We have arrived! The long wait is over! New Mexico United will begin their second campaign this weekend in Austin, Texas as they take on Austin Bold FC. After a strong preseason campaign that included a 0-0 intrasquad match, wins against El Paso, Oklahoma City and Phoenix, and a loss against League One side FC Tucson, the team will finally get to play in a match that counts as the 2020 USL Championship season gets underway.
Much has already been written and speculated about the new-look roster for New Mexico United as we begin this second season, but the truth is, we won’t know how things will look until the players step onto the pitch for the first time on Saturday. Will newcomers Romeo Parkes, Amando Moreno, and Sammy Sergi be able to step up and replace the scoring of Santi Moar and Kevaughn Frater? Will Kalen Ryden be as much of a bolster to the back line as advertised? Will the returning players continue to impress us? Who will be the starters? What formation will head coach Troy Lesesne utilize? All of those questions and more can finally begin to be answered this weekend.
Coming off an inaugural campaign that had its highs and lows, but ultimately saw New Mexico United limp into and bow out of the Western Conference playoffs, the club will be looking to build off of the energy and excitement of fans throughout the state who are hungry for more. The team recently unveiled their away kits for the new season. They are bright yellow with the Kraneshares logo prominently displayed on the front, with the four lines representing the Zia symbol extending out into the front of the kit from the lower right side. Expect to see plenty of these jerseys, and their crowd-pleasing “Meow Wolf” counterparts at your local watch party this weekend.
The opposing Austin Bold FC should provide plenty of challenge for the new-look United. A season ago, as one of the other Western Conference expansion teams, the Bold finished 8th on the table with a record of 13-9-12, allowing them to host a play-in match. In that game against LA Galaxy II, the Bold advanced by a score of 2-0 and earned the right to head to top-seeded Phoenix Rising FC for the conference quarterfinals, where they would fall in penalty kicks after a scoreless match.
New Mexico United had mixed results in two matches played against Austin Bold last season, first earning a 3-1 win at Bold Stadium in May, and later playing to a 2-2 draw at The Lab. How United ends up stacking up against the Bold in their first match of the 2020 season could be a great litmus test of the quality of both of these second-year sides. A win on the road in the opener would go a long way toward establishing confidence and a plan of attack for the season to come.
One of the Bold’s best attributes last season was defense. As a team, they conceded only 52 goals, and their 10 clean sheets was among the top half of the league in that category. They also won 69% of their tackles, a nice stat that the team will be looking to build on this season. Here’s a quick look at the roster to take a look at the pieces that Austin has put together to try to achieve even more success in year two:
Diego Restrepo- Goalkeeper
The 30-year-old Venezuelan keeper is a bit undersized at 6’0, but that hasn’t stopped him from being successful throughout his career. In 2017, he was named the USL Championship’s Goalkeeper of the Year while playing for San Antonio FC. This past season, he recorded all ten clean sheets for Austin and had a save success rate of over 70%. Finding a way to beat Restrepo will be key if United hopes to pick up some points this weekend.
Andre Lima- Forward
Lima was the top goal-scorer during Austin’s inaugural season last year with 14 goals in 35 appearances. If he can continue that output this season, the Bold could take a step forward and finish higher on the table this time around.
Kris Tyrpak- Forward
The local kid from Dripping Springs, Texas returns for his second season with Austin Bold FC. The former Chivas USA draft pick scored 9 goals last season. His wealth of experience in a variety of levels of American soccer should pay dividends for the club this season.
Sean McFarlane- Defender
McFarlane’s 12 assists last season was good enough for third in the entire league. USL Championship writer Nicholas Murray recently named him as Austin’s “Player to Watch.” Look for him to be involved on offense on the right side of the pitch.
Kléber was a productive member of Austin Bold’s offense last season. With 11 goals in 26 appearances, he was one of the top contributors. He made the news late last season for spitting on an opponent in a match against Real Monarchs SLC, earning himself a red card and a four game suspension. Seeing as the Bold only played two playoff games last season, Kleber will be serving the final game of his suspension and will be unavailable against United this weekend.
George Acosta- Midfielder
Though the young midfielder didn’t get much of a chance to show what he was made of last season, his potential will be missed as the 20 year old has gone on to join David Beckham and Inter Miami FC for their inaugural MLS season.
Ema Twumasi- Forward
Twumasi joined the Bold on loan last season from FC Dallas, and he was one of the top contributors on offense. He ended up being fourth on the team in goals scored with 4, despite having only 20 appearances. They will miss his production as he returns to the MLS club that drafted him in 2018.
Ish Jome- Defender
Jome comes to Austin from Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, where he had 4 goals as a defender last season. Look for him to be McFarlane’s counterpart on the left side of the pitch as they utilizing the flanking backs on offense, much like United might do with Manny Padilla or Josh Suggs.
Forbes spent last season with fellow Copa Tejas side San Antonio FC, where he took 42 shots and had 3 goals. He should help out up top in adding another dimension to scoring alongside Lima
Brecc Evans- Defender
Evans joins the Bold from USL League One side North Texas SC, where his strong play at center back helped lead them to the top of the table and to the first ever League One title. Adding another young player to an already solid backfield presence should cause problems for opposing attackers all season long.
There should be a strong, loud presence of United fans at Bold Stadium on Saturday, as several fans have voiced their intentions to travel the capital city of the Lone Star State. For those that aren’t making the trip, there will be several watch parties happening around the Albuquerque metro area, as well as others throughout the state. The match will be available to stream on ESPN+, and is scheduled for a 6:30pm mountain time start.