Unbeaten in the last three matches, New Mexico United fall short as Portland Timbers 2 pick up their first win since June.
By Seth Biddulph | Photo: Adam Nish | firstname.lastname@example.org
Both New Mexico United and Portland Timbers 2 knew the importance of this match. For either club, a win could have possible playoff implications. For Timbers 2, it would move them back above the playoff line. For United, it would slide them into fourth and solidify their playoff outlook.
With a lineup featuring both Devon Sandoval and Kevaughn Frater, there was a reason to believe that a positive result was in the future for United. The night, however, did not start the way the visitors wanted.
The home side would take the early lead off of a corner. For the third time in two matches, United would concede off of a set piece situation. After an early corner, Foster Langsdorf would put the ball into the top left corner off the half volley. In what is becoming an issue once again for United, the club will need to find a way to better defend these types of scenarios.
Coming out of the goal, United would go on to control possession for the remainder of the half. Trying to fight back, the club would put in eight shots but couldn’t find the promised land. Outside of the goal, the half would be highlighted by two yellows awarded to Manny Padilla and Josh Suggs.
Statistically, United dominated possession in the first half. With nearly 62% possession, the expectation is that it comes with goals as well. United just couldn’t find the right touch to pull back level.
Neither side would make changes at halftime and the opening minutes of the second half was fairly even in terms of possession. That wouldn’t last for too long as the hosts would double their lead. Ryan Sierakowski would put a rocket from around 24 yards just inside the far post.
A flurry of activity would occur over the next twenty minutes as United pressed to find a way back into the match. Sandoval would take a tremendous shot from near the top of the area, but it would slam off the right post, inches from finding the net. Moments later Frater would step to the spot for a penalty attempt. The normally sure-footed striker had Timbers 2 keeper Aljaz Ivacic going the wrong way, but his attempt sailed well over the goal.
As the pressure continued to mount on Timbers 2, Santi Moar would finally get United back into the match. Moar would make Timbers defender Nathan Smith the latest victim of nutmeg and finish with a high shot, through the arms of Ivacic. Now only down a goal, United held to hope of salvaging at least a point in the Pacific Northwest.
That hope would be dashed moments later. A very poor decision from the referee left Timbers 2 with a penalty attempt. Todd Wharton would bury the attempt into the right corner, past a diving Cody Mizell. Mizell would get a slight touch on the ball but was unable to make the save. Back down by two, things looked bleak for the visitors.
To make matters worse, Padilla would pick up a second yellow on the night and was sent off. The call appeared to be another poor decision from the referee, but appeals from Lesesne went unheard by the referee. Now shorthanded as well, it would have been easy for United to sit back and just absorb the Portland attack for the duration of the match.
Not a side to give in, however, United would pull yet another back. This time the heroics came from David Estrada. Sandoval would flick a back heel over to Estrada who was able to pick up his second goal of the season.
Lesesne would pull out all the stops in the final minutes of the match, even sending Mizell forward to try and find a last-minute equalizer. Time would run out on United’s chances and Portland would pick up their first victory since June.
Player of the Match
Santi Moar – Santi was relentless in the attack all night. He disrupted the Portland defenders and made runs on each side of the field when called upon. His ball skills allowed him to get in close and find a finisher for his tenth goal of the campaign.
United return home for a match next weekend against LA Galaxy 2. What was already expected to be a tough task for the club became even tougher after tonight. Both Suggs and Padilla will miss the match after picking up their fifth yellow and a red card respectively.
That match will take place on Saturday, August 17 with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (Mountain).