By Seth Biddulph | Photo: Josh Lane
On a night where United needed to take all three points, they failed to get off the ground.
Frustration. That’s the emotion that came flooding off the pitch and out of the park at the end of the match. Frustration with New Mexico United (10-9-12) playing down to the level of Rio Grande Valley FC (9-15-8). Frustration with RGV playing bunker ball and United being unable to break it.
The questions are being asked about United, and so far they aren’t being answered adequately. Is New Mexico United a playoff-caliber club? If you were to judge just off last night’s performance, it’s hard to say. United dominated time of possession, completing nearly double the number of passes of RGV. That was indicative of the game plan the Toros had coming into the night, play deep and force United to try and break their defense.
Most of the media had predicted that United would be able to easily handle RGV. Unfortunately, predictions are just that; predictions.
After Kevaughn Frater found his way back into foul trouble last week, it was no surprise to see him listed as a sub again this week. But it was a surprise to see Santi Moar outside of the starting XI. Having served his suspension last week, it was expected that he would get the nod in a must-win match. Instead, Troy Lesesne opted for the inclusion of little-used midfielder Toni Soler.
Although United dominated possession from the opening whistle, they struggled with their touch. A theme that would continue throughout the match for both sides, heavy touches would bring an early stop to many stretches of possession. One such touch by Soler would give RGV possession in the box that had to be dealt with. One of RGV’s strengths lies in their ability to strike on the counter-attack.
After United was unable to convert on a corner opportunity in the 37th, RGV was able to spring pacey midfielder Kevin Rodriguez down the left wing. Sprinting past the entire United roster, Rodriguez would make his way into the far corner of the box. Rashid Tetteh and Soler would converge on Rodriguez effectively eliminating any goal scoring threat, but Soler would foul giving the referee the opportunity to signal for a penalty to RGV.
There was contact in the box, but the probability of Rodriguez being able to score in that situation was slim to none. Within that scenario, the referee should not have called for a penalty. RGV forward Carlos Small would be the one to step to the spot and would fire towards the top right corner. Cody Mizell would guess correctly, but an outstretched arm couldn’t stop the shot allowing the visitors to take the lead.
Now down a goal, United hoped to find a response before the end of the half. Minutes later, Sam Hamilton would do just that.
Manny Padilla, as he has done frequently this season, found himself in possession on the right wing. With space, he would send a cross in towards the near post where Hamilton was waiting. Hamilton’s diving header would redirect the ball towards the far post and well out of reach of RGV keeper Nicolas Corti.
Having struck back before the break, United needed to carry that momentum through the rest of the match. In the first substitution of the match, Lesesne would bring on Santi Moar for the struggling Soler.
It quickly became clear that RGV was playing for the draw, dropping even deeper on the pitch. United continued their dominance in possession as they tried to force their way into goal scoring opportunities. As they had throughout the match, United struggled with their crosses. Time after time, crosses would go towards the far post, but no one would be there. Even the introduction of Frater couldn’t provide United with an opening.
United wasn’t without opportunities, however. After the match, Lesesne would lament the inability of the club to convert on their chances. Failing to convert has plagued United at times throughout the season and has cost them valuable points.
For much of the second half, RGV was content to sit in their own half waiting to counter. It wasn’t until much later in the match that RGV would start to look for a winner. Juan Carlos Obregon Jr. would come close in the 89th, putting a shot off the bar that had Mizell frozen. Even with five minutes of stoppage, United was unable to find a winner.
With yet another draw, United failed to take charge of their playoff dreams. After the end of the night, United found themselves sitting in 10th, while RGV was eliminated from the postseason.
Player of the Match
Sam Hamilton – another solid effort from Sam in the midfield helped the club contain the attack from Michael Salazar. Sam’s second goal of the season was from a fantastic header and he also created three additional chances.
The result isn’t what United wanted on the night, but the draw along with other results around the league puts United into 10th in the table. Still with a match in hand, United has room to rise in the standings with positive results. United’s path to the playoffs goes through Tulsa Roughnecks FC next. Although Tulsa has already been eliminated from playoff contention, they will be looking to play spoiler against United. That match will kick off at 6 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, October 12 from ONEOK Field.