Coming off a road loss, New Mexico United must stay playoff-minded and secure the win.
By Seth Biddulph | Photo: BV Photos!
How bad do you want it?
That’s what it comes down to in sports. It doesn’t matter who is on the pitch and who isn’t. Do the players on the pitch want it enough to put it on all the line in order to take the three points from the opponent?
On Wednesday night we saw Atlanta United take on one of the most storied clubs in all of North America, Club América of Liga MX. Throughout the match, each of the two sides showed just how important the match was to them. Ultimately Atlanta United’s will to win and effort pushed through and they walked away with the Campeones Cup.
What does this have to do with New Mexico United (8-6-9)? More than you might think. On the podcast this week it was questioned whether or not the club was giving it 100% every single week. Head Coach and Technical Director Troy Lesesne goes out and prepares his club every week to the best of his ability for the upcoming opponent. What we see on the pitch is the fruit of those preparations.
The thing with preparation is that it only gets you so far. You can only be so prepared, you can only execute what you work on. It doesn’t take into account what the other side does or how they affect your gameplay. And when you come up against a club that might have your number on a given night, sometimes it comes down to who wants it more. Atlanta United showed they wanted it more against an opponent many considered their better.
It’s a mentality that some clubs don’t have.
New Mexico United has shown it throughout the season in league play and the Open Cup that they are capable of taking down Goliath. They need to maintain that type of mentality for the rest of the season. Of the remaining matches, four of them are against clubs currently in playoff positions. No matter who the opponent though, United have to be confident in what they are doing and that they can tough out the victory every week.
To the casual observer, the last two matches may not have appeared that positive. Yes, the results were a draw and a loss, but there were many positives. The first major positive to take away is the movement that was displayed by the forwards and midfielders. Multiple times over the past few matches the runs made Chris Wehan opened up the field for others and created numerous chances.
This Saturday night that will be an important factor against LA Galaxy 2 (8-8-8). Against a side has conceded as many goals as Los Dos has its important for United to find ways to keep pressuring the backline. Runs down the left and right channels by Wehan and Daniel Bruce will pull the pressure off the middle of the area and allow Kevaughn Frater and Santi Moar space to work their magic.
United are in a tough spot defensively this weekend. With both Josh Suggs and Manny Padilla serving suspensions, the remaining defenders will have their hands full. We predicted on the podcast that we would most likely see Austin Yearwood and Ethen Sampson step in for the match. The two were an integral part of the backline during Suggs’ absence early in the year so there should be familiarity in how this line will play together. There shouldn’t be a drop off in terms of defensive ability, but where United could lack is by missing the attacking threat from Josh Suggs.
Yes, Yearwood has pace, but he hasn’t shown the same ability to open up space for the midfielders. What does the expected lineup mean for the rest of the defenders?
It means that Justin Schmidt will need to have another standout performance like the one that garnered him our player of the match award a few weeks ago. The Los Dos midfielders are quite possibly their most dangerous attackers and are oftentimes played into the box by crosses. This is one area that United struggled with in the first matchup with Galaxy 2 and will need to improve upon that to see a better result.
Players to Watch
Kevaughn Frater – Kevaughn has been one of the fiercest players on the pitch for United all season long. At times it’s been a positive for the club and at others, it’s cost them, with Kevaughn serving multiple suspensions already this year. He can be passionate and a spark for United, but he has to keep his temperament from boiling over. Against Los Dos and their struggles to defend he could be in for a big night at The Lab.
Chris Wehan – His decisiveness and ability to pick his spots has helped United regain some of their form during recent matches. He could play an important role in creating space and chances for not only himself but Moar and Frater as well.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Frater (13)
Chances Created: Wehan (39)
Los Dos has shown a much-improved form in the second half of the season. They now find themselves sitting above the playoff line after improved contributions squad wide. It doesn’t hurt that a portion of their roster has been loaned down from their MLS counterpart.
Ethan Zubak is one such player. Having appeared with the USL club in a dozen matches so far, his contribution to the club’s results can’t be understated. Even with splitting time between both clubs, he’s managed to remain second in scoring for Los Dos. His ability to finish has been good enough to warrant time in the MLS, but not enough to keep him there. He’s shown that he can score against clubs like Phoenix Rising so Justin Schmidt will need to give his all to prevent Zubak from getting on the sheet.
Defensively for Galaxy 2, it will come down to can they make enough stops. Either in front of the goal or on the line itself. Near the worst in the league in goals conceded, someone is going to have to step up. With the weapons that United has, it will be a long night for the Galaxy 2 defense no matter what happens.
Players to Watch
Ethan Zubak – As discussed above, Zubak is a threat night in and night out. Against a depleted United defense he will be a handful and could find his way onto the score sheet.
Whoever the Galaxy 2 Keeper is – With a porous defense, it’s going to fall to whoever is the netminder for Galaxy 2 to get their backline in shape. They need to command their defenders and try to help set up the best possible defensive strategy to keep United out of the area.
LA Galaxy 2 Team Leaders
Goals: Kai Koreniuk (6)
Chances Created: Brian Iloski (41)
Josh: United 2-1
Seth: United 2-1
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 7:30 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, August 17. 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.