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The Knighted Front: New Energy from United Will Secure A Playoff Spot, OKC Downed 3-1

New Mexico emerged from its current winless streak to secure three points on the road.

By Chris Walker | Photo: Adam Nish

When New Mexico United and Austin Bold ended their battle in a 2-2 draw, it ended United’s two-match win streak. United went winless through August and the conversation surrounding the club shifted away from playoff contention and focused on match-to-match shortcomings. Technical Director and Head Coach Troy Lesesne deflected playoff pressures by stepping up his involvement in the club’s training week preparations. United led OKC Energy FC 2-1 through the second half and put the match out of reach with a late goal winning 3-1 on Sunday afternoon at Taft Stadium.

Sword and Shield (New Mexico United, 9-8-10, 37 points)

Boundaries Defined

United’s back four has come up in our weekly analysis surrounding a breakdown in communication. In this match, center backs Justin Schmidt and Rashid Tetteh kept Energy FC forward Deshorn Brown within the limits throughout the match. Within the first ten minutes, Brown had tested United’s virtual fencing getting called offside within minutes of each attempt.

Brown would continue to pressure the hinges lining up off of Schmidt to isolate Tetteh on diagonal runs into the generous amount of space United offers throughout the match. Lesesne shouted out his cadence to his backline to move forward. Brown tested his speed out against Tetteh on some fifty-fifty balls that did not result in a goal. Eventually Brown would get in behind our backline in tighter spaces.

Overall, United dictated run of play by setting a successful offsides trap throughout the match. Schmidt was commended through the broadcast for his leadership. Tetteh and Schmidt came up huge.

Converting Chances

United created 12 chances on the day, which were created by 8 players. They converted on 2 chances, Devon Sandoval’s goal at 11-minute (assist by David Estrada) and Chris Wehan’s goal at the 71-minute (assist by Daniel Bruce). Bruce (3), Chris Wehan (2), and Schmidt (2) accounted for the majority of United’s chance creation.

Sandoval made out with a brace. He successfully converted on a penalty kick attempt at the 16-minute mark. Santi Moar being fouled inside the box set up United’s 2-0 lead over Energy FC.

Bad Touches

United and Energy FC exchanged time in-possession through spells of bad touches through the middle of the pitch. Energy FC maintained a loose press through United’s middle third and constricted space when the ball was passed to Tetteh. Energy FC looked for opportunities to create turnovers and mount an attack into United’s defending half.

The lone goal that Energy FC scored came from a bad pass from United’s Santi Moar intended for Juan Guzman. Energy FC’s Christian Eissele recovered the loose ball and shuttled a through ball up to an eager Brown. Brown escaped the custody of Tetteh and Schmidt and pierced the netting behind United goalkeeper Cody Mizell.

Energy FC’s passing accuracy in United’s half was 56 percent by the end of the match. This is due to United stepping into gaps to create turnovers. United had the edge on being in-possession and their pass accuracy in Energy FC’s half was at 73 percent. United’s run of play through the second thirty-minute interval of this match was a pure testament to how well they controlled possession

Run of Play (The Beautiful Game)

I would like to point out United’s run of play at the 37-minute mark through the 41-minute mark when Energy FC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi kills the United attack off with a goal kick.

The sequence at 37: Tetteh kicks it off with a set piece, which goes to Moar. Moar sends a cross pass to Wehan. Wehan deflects the ball off the side of his boot to Suggs. Suggs sends a cross pass to Estrada. Estrada passes to Manny Padilla. Padilla chips the ball to Wehan. Wehan was in a position to head the ball in towards the goal but, doesn’t connect with the pass. United cycle possession back around. During this time, United swarmed Energy FC’s attacking half.

Lineup Switch-ups

Sam Hamilton served as a center mid. Hamilton, who usually fields a position as a center back for United, served as a passing pivot point. This was evident with the 89 passes he facilitated. The only other person to have as many passes was Juan Guzman.

If you remember that giant game of keep away where there was a lone OKC player at the center of a 5-point matrix. That was astonishing. One of the moments where you witness how loose OKC played or how well United spread out to dominate ball movement.

This was a great addition to the lineup with Saalih Muhammad out serving his 3 match ban. Hamilton had played midfielder during his stint at Phoenix Rising FC.

Ethan Sampson came into the match for Moar. This was a new look for Sampson, who also spends his minutes in the right back position. Lesesne coached Sampson initially on coverage area and pace. He was obviously playing out of position, but willing to play anywhere to help his team.

I asked Lesesne about this substitution. He did not respond to my inquiry. If I see Sampson in that role again, I’ll be sure to ask.

Kings Court

Devon Sandoval – David Estrada heads a ball into Sandoval’s perimeter and Sandoval opts for the bicycle kick to blast the ball into the goal. Sandoval stepped up to take the penalty kick awarded to United when Moar was dragged to the ground in the goal box.

Daniel Bruce – Bruce created 3 chances in the evening. Bruce passed the ball up to Padilla. Padilla before being pushed to the ground manages to keep United in-possession. Bruce runs by and scoops the ball and United sends numbers up. As Bruce is rounding the corner of the 18, Lesesne shouts out a cadence to indicate that Wehan was trailing up the middle. Bruce dumps off a pass to Wehan and Wehan buzzes a ball past Laurendi’s eyes for the score.

Justin Schmidt – Schmidt set the backline fencing throughout the match. Clear communication kept Energy FC offsides on a half-dozen run attempts initiated by Deshorn Brown. Schmidt also created 2 chances.

Chris Wehan – Wehan scored United’s third goal and created 2 chances.

Listen Up!: (Technical Directory, Head Coach Troy Lesesne (Before the results of the OKC Match)

On Sunday’s away match against OKC Energy FC

“This has been one of our best weeks of training. Everyone is sharing what I think is a phenomenal mindset. The guys dug in even deeper, challenging each other and keeping each other accountable for doing their jobs. I was really pleased with this week of training and I’m expecting to see that play out in Oklahoma”

On the remainder of the season

“I think we have a long season, no doubt about that. We have played 5 more matches than most of our opponents. At the same time, we maybe have gotten away from some of the concentration that we had earlier in the season. We just need to find that again. Anything else is an excuse. We have eight matches left and we just need to get it done.”

Next Battle (Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, 6-17-5, 23 points)

Switchbacks FC is coming off of a 1-1 draw with Austin Bold. In their last 5 matches, Bold is 0-3-2. The previous meeting between Switchbacks FC and United took place at Weidner Field in Colorado. United won that match 3-1 and Kevaughn Frater bagged his second hat trick of the season. United also won the Open Cup meeting between the two teams as well. New Mexico is 1-3-1 in their last 5 matches and currently sitting at 9th place in the standings.

Our in-depth preview for Switchbacks vs. United is coming next.

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