By Josh Kaskinen | Photo: SSC
Even though the Switchbacks couldn’t come down to Albuquerque for a pre-season friendly, the inter-squad match consisting of “Team Somos” vs. “Team Unidos” went off without a hitch and gave fans some idea of what their New Mexico United club is going to look like in the season to come.
The match itself featured two 30-minute halves, followed by a penalty kick shootout for charity. The game ended in a 0-0 draw, with David Carl’s Team Somos coming out on top in the shootout, winning $750 for Watermelon Mountain Ranch.
Though an hour of play isn’t nearly enough time to get a solid evaluation of the players or the team as a whole, it was enough to gain some insight into what we might see this season. Ahead are a few things that I noticed as I enjoyed an afternoon of soccer on a sunny day at the UNM Soccer Complex:
The 2020 version of New Mexico United is going to have depth. Pick a position group, be it goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders or forwards, and the players are going to give Head Coach Troy Lesesne plenty of options to work with. All three goalkeepers looked confident and composed, with newcomer Philipp Biegl standing out due to his size and vocals. He could be heard from the stands giving directions to the defenders and midfielders in front of him.
Replacements Not Guaranteed
I was listening to an episode of the Podcast “Steele Some Time” with Kelsi Steele not long ago that discussed the signing of Kalen Ryden as a indication that the former Real Monarchs SLC defender would be taking the spot of Justin Schmidt in the starting lineup. I’m not sure that this necessarily needs to be the case, however, as Ryden and Schmidt played next to each other on the backline the entire afternoon, and it was a combination that seems to have some potential. Those are two massive dudes, tree trunks out there in front of Cody Mizell- solid and unmovable. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Ryden starting along with Tetteh, and perhaps Schmidt coming in as a sub. Again, this speaks to the depth of this squad.
New Kids on the Block
The nice part about not having an opposing club to play against was being able to see all of the new signings in action for the first time. Of these new players, a few stood out to me as being difference-makers right away. I was most impressed by Amando Moreno. He was light on his feet and had plenty of touches. He was able to control the ball well and move it forward on offense. He was on the ground several times, but always in a way that screamed hustle and effort, never flopping. There were a few times that it looked like he may have held onto the ball for a moment too long, rather than taking a shot, but his ability to create chances can’t be understated. Beyond Moreno, there was the steady presence of Ryden, the shot-finding ability of Sergi, and the clearance and movement ability of Najem, who seemed to have great chemistry with Tetteh and Moreno. We only got to see Tinari for about twenty minutes or so, but he will be another option in helping to control possession in the midfield and setting up the offense. I think that fans are going to grow to love this new group of players.
Who the heck are these guys?
Outside of the returning players and the new signings, there were two trialists on the field today, getting some quality minutes against professional competition while trying to prove that they deserve a spot on a professional clubs roster. Connor Rutz is a midfielder out of Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. Today he was playing in a defensive position on the left side, next to Rashid Tetteh. Rutz also has experience in USL League Two, playing in 2018 and 2019 for the Cincinnati Dutch Lions. Pablo Pelaez is also a midfielder, also playing for Team Unidos today. He hails from San Diego State University and was once a member of the national U18 squad. Both of these players are currently 22 years old, turning 23 later this year, so it will be interesting to see if they end up on the U23 squad if they don’t crack the first team roster.
What is a real match going to look like?
I’m no tactician, and I’m certainly no soccer coach, but after watching today’s scrimmage I have a pretty decent idea of a team sheet that I’d like to see with this group of players. I’ll list a starting 11 and three subs. This is just my opinion and I would trust the technical staff’s word over my own, so don’t take any stock in this outside of some fun prognosticating!
Najem Tetteh Ryden Padilla
Moreno Guzman Hamilton Bruce
Sergi in for Sandoval
Tinari in for Guzman
Suggs in for Padilla
Am I way off base? What would you change? Let me know, let’s start a conversation! Either way, soccer is back, and this season is going to be a great one! Somos Unidos!