of play would cause issues for United, pulling them out of shape and would lead to the Sacramento equalizer in the 75th.

After a corner for Sacramento went awry, the ball would ultimately fall to Sam Werner on the right side of the pitch. His curling effort would go just inside the far post and even up the score. After the goal from Werner, there was a feeling of unease, as the Sacramento attack wouldn’t relent. Shot after shot came towards the goal, but they were all either saved by Mizell or they were off target.

United’s shape held up just long enough for Daniel Bruce to turn the tide once and for all. In the 89th, Bruce took a shot off a volley and sent it soaring into the top left corner of the goal. His first career goal as a professional couldn’t have come at a better time and is quite possibly a shoo-in for the USL Championship Goal of the Week.

Mizell would come through moments later with a tremendous save, preserving the lead until time ran out on the match. For the first time since May 25, United finally found a way to pick up three points in league play and jumping up to 5th in the Western Conference standings.

Player of the Match

Most weeks there is a clear-cut player of the match. This week, however, there were two players whose efforts stood out among the others. Chris Wehan and Daniel Bruce. It’s hard to not give it to both of them, they both had outstanding matches. Wehan was vital to the club’s success tonight and both scored goals. Both of them deserve a ton of praise for the way they played tonight.

I have to pick one though, that’s the completely arbitrary rule I set up. For me, I have to give it to Daniel Bruce. Not taking anything away from Chris, he was tremendous as well. Bruce’s effort has been nothing short of tremendous all season long and tonight it paid off as he was also able to pick up his first professional goal.

Up Next

United is finally heading home. After a period of close to two months on the road, United will have two matches at home next week. The first of those two pivotal matches will take place on July 31, when United will host El Paso Locomotive FC. That match will kick off at 7 p.m. (Mountain).

Photo Credit: Josh Lane/NM United

Seth Biddulph is a writer for Seek & Strike Collective covering New Mexico United. Follow him on Twitter and join in on the conversation @SethBiddulph

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