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The Knighted Front: Reno Rivalry Yields No Redemption For United, Postseason Talks Rising

Reno 1868 clinches postseason berth after winning 3-1 over New Mexico United.

By Chris Walker | Photo: Adam Nish

Sword & Shield (New Mexico United 10-9-10)

Heading into the match against Reno 1868, New Mexico United was positioned in the No. 7 spot in the Table standings. United had a maximum total of 58 points it could earn if it won every match remaining on its fixture. United would have kept its current standing or possibly moved up between the No. 4 and No. 6 spot due to three-way play that will take place between Orange County, Sacramento, and Salt Lake City in the coming weeks. This is, of course, if United won out and got some assistance from higher-ranked opponents.

There are two things to consider here. First, United would be in postseason play if it had just won out against the remaining opponents on the fixture. Second, United may have landed outside of the play-in round sitting somewhere in the No. 4 through No. 6 spot on the Table.

The result derived from the match against Reno 1868 was 0 points. This 3-1 loss to the visiting side reduced the maximum points total that United could attain to 55 points and would position them somewhere between the No. 7 and No. 10 spot.

United featured nearly the same lineup that it had won back-to-back matches with weeks prior. The only difference was that Ethen Sampson was in for Josh Suggs.

Suggs’ removal from the starting eleven was due to a minor migraine that had come upon him during warmups. United’s Technical Director and Head Coach, Troy Lesesne, did not want to take any chances with Suggs so, Sampson would be stepping in from the bench. This late scratch cost United a substitution in the match. United’s bench featured midfielders and forwards. Austin Yearwood was not in the match day eighteen. Tommy Madden had played in the left-back position early in the season against Orange County so, Lesesne was not fully out of options, if needed.

Reno had not clinched their postseason berth at the onset of this match. This was their focus heading into the match against United. Reno sat trailing United 1-0 through much of the first half as Santi Moar put their postseason plans on hold with an early goal just under 10 minutes into the match. United’s run of play leading to this scoring sequence was an applied high press that led to multiple changes in possession. United’s off the ball movement and ball rotation synchronized to allow United’s Juan Guzman to find a wide-open Devon Sandoval down in the right channel outside the 18-yard box. Sandoval wasted no time chipping the ball in to a leaping Chris Wehan. Wehan did not connect with the ball, which eventually fell onto the foot of Moar. Moar drove towards the middle of Reno’s backline and buried a crossbody shot in the back-left corner of the goal. Moar hadn’t scored since August 11th when United faced Portland Timbers II on the road.

Reno found possession of the ball and attempted some early strikes towards United’s goalkeeper, Cody Mizell. Mizell’s save efforts towards strikes taken by Reno’s Lindo Mfeka and Slad Haji may just have earned him USL Championship Save of the Week. Nearing the end of the first half, Reno’s Corey Hertzog rockets a ball into the top shelf of the goal off Mizell’s fingertips. Hertzog had been left unmarked by United’s midfield line so, he took the shot and evened up the score line at 1-1. Reno’s Brent Richards sent a cross pass back into the box. Haji deflected the ball to Hertzog for the score. Reno nearly made it two goals within the same minute as they seized possession of the ball moments after and fired a shot on target before the whistle blew play dead.

The equalizer was inevitably coming any moment as Reno started to control more of the possession in this match. At the 15th minute, Reno had about 36 percent of possession and by stoppage time, they had been in-possession 46 percent of the half.

By the start of the second half, it appeared United had killed Reno’s momentum at the 50th minute when Moar passed a ball to Wehan while he onside that Wehan scored on. Though the goal was waived off because Wehan was determined to be offsides when before the ball made it to him. This was a huge turn of events in this match. Reno had Wehan marked well throughout the match. He ended with the club’s 2 offsides calls, 1 shot on target, 2 shots off target, blocked shots, but on the positive he did create 4 chances on the day. 

