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Front & Centre: United Must Stay Unpractical To Earn Three Points

New Mexico must play a sound defensive game against Switchbacks FC and finish their final balls.

By Chris Walker | Photo: Marcos Travers/NM United

The quest for 3 points continues again this weekend on the road. This season’s adventure map has had a different marker at each destination. New Mexico United know Weidner Park very well this year.

A week is removed from United’s latest find, 9 points from 3 matches in both Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Herriman, Utah. Just as Forest Fenn’s Treasure was eventually found in early June of this year.

Unlike Fenn’s Treasure Hunt, this chase for points is far from over. This week, United returns to Colorado to face Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. United is 5-0-0, all-time, against Switchbacks FC.

They have defeated Switchbacks FC by a goal each match and most recently, United held Switchbacks FC scoreless the second half of the match to earn goalkeeper Cody Mizell his second clean sheet of the season.

United have a 7-point lead on derby rival El Paso Locomotive and 11-point lead on Switchbacks FC. With a comfortable lead, you’d imagine preparation for these matches is not as involved as it once was at the beginning of the season.

“We approach every game professionally,” said midfielder Chris Wehan on the Zoom Press Conference earlier this week.

“But our staff certainly puts together a report and spends a lot of time putting (a)video together on how we’re gonna exploit them and play them. And to their credit, I think that’s made us prepared every game,” Wehan adds.

“So, I think it’ll be the same thing going into Colorado Springs. We’re gonna scout them, we’re gonna watch video, we’re gonna find little areas that we can take advantage of them and I have no doubt that come Thursday we’ll be watching video and these 9 points in 3 games will be well behind us and we’ll be prepared for Colorado (Springs) come Saturday,” Wehan concludes.

While every match is worth 3 points for the win, each match is considered a six-pointer when playoff talks arise. That is, it’s 3 points you earn and 3 points your opponent cannot earn. Every match to-be-played (TBP) is important, but these head-to-head Group C matches are really critical.

Table Talk

(Image Courtesy of FotMob)

Colorado Springs has played one game less than New Mexico. So they have one game in hand. You’ll see to the far right they have 6 points from the 8 matches they’ve played. They have 8 matches left (including tonight) and a total of 24 points they can earn from those matches. So their total point ceiling is 30 currently. Along those same lines, Real Monarch has 4 points through 7 matches, so they have 9 matches left and a total of 27 points they can earn from those matches. ThatHello brings their ceiling to 31 points.

So for United to clinch playoffs today, they would need 32 points. But since all of these teams have matches against each other, some point ceilings are going to drop lower and the number of points to clinch will become more finite.

The level of competition within each group is becoming seemingly clear at this midway point to the season.

Where The Trailhead Runs: Switchback FC Preview

Switchbacks FC have drawn twice since they last played United. They are 0-2-3 (W-D-L) in their last 5 matches. They battled it out more recently with El Paso Locomotive for 90 minutes ending in a 0-0 draw. On Wednesday, they found themselves in a goalless struggle falling behind 0-4 to Austin Bold FC by half time. They would eventually rally back to score 4 goals and ends the match in a 4-4 draw.

Our preview of Switchbacks FC picks up from their latest match with Austin Bold FC.

Formation

Switchbacks FC have lined up in a 4-4-2 and a 5-4-1 so far this season. Their latest system is a 4-3-3. They keep their two centre-backs in the defensive third. Meanwhile, the number 2 and 3 (right and left fullbacks) release high as wingers to send balls into the 18. From there, their number 9 will try to get positioning on the deepest man while looking for the number 10 or 11. Just by looking at their starting and average position charting, it still very much operates like a 4-4-2.

Starting Position (Switchbacks FC = Gold)
Average Position (Switchbacks FC = Gold)

Notables: #2 Joan Cervos created 4 chances for Switchbacks FC against United in the initial match this season. Cervos was dangerous from the left plain area sending balls into Christian Volesky and Aidan Daniel’s.

Top Performers in this Match

  • Christian Volesky: 2 Goals
  • Aidan Daniels: 4 Chances Created
  • Adrian Lewis: 1 Goal
  • George Lebese: 1 Goal

First Half

Switchbacks FC went down 0-4 namely due to bad zonal marking and not picking up the right man. In addition, they were not looking sharp building out of the back. Bold FC’s pace allow them to force turnovers. Possession was significant for Bold, but at some point Switchbacks FC was able to get a hold on that.

Second Half

Switchbacks FC really had a strong half, even being down 0-4, and managed to put together some positive efforts.

Shots on Target / Shot off Target

Courtesy of USL Championship

Goals / Assist

Courtesy of USL Championship

Possession

Courtesy of USL Championship

Switchbacks FC had a lot of good possession. They’ll be looking to get into dangerous spaces against United.

Unsuccessful open play crosses

Courtesy of USL Championship

Switchbacks FC will be looking to improve on their open play crosses. New Mexico United does struggle to defend the cross both in open play and set play.

Notables: #44 Jordan Burt will be looking to connect on the in-swingers he sends into the box.

Switchbacks FC Lineup Prediction:

  • Abraham Rodriguez
  • Cervos-Quintero-Diz Pe-Burt
  • Kurimoto-Dewing-Lewis
  • Lebese-Volesky-Daniels

New Mexico United Preview

Fan Player Ratings for the Starting XI and the subs (black shirts) last week. Amando Moreno and Chris Wehan received higher ratings due to scoring goals.

Each player’s performance must be more, which can be fewer turnovers, creating chances, winning tackles, finishing chances. But seeing these average numbers won’t be enough to hold off a team like Switchbacks FC if they are on their horse.

It’s going to be critical for the middle third to win tackles and force turnovers. The backline needs to eliminate second balls and keep balls in play.

If we come out in a 4-2-3-1, I expected either image below to be the roster lineup.

If they come out in a 3-4-3, I would expect the following roster lineup.

  • Mizell
  • Tetteh-Ryden-Yearwood
  • Najem-Tinari-Muhammad-Suggs
  • Ahlinvi-Wehan-Moreno

Broadcast Details

New Mexico plays at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Weidner Park at 6 pm MT. The match will be live-streamed on ESPN+(subscription needed)

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