With the Post-Season near, United have only picked up 2 points from the last three matches.
By Seth Biddulph | Photo: Adam Nish | firstname.lastname@example.org
(Albuquerque, NM) New Mexico United played host to visiting LA Galaxy II in front of a record-breaking attendance of 15,247 spectators. The match result was a 2-2 draw at The Lab on Saturday evening.
In front of another record crowd, New Mexico United gave everything they could but still fell short. It was one of those nights where everything that could go wrong, did. Some of that was United shooting themselves in the foot, some of it had to do with the field quality.
Make no mistake about it, this wasn’t United earning a point. It was LA Galaxy II stealing two points.
United had chances to not only open the scoring but put the match away later on. An early chance from Chris Wehan, who found himself in space, was expertly paced, but it was well wide of the frame.
Los Dos would respond minutes later by taking advantage of what is United’s biggest flaw; their issues defending. Newcomer Muhammad Kamara would find space inside the six-yard box, and with some impressive ball-handling make enough room to get a shot off. Less than ten minutes into his professional career, the young man had opened his account and put his side on top.
United’s attack would then roar to life, controlling the ball for large periods. Even with the increased pressure, United wouldn’t find the net until the clock neared the half-hour mark. After a set piece opportunity for Los Dos inside the United half was cleared, United was able to go on a counter with Kevaughn Frater leading the attack. On a mad dash down the center of the pitch, and flanked by Santi Moar and Chris Wehan, Frater shrugged off potential fouls from three different Galaxy II defenders. As Frater went down under pressure from the final defender, it opened up a two on one opportunity for Moar and Wehan. Two quick passes and Wehan found himself with an open net and he slammed it home to bring the hosts level.
After LA Galaxy II midfielder Adam Saldana was sent off later in the half with his second yellow, it looked as though United would have ample opportunity to take the lead and pick up three points. As United would soon learn though, Galaxy II wasn’t about to give up despite being down a man.
Los Dos would address being a man down as soon as they came out for the second half. Bringing on two defenders, they would switch to a 4-4-1 and play more compact. The resiliency of the Galaxy II defense, which hadn’t been seen much on the season, proved difficult for United to break down at first.
United would find an opportunity just after the hour mark. Wehan would make a run down the middle of the pitch and get a chance to put the ball on frame. His rocket was well-paced and out of the reach of Galaxy II keeper Eric Lopez, but it went off the crossbar. It wouldn’t be long before he had another chance though.
In an unusual switch of roles, after United was awarded a penalty it would be Wehan stepping to the spot instead of Frater. “I have an order that I talk to them about,” said Lesesne. “They (the players) are supposed to execute that order.” Wehan’s attempt was well taken, but it was right down the middle and an easy save for Lopez.
Under fire for much of the second half, Galaxy II didn’t have many offensive opportunities, but they wouldn’t need them. With a chance of their own to counter, Augustine Williams would dash into the right side of United’s goal area. Going down on what appeared to be a soft foul, Galaxy was awarded a penalty.
Williams would make the attempt, going to the top left corner of the goal while Cody Mizell would go the opposite way. Ahead again, things looked promising for Galaxy II.
To their credit though, United kept up the pressure. Only minutes after the Galaxy penalty, United would be awarded a second chance from the spot. This time Frater would be the one to step up. The Jamaican, who has been near unstoppable from the spot, had Lopez going the wrong way and attempted a panenka (a chipped shot). Although well placed, between the pace of the shot and the condition of the sod, the ball nearly died before it crossed the goal line. Fortunately for Frater, there was just enough pace on the ball to carry it over the line for the second equalizer.
The sod was an issue all night for both clubs. On multiple occasions, players slipped when attempting to play through the infield area. Ron Patel, VP of Sales and Partnerships, would say that the sod was laid at its usual interval before the match. From an observer’s standpoint, the condition of the sod would play a factor in the outcome of the match, with players slipping as they were trying to play the ball in the goal area.
“Up a man for that long, you need to come away with three points. Field conditions don’t matter at all,” said Lesesne when asked if the field played a factor in the outcome.
With the clock creeping ever closer to full time, Los Dos did everything they could to milk the clock. From slow restarts on goal kicks to taking fouls and injuries that weren’t there, it became a frustratingly slow pace of play.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s part of the game,” said Moar about how much time Galaxy II was wasting. “I probably have to deal with it better, we as a team have to deal with it better.”
With the referee not doing anything to help speed things along, United was limited in their options for the final minutes. There were several opportunities for them to take the lead, but between slips inside the box on the previously mentioned sod and several poorly taken shots, the winner wasn’t to be found.
United didn’t earn a point on this night, they dropped two points. The frustration of the players and Troy showed during the post-match press conference. They all reiterated the same points, as a club they have to handle the time-wasting better a and they have to convert the chances they are given.
Lesesne did state that he was happy with the chances created, but the club has to be better at converting those chances into goals.
Player of the Match
Kevaughn Frater – his relentless attack and unlimited energy gave United plenty of opportunities to pull out a victory. He single-handedly created the offensive attack that led to the first goal and he converted on United’s second penalty attempt of the night.
New Mexico United will make a trip down to San Antonio FC in a crucial Western Conference matchup. That match will take place on August 24 at 6:30 p.m. (Mountain).