By Seth Biddulph | July 31, 2019 | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Home / The world tried to break me / I found a road to take me / Home
There ain’t nothing but a blue sky now / After all of my running / I’m finally coming
Home” – Gwyneth Paltrow
The past two months have been rough. The league schedule certainly did all it could to break New Mexico United (7-5-8). Eight matches away from home, multiple suspensions, and nearly two months without a win.
To think that it could have been worse. I mean, at least we had a good showing in the Open Cup right?
Unlike the character that was being portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie Country Strong, United wasn’t running away from anything. But there sure was a ton of running and with the win over Sacramento last week, the skies sure look a much nicer shade of blue than they have in recent times. Kicking off match week 21, goals from Chris Wehan and Daniel Bruce proved to be all the power United needed.
Now that the rest of the league has finished playing, United find themselves sitting in fifth as they return home to take on El Paso Locomotive FC (7-5-8). Although the clubs are even on points, United currently holds the tiebreaker between them. With only six points separating fourth through thirteenth, this is a pivotal match for both United and Locomotive.
United seems to have found any confidence they may have lost throughout the road trip. Just look at the play from Wehan last week. He was decisive, made strong runs, and genuinely disrupted the Sacramento defense for the full ninety. This is something that has been missing from the United forwards, especially over the past few weeks. To be fair though, without Kevaughn Frater the United attack has a very different feel. It’s something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by United supporters and often leaves them wondering just how the match will play out when he isn’t in the team sheet. This most recent performance goes to show that United is figuring out how to play without Frater.
It also looks like United is figuring out how to bend but not break in the defensive third. During the second half against Sacramento, Cody Mizell and company were under near regular pressure as the hosts were pressing for the win. Even with Sacramento getting the better of the time of possession, they weren’t afforded any clean looks as they were unable to find a finisher. The steady improvement the club has shown throughout the season bodes well for the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.
Players to Watch
Kevaughn Frater – After being absent from the team sheet last week, Frater should return barring any sort of injury that we are not aware of. In the first matchup between the two clubs, a 2-2 draw, Frater saw limited match time but should be an impact player this week.
Justin Schmidt – Schmidt will likely draw the job of tracking Jerome Kiesewetter, who scored bagged a brace in the first meeting. Schmidt has been solid all season and continues to show why he’s been a regular in the team sheets every match.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
- Goals: Frater (11)
- Assists: Wehan (4)
- Chances Created: Wehan (30)
El Paso has been struggling to nearly the same extent that United has been. Having been bitten by the injury bug Locomotive has looked rudderless, scoring only two goals in the previous six matches. Their only real scoring threat, Kiesewetter, has been out for the last five matches due to injury. Without him, El Paso hasn’t posed a real threat to any opposing defense.
Their last match against Real Monarchs SLC, did end in a draw, but there wasn’t much positive to take away from it. Now they have to come into The Lab, where United is near unstoppable. There is some hope for Locomotive as Kiesewetter, Yuma Monsalvez and Chiro N’Toko all set to return, the attack is looking a lot better for Locomotive fans.
Some questions remain regarding the status of keeper Logan Ketterer and whether or not he’ll return. He was one of five regulars for El Paso that did not play against Real.
One player who did get some playing time was new signee, Sebastien Velasquez. After not playing for months as he transitioned from living in South Korea, he looked more than capable at times against Real and could be another possible scoring threat to complement Kiesewetter.
Players to Watch
Jerome Kiesewetter – After taking the league by storm, Kiesewetter is looking to return to match fitness after missing several weeks. As mentioned before, he did bag a brace the first time these two clubs met, so he isn’t a player to be overlooked, even with the injury.
Yuma – Also returning from injury, Yuma will be looking to make an impact on the defensive third. He was sent off in the first match and there may still be some bad blood between the two sides. Yuma could be a player that United can exploit throughout the match.
El Paso Locomotive FC Team Leaders
- Goals: Kiesewetter (10)
- Assists: Omar Salgado, Sebastian Contreras (4)
- Chances Created: Contreras (35)
- Carlos – 3-1
- Alicia – 3-0
- Chris – 2-0
- Josh – 2-1
- Seth – 2-1
The match will be streamed live on ESPN3 beginning at 7:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Wednesday, July 31. International viewers will be able to watch the match live on YouTube. The match will also be broadcast live locally on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM and via The TEAM app
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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