New Mexico United need to catch fire during homestand to keep pace in the race for the playoffs.
By Seth Biddulph | Photo: Adam Nish
With summer finally seemingly starting to give way to fall here in New Mexico, fans may be expecting things to cool off at The Lab. Hopefully, it’s only the weather that does so. The cooling weather means one thing – playoffs are near.
New Mexico United (9-8-10) finally performed at a level that they, and the fans, knew they could last week. After a dominating 3-1 victory on the road, United return home to take on Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (6-17-5) in the first of a four-match homestand. The importance of the homestand cannot be understated, dropping points at this stage could mean missing the playoffs.
United’s strengths were on display last week in Oklahoma City. After jumping out to a quick start, the effectively managed the midfield and prevented OKC Energy from getting clean looks. While Switchbacks FC won’t present near the challenge that OKC did, no club in the USL can be overlooked.
Kevaughn Frater has been instrumental in the first two wins against Switchbacks FC this year. With four goals in two matches, including Open Cup play, Frater has unstoppable against them. The play from Chris Wehan and Santi Moar will be instrumental in helping to create space for Frater to operate in against the Switchbacks FC back line.
Defensively, United need to maintain the level of play they exhibited against Energy FC. Justin Schmidt and Rashid Tetteh were exceptional against an opponent looking to maintain their place in the playoff standings. With Switchbacks FC coming to town, the pair have an opportunity to shine opposite the worst scoring club in the USL.
United will want to get off to another fast start and look to limit the chances for Switchbacks FC. When scoring first, United is now 7-0-7 on the season and have a good chance to add to that mark this weekend.
Players to Watch
Kevaughn Frater – Frater has been nothing short of a nightmare for Switchbacks FC to deal with in the first two meetings. Provided he can stay out of the referee’s book, Frater could not only find the net multiple times but also put himself in a position to possibly have a yellow card rescinded next week.
Sam Hamilton – Although Sam is typically a defender, last week his number was called to fill in for the still suspended Saalih Muhammad in the midfield. Sam’s performance was top notch and if called upon again, he could play a major role in controlling the midfield.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Frater (14)
Chances Created: Chris Wehan (49)
After a mid-season coaching change, many Switchbacks supporters hoped that they would be able to turn their season around. It hasn’t worked out as they had hoped, however. Switchbacks FC is in the midst of a winless streak that dates back to July 20th. Although they are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet, their already slim chances could be drastically reduced this weekend.
Their struggles have been two-fold this season. Between being the lowest scoring club in the league and near the worst in goals conceded, they just haven’t figured out a solution. Jordan Burt has been the most consistent scorer for the club with six on the season but hasn’t converted a chance since August 10th.
Inconsistencies at both ends of the pitch can create issues for any club. The task is going to be even tougher for Switchbacks FC this weekend as they try to stop one of the most potent offenses in the league.
Player to Watch
Shane Malcolm – The midfielder is one of the few threats coming from the Switchbacks FC roster. With solid play throughout the year, he’s been a bright spot for the club. He makes few mistakes and is capable of finding the net when given space.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Team Leaders
Goals: Burt (6)
Chances Created: Ismaila Jome (47)
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 7:30 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, September 14. International viewers will be able to watch the match live on YouTube. ESPN+ is viewable online via the ESPN app or across a variety of mobile and connected living room devices, including Amazon’s Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and more. The match will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM and via The TEAM App as well as Estrella TV 7.2.