By Seth Biddulph | Photo: Giavanni Deglado
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. – United States Postal Service ‘motto’
Neither rain or lightning would deny what many thought would be the inevitable outcome of the match between New Mexico United and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. After kicking off nearly two hours late, United quickly took control of the third meeting between the two clubs this season.
Deftly moving the ball around the field, United midfielders Sam Hamilton and Toni Soler kept Switchbacks FC from finding any sort of rhythm in their own half. Unable to keep up with the ball, Switchbacks would soon find themselves falling behind to the hosts. Only eight minutes in, Switchbacks defender Ismaila Jome would fail to clear a cross at the top of the box, allowing an in-form Devon Sandoval to take possession. Sandoval would expertly put a right-footed shot towards goal and shake the net for the first time on the night.
Coming into the match, United had a 7-0-6 record when scoring first and the early goal from Sandoval gave the supporters reason to believe that the same trend would continue. United would carry the momentum forward, continually harassing Abraham Rodriguez for much of the first half. After multiple chances failed to double the lead, Switchbacks FC was able to play themselves into more of a threatening position.
Saeed Robinson and Fernando Gonzalez gave Switchbacks their best looks on goal in the first half just after the half-hour mark. On consecutive shots, each of them would be off the mark by mere inches, going off the post twice. After being tested defensively, United would once again find their spark.
With a renewed sense of urgency, United would come close to doubling the lead just before the half ended. Both Sandoval and Chris Wehan would threaten Rodriguez, but their near misses were only a precursor of what was to come. By the end of the half, United not only looked in control by the eye test but statistically held a 64 percent possession rate.
Last week in Oklahoma, the club failed to capitalize on the momentum they had built in the first half and allowed an early second-half goal. This week was a different story as Sandoval would double the lead less than three minutes after play resumed. A resurgent Manny Padilla would play a through ball as Sandoval streaked up the right wing. Switchbacks FC defender Kristoffer Reaves misjudged the path of the ball, allowing it to get behind him and into the feet of Sandoval. Rodriguez was nutmegged with a right-footed shot, Sandoval would shake the net again for the hosts.
Even though they now had a two-goal lead, United wasn’t content to just play out the match. With runs materializing from every possible channel, Switchbacks FC didn’t know which way to turn. It wouldn’t take long for United to extend the lead, once again the result of a Sandoval goal.
Padilla and Sandoval would link up again in the 66th and put the match well out of reach. Padilla would put toe to leather and deliver an inch-perfect to Sandoval inside the box. Sandoval would get his head to it and flick it back across the face of the goal, settling into the far left corner.
With the three-goal lead, United just needed to see out the match, something they’ve struggled with this season. Unlike the first two meetings when Switchbacks FC folded after falling behind, they had a much attitude about them this time around. Maintaining the aggressiveness they had shown at times, they earned themselves a corner with just under fifteen minutes remaining. Jome would make amends for his earlier mistake by delivering a ball into the danger area. Jerome Burt would be left unmarked and that would cost United. Burt would head the ball down off the pitch and into the net to pull one back for the visitors.
The lone goal would be all that Switchbacks FC could manage despite their best efforts. The very physical affair ended with United taking a large step forward in their hunt for a spot in the playoffs. Now with a two-match winning streak, United will play host to Reno 1868 FC in yet another pivotal match.
Player of the Match
Devon Sandoval – Devon is starting to change the mind of his detractors with his form over the past two weeks. What better way to improve upon a brace but with a hat trick in front of a home crowd. Sandoval has shown much-improved finishing and more quality touches. With United needing to be careful when it comes to managing the yellow card situation of Kevaughn Frater, Sandoval has stepped up and filled his shoes admirably.
United’s quest for the playoffs continues next Friday, when they welcome Reno 1868 FC to The Lab. Not only is the club looking to provide some additional security to their playoff ambitions, they are also looking for some revenge. The first time the two sides met, Reno prevailed 2-1 and were able to keep both Frater and Moar off the scoresheet. The match is scheduled to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 20