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Front & Centre: All The Kings Men, NM United Seek Three

New Mexico must continue to score early and minimize mistakes to earn 3 points against Real Monarchs tonight.

By Josh Kaskinen | Photo: Real Monarchs SLC

New Mexico United will take to the pitch in Herriman, Utah on Saturday for the second time this week, hoping to repeat their performance from Wednesday evening that found them securing a 2-0 victory over the reigning title-holders of the USL Championship, the Real Monarchs SLC.

On Wednesday, it was a slightly different lineup employed by Technical Director and Head Coach Troy Lesesne that was able to earn the clean sheet, as players such as Josh Suggs, Rashid Tetteh, Amando Moreno, Andrew Tinari, Chris Wehan, and Devon Sandoval found themselves listed as subs, while players such as David Estrada, Joris Ahlinvi and Daniel Bruce were listed in the starting eleven. Whether this was due to load management, or simply trying a new strategy, it paid off as United earned their fifth win of the season.

The Monarchs also had some of their familiar faces on the bench to start the match including Jack Blake and Kyle Coffee. Don’t be surprised to see both teams turn back to their big names on Saturday, as the gap between the top two and bottom two teams of Group C continues to widen. Another loss could be devastating for Salt Lake City. New Mexico United currently sits atop the group standings with 16 points. El Paso Locomotive FC is in second place with 11 points, while the Monarchs and Colorado Springs Switchbacks are tied with four points apiece.

Although the Monarchs do hold two games in hand over United, and one over El Paso, they will need a huge boost from their offense if they are going to be able to salvage their season. In six matches played so far, they have only scored a total of five goals, having been shut out on three different occasions. If a productive offense is going to be a reality for SLC, look for the above-mentioned Coffee and Blake to be involved, as well as Noah Powder and Taylor Peay. Peay leads the team with two goals on the season, while Powder has two assists and seven shots.

In net, it’s been Jimmy Slayton doing most of the work for the Monarchs this season. He has made 16 saves in five appearances, conceding 8 goals. New Mexico United was able to find ways past Slayton on Wednesday, thanks to goals from Kalen Ryden (38’) and Amando Moreno (68’), though he did make four saves in the losing effort. United’s high powered offense should be able to find ways to do the same on Saturday.

The bizarre season rolls on, as New Mexico United is now over the half-way point of their 16 scheduled games. Call them the Kings of Chaos, call them the Road Warriors, call them whatever you’d like, but the fact of the matter remains that despite not having played at home, New Mexico United is inching closer and closer to clinching a playoff berth. A win on Saturday as they close out the Utah trip will bring them even closer to that goal.

By Chris Walker

Believe it or not, Wednesday’s match was a defensive effort that rewarded on the attacking side. One of Lesesne’s focuses was to have a defensively sound core on the pitch. In reviewing the game film additional times, I focused on more of the defensive play for United. You’ll see the high press, clearances, interceptions, and duals conceded in favor of United.

Defensively Speaking

United has to place emphasis on keeping the ball in-play with clearances. Anyone can kick a ball out of play, but to send crosses up the pitch and create another chance is something we need to see United do better this second match. The only positive to terminating play is no second balls for Real.

Successful dribbles by the opponent can be impeded by quality slide tackles that recover possession. United May conceding fouls by recklessly sliding in and getting nothing but the body or giving the opportunity to Real to create a dive.

United are still giving up some valuable space on the counter and you saw that when Real successfully entered the attacking side up the right lane and executed a shot on-frame through traffic. This had Real looking dangerous even from a 0-2 deficit. United need to improve their awareness upon where they feel Real wants to go and eliminate the chances.

Over The Counter

Let’s focus in on Parkes, but Parkes is not the focus of the topic. Parkes did struggle to finish on a couple of times in Wednesday’s match. In each instance, he was 1v1 on the near post with Slayton. I wonder what he saw from his vantage point in that he didn’t attempt to curl into the far post. The distance between the goalkeeper and Parkes shrunk fast and the result is a disappointment for Parkes.

It’s evident that Parkes works with a lot of room. His chances leading up to his first goal were not 1v1 chances. He was fed the ball in dangerous spots and just couldn’t lock in the angle. Adjustments have to be made because Parkes is a defensive type of player and many of his Sligo Rovers goals were for in similar spaces, but more on his terms. This is the evolution of Parkes transitioning from the winger to the striker for New Mexico United.

The top three were Ahlinvi, Parkes, and Estrada followed by Bruce, Ryan Williams, Saalih Muhammad, and David Najem. This isn’t the usual crew in on a counter-attack. Shots were fired from the likes of Ahlinvi and Najem, but I think that grouping was missing at least a Sandoval or Moreno to add more targets in on a counter.

Everyone wants to shoot, but not everyone should shoot. This was a distribution heavy group that lacked experienced goal scorers. To shift the focus back to scoring on the counter, then you need to address personnel a lot sooner in the match in my opinion. I’d expect tonight’s match to feature Chris Wehan, Parkes, and Moreno from the kickoff.

Like Kings

Monarchs Players to Watch: Kyle Coffee, Luke Mulholland, Taylor Peay

United Players to Watch: Devon Sandoval, Chris Wehan, David Estrada, Cody Mizell

Particulars:

New Mexico United at Real Monarchs, at Zions Bank in Herriman, Utah at 8:00 pm MT. Tonight’s match can be live-streamed on ESPN+(requires subscription). Tune into ESPN The Team 101.7 at 6:00 pm for Pre-match coverage.

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