New Mexico United collect their second win in three matches since the restart and move into first place in Group C.
By Josh Kaskinen, Chris Walker | Photos: El Paso Locomotive FC
Following up on a 2-2 draw at Southwest University Park the week before, New Mexico United went to El Paso and picked up three points against Locomotive FC, securing a 2-1 victory against their rivals to the South in their fourth game of the season. The win puts them on top of the table in Group C with 7 points, while El Paso, Colorado Springs, and Real Monarchs SLC trail with five, four and one point, respectively. Here’s what we took away from the match on a rainy Saturday night in Texas:
For the third time in as many matches, Chris Wehan found the back of the net for a goal. His three goals this season is currently tied with several other players for second place among all USL Championship scorers, behind only Indy Eleven’s Tyler Pasher. It’s a bit early to tell, but if Beez keeps up this pace, we could have a Golden Boot candidate in our midst. In Wehan’s rookie season that he won Rookie of the Year and the Assist Title, he was feeding balls to the teammate, Dane Kelly. Kelly 2017 USL Championship Golden Boot winner. Perhaps, Wehan has a statement to make this year.
All Set Up:
Making his return to the lineup on Saturday was Josh Suggs, who started in the left-back position. Suggs had a solid night, with 88.2% passing accuracy, four duels won, one chance created, one tackle, one clearance, and four interceptions. Where he was most noticeable, however, was on the set play directly preceding Wehan’s goal. Suggs sent in a left-footed cross right into the middle of the box, where Devon Sandoval easily headed to a wide-open Wehan. Having someone who can create chances off a set play is incredibly valuable for United. It was a welcome sight seeing the Las Cruces native return to the pitch.
Share the Wealth:
If it’s not Chis Wehan scoring the goals this season, it’s probably Devon Sandoval. And you may even see one assist the other. For the second goal of the night, it was Wehan setting up Amando Moreno, who assisted Big Dev. It’s great to see New Mexico’s top offensive players constantly getting in on the action. It would be nice to start seeing more players, such as Moreno and Parkes getting some goals as the season progresses, but if the scoring continues at the top, the wins should keep coming.
It’s Starting to Feel Like Home
Ever since the Black and Yellow Scrimmage, Moreno and Parkes have had one thing on their minds and that’s being a part of this team. Both men had impressive outings, albeit neither was match fit at the time. In Austin, Parkes couldn’t seem to get a ball on his feet fast enough to convert and Moreno was either offside or overran the through ball a tad much. In Colorado Springs, Parkes had a look at winger, as well as, Moreno and their efforts started to reveal another role they’d be serving on this team. The same proved to be true in the first El Paso match on July 15, 2020. Moreno has displayed his speed and style with handling the ball on breakaways.
In this latest match with El Paso, Moreno fed Sandoval the ball and just as soon as Sandoval sunk the goal, we saw a look of joy on Moreno’s face. He had just been a part of the sequence. Parkes ran the pitch with Wehan and volleyed a pass from Wehan just over the goal. Parkes played a strong sixty-four minutes and you caught a glimpse of his smile on camera after the lap with Wehan. These two are finding their place in the roster and you’re seeing new bonds for between Wehan and Parkes, as well as, Moreno and Sandoval.
Next man up:
One of the consistent storylines last season was United’s tendency to give up leads and let points slip away. We’ve seen glimpses of that this season, but so far, the backline has shown more of an ability to bend, but not break. In Colorado Springs, they gave up a goal right before halftime. On Saturday, they let El Paso back within one, but made some plays to prevent the equalizer. With Rashid Tetteh and Justin Schmidt still being injured, and now with Manny Padilla being released from his contract, New Mexico United’s backline will continue to be tested. Having Suggs back in the lineup is obviously a huge help, but who will step up next in case of further injuries or illnesses? Could an additional roster signing be happening in the near future? It certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Of course, we did see Austin Yearwood stay in the backline this time playing right back upon Suggs’ return. We’re starting to accept Yearwood as the right back and not seeing him as a full-in. He’s making a case for himself. Another face we saw is Saalih Muhammad. We’re sure he’s had a week to learn the centre-back role because there was more coordination on his movements and less of his teammates tugging him into hot zones. If Muhammad continues to be versatile on the team, he’ll be used in any position needed and rack up quality minutes.
Save Big Money with Mizell:
While the defense did play fairly well on Saturday, the win wouldn’t have been sealed without some late-game heroics from keeper Cody Mizell. In the final half hour of the game, Mizell made two Save of the Week caliber stops to prevent a Locomotive FC goal. Apart from an 86’ penalty shot (more on that in a moment), Mizell was perfect on the night. El Paso could have very easily scored at least three goals on the night, and this recap would’ve looked a lot different.
Same Refs, Same Rivalry:
Picking right back up where we left off from last season, we had some questionable officiating when it comes to fouls in the penalty area, and we also had two teams that really aren’t very fond of one another. On the first point, a penalty was awarded to Aaron Gomez when Kalen Ryden attempted a sliding tackle in the box. On the replay, it seemed as though Ryden was going for the ball, and he really didn’t appear to make much contact with Gomez at all, a point with which an exasperated Mizell seemed to agree with. Shortly after the penalty was converted, a similar situation occurred on the other end, when Daniel Bruce was taken down by an El Paso player in the penalty area, though he may have sold a bit more contact then he actually received, as Locomotive fans were quick to make light of on social media following the match. It may have been a “ball don’t lie” situation, however, as Wehan’’s penalty kick was stopped by El Paso goalkeeper Logan Ketterer. On the second point, it’s clear that there is still no love lost between these two teams, as a total of five yellow cards were handed out in the final twenty minutes of the match, three of which were issues for dissent or arguing. The two sides will get a couple more cracks at each other in September, so it will be curious to see if that fire still burns later this fall.
New Mexico United will be away from Group C play for a couple of weeks, as they take on Oklahoma City Energy FC on Saturday, following by Phoenix Rising FC the following week. With a couple more wins, United could really create some separation between themselves and the rest of the group, as El Paso plays a Phoenix side that will be hungry to get back on the right track following their loss to Orange County, and Real Monarchs SLC will head to Weidner Field to try to pick up some points against the Switchbacks.
We will get an injury update for you at this week’s Press Conference, as well as, check the status of the upcoming home matches. We’ll have a podcast on Thursday and match preview on Friday.