Once again, an inability to close out matches comes back to haunt United. Playoff hopes hinge on the final two matches.
By Seth Biddulph | Photo: Josh Lane/NM United
As has happened far too often this season, New Mexico United (10-10-12) couldn’t put together a complete match. After falling behind early to Tulsa Roughnecks FC (8-15-10), United’s lack of energy and killer instinct came back to bite them.
United started on the right foot, controlling the ball and trying to generate space in the final third. Tulsa, to their credit, didn’t let United get into their heads. Against the run of play, the Roughnecks would threaten inside of ten minutes. Josh Suggs attempted to clear a loose ball inside the area, but a poor touch gave possession right back to Tulsa.
Cyprian Hedrick was able to head the ball back towards goal, where Tobenna Uzo was waiting. Uzo, who effectively boxed out Justin Schmidt, would place a bicycle kick on target and out of the reach of Cody Mizell.
After falling behind for the second week in a row, United couldn’t afford to let this match get away from them. The Black and Yellow would go on to dominate possession for the remainder of the half, but wouldn’t put any real pressure on Roughnecks keeper Sean Lewis. Though credited with two saves, his net was never in any danger.
With the club ineffective in the final third, Head Coach Troy Lesesne opted to make some changes around the hour mark. Daniel Bruce and Kevaughn Frater would make their way onto the pitch to try and spark United’s attack. Now with a more balanced look on the right wing, Santi Moar would finally have space to work his magic on the left.
A cross from Moar in the 68th would be given a final touch by a streaking Devon Sandoval, pulling the visitors level. On his run, Moar had been able to draw the attention of three Tulsa defenders, including Lewis, which allowed Sandoval to find room to run.
Now level and looking dangerous for the first time in the match, United’s chances would get another boost after Marlon was sent off with his second yellow of the match. With a man advantage, supporters and the club believed that they would be able to find a winner and take home a much needed three points.
It wouldn’t come to pass, however.
We’ve talked on the podcast in the past about how going down to ten men can sometimes make clubs more dangerous. Rodrigo da Costa and company would prove this theory to be true. Pressuring United’s defense and Mizell as regulation ended, it seemed as though they had the momentum. Tulsa’s efforts would pay off deep into stoppage time.
In what was set to be the final minute of stoppage time, Janu Silva would make a deep run into the final third. With a low, left-footed shot from just outside the six-yard box, Silva would force Mizell to go to ground, but he wasn’t quick enough. The ball found space under Mizell’s arm and found its way into the far corner, putting the hosts up for good.
Disappointment poured from the traveling United supporters and those at home. Those on social media lamented the performance of the club, with some even pondering the removal of Lesesne. With two matches left, United still has a chance to make the playoffs, but they have to find a way to rebound from yet another disappointing result.
Player of the Match
Devon Sandoval – the lone goal scorer for United gets the nod this week. After a very good month of September, Devon is continuing his run of good play as the season draws to a close.
Josh Suggs will be suspended for one match due to yellow card accumulation after picking up his 8th yellow card of the season. He will miss the match against Tacoma Defiance on October 16.
Elsewhere in the league, Real Monarchs SLC defeated Phoenix Rising FC by a final of 2-1. The Monarchs victory secures their spot as the winners of the inaugural Four Corners Cup competition.
United returns home for the final two matches of the regular season. Both matches will take place this week, the first taking place on Wednesday, October 16 when the club welcomes Tacoma Defiance to The Lab. Still with a match in hand, United still has a chance to make the playoffs. Any results other than a win in either match and United will need favorable results from around the league to reach the playoffs.