Reno scored twice in the next five minutes. Mfeka set up a corner kick, which was awarded to Reno by a clever save by Mizell where he was 1v1 with Hertzog following a bad touch by Justin Schmidt. Mfeka’s cross pass found Richards for a header and Reno went up 2-1. United turned the ball over less than a minute later when Sam Hamilton lost possession to Mfeka. Mfeka sent a through ball to an onside Hertzog that blasted by United’s Justin Schmidt for the score. 

Reno’s Kevin Partida is shown two yellow cards within 5 minutes so, he is sent off. United goes up a man. United’s Moar get a yellow card so, he will sit the next match against Phoenix. United’s Kevaughn Frater had been in the match since the 58th minute and did not earn any yellow cards. Frater had a yellow card removed due to good behavior.

Kings Court

  • Santi Moar: Moar scored United’s goal.
  • Chris Wehan: Wehan created 4 chances on the day.

Next Battle (Phoenix Rising FC 22-3-5)

Phoenix Rising FC is 10-3-2 on the road this season. Their only losses coming from Austin Bold, Fresno FC, and Orange County SC. Rising went 0-0-4 through their first four matches this season, which includes a 3-3 draw against then-visiting New Mexico United. United led through three scoring transitions in that match where Solomon Asante and Santi Moar both found the net twice.

In the Open Cup Tournament, Devon Sandoval scored both goals for United. Sandoval equalized in extra time and this forced the match into penalty kicks. United won 4-3 on kicks.

Rising will be visiting New Mexico this Saturday. They are coming off a 20-match win streak, which ended after Fresno had two successful defenses against penalty kicks attempted by Asante.

Rising’s Asante, Adam Jahn, and Junior Flemmings have scored a total of 51 goals combined. Asante leads the Golden Boot competition with 22 goals. He also has 15 assists, while Flemmings has 7 assists. Zac Lubin is in goal for Rising this time around instead of Carl Woszczynski. Lubin has 71 saves and 13 clean sheets

Rising has too much speed up front. Asante has created 80 chances for his club so, there’s always someone stepping up to take a shot if those three men are marked. Rising has 10 men in double figures in the shot category. 

United’s backline will have to tighten the spaces and have solid communication to draw Rising players offside.  Lesesne will have to send fewer numbers up as a result of getting a head start on defensive transition. United will need to spread out a bit and have a good movement on and off the ball. United will be without Moar for this match. I expect to see Daniel Bruce in the starting lineup with David Estrada playing in for Moar.

Postseason from New Mexico’s Vantage Point

4 Orange County SC (GP 29, 45 pts, 5 left: RGV, OKC, SLC, SAC, FRS) – Max 60

5 Sacramento (GP 29, 44 pts, 5 left: ELP, LA, TUL, OC, SLC) – Max 59

6 Real Monarch (GP 29, 43 pts, 5 left: RNO, AUS, OC, PHX, SAC) – Max 58

7 Austin Bold (GP 30, 43 pts, 4 left: POR, SLC, ELP, TAC) – Max 55

8 New Mexico (GP 29, 40 pts, 5 left: PHX, RGV, TUL, TAC, LV) – Max 55

9 Los Angeles (GP 29, 40 pts, 5 left: OKC, SAC, COS, FRS, ELP) – Max 55

10 El Paso (GP 28, 39 pts, 6 left: SAC, FRS, RNO, AUS, POR, LA) – Max 57

11 San Antonio (GP 29, 38 pts, 5 left: TUL, FRS, LV, POR, COS) – Max 53

12 Portland (GP 29, 38 pts, 5 left: AUS, PHX, SA, ELP, RGV) – Max 53

13 OKC (GP 30, 38 pts, 4 left: LA, OC, RGV, PHX) – Max 50

14 LV (GP 30, 35 pts, 4 left: COS, SA, RNO, NM) – Max 47

It’s too early to clinch.

United is currently sitting with 40 points with a total of 15 points it can earn. So, New Mexico can earn 55 points if it wins all five matches. So United controls its own destiny in this scenario. 

United will need help from other teams if it draws or loses against Phoenix this weekend.

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