Rapid Fire: Utah Again, Three Points Again
New Mexico United wins to keep their lead in Group C after losing to rival El Paso Locomotive
By Josh Kaskinen | Photo: Real Monarchs SLC
New Mexico United was back in Utah this afternoon to take on Real Monarchs SLC. The match ended favorably for the visiting side. Here’s what I saw:
Though a playoff berth is a near certainty for New Mexico United at this stage of the season, this game felt like a must win for the team in order to remain on top of the table and have an easier path to the first place position in group C. Last week’s loss to El Paso Locomotive FC narrowed New Mexico’s lead to only two points, with the Locos having a game in hand. A loss today would’ve made it more difficult for United to hang on to that first position, making their upcoming matchup with El Paso later this month an extremely intriguing affair. Fortunately, the team was able to handle business today against the Monarchs, while El Paso remains at home to take on the league’s only remaining undefeated side, San Antonio FC.
You Can Count on Zion’s Bank
Despite the news that fans will be able to watch New Mexico United in person next weekend at a “home” game in Colorado Springs, New Mexico United continues to travel and take care of business on the road this season. The win today was the third against Real Salt Lake’s affiliate side this season, with all three coming at Zion’s Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. United is starting to feel comfortable there, and they may get one more opportunity, as the Monarchs are on schedule to close out the regular season. If the public health orders remain the same throughout September, New Mexico United may have to continue to change the location of their scheduled home games.
Good Times, Great Goalies
With a final score of 2-0, New Mexico United recorded their fourth clean sheet of the season. Starting goalkeeper Cody Mizell was only called up to make one save throughout the match, but it was a beauty of a save on a Ryan Sierakowski chance shortly after halftime. Mizell’s counterpart, the young David Ochoa, was brilliant in his own right for the Monarchs, making five saves in the losing effort. Their difference in styles was evident throughout the match, Ochoa showing confidence in his shot-stopping ability, as he did on a Moreno attempt in the 16th minute, while Mizell showed situational awareness in coming off his line to disrupt the Monarch’s offense, nearly injuring himself in the process. Both goalies have been magnificent, as United fans have come to expect of Mizell, but we’ll also be keeping an eye on the 19 year old Ochoa’s career as he continues to develop.
Toe to Toe
One of the more intriguing matchups that caught my eye throughout the night was Kalen Ryden against Sierakowski, who came into the match at halftime for the Monarchs, replacing Kyle Coffee. Sierakowski’s impact was immediately noticed, as he recorded the only shot on target of the night for his team from a sharp angle in the 50th minute. A short while later, he had the ball in his possession near the top of the penalty area, but nothing came of the play. In both of those instances, Ryden was able to employ good footwork and positioning to either cut the play off entirely, or prevent any crosses and allow Mizell to have a clear path for the save. It’s great to see such smart play from the United defenders, and the ability to eliminate chances created from the opposing teams’ top offensive players cannot be understated.
Man, oh man. What a delight Amando Moreno has been of late. Absolutely tearing it up, and that was no different today. His brace today has helped to bring him even with Chris Wehan for the team lead in both goals (6) and assists (4). He also leads the squad in shots (25) and shots on target (14). His ability clearly stands out on the field as well, as he has been timing runs, and making incredible plays with great touches. His first goal today was tapped in after Wehan played a long ball from Austin Yearwood that dribbled past Ochoa. Wehan’s ball likely would have made it past the line, but Moreno smartly made sure that it would, finding himself in great position to battle against Gimenez. His second goal of the night featured a well timed run and a soft touch to beat Ochoa and tap the ball into the back of the net. That goal was extremely close to being ruled offside, but it ultimately was allowed to stand. Moreno could have easily had three or four goals as well, as he had an earlier chance that went wide, and another that was saved by the right hand of Ochoa. Moreno’s offensive aptitude has been on full display recently, and will hopefully continue as we come to the final month of the regular season.
An interesting tool that I have never noticed before on the USL Championship website’s Match Center shows both the starting and average positions of both teams throughout the night. United’s three-man back line stayed pretty consistent, which may have been a factor leading to the clean sheet. The offense caught my eye, however. Notice how Moreno was the most forward playing player throughout the night, while Wehan and Sandoval stayed a little further back. The play also seemed to have favored the left side of the pitch, as Suggs played slightly further ahead than Najem. Obviously these are just average positions and do not tell the entire story of the match, but I found it to be a neat little tidbit.
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With four matches remaining, New Mexico United will look to continue their winning ways and earn the top spot on the Group C table. They will be at Weidner field to take on the Colorado Springs Switchback next Saturday afternoon, with 1,000 travelling United faithful by their side. All eyes are now on United and El Paso as they continue to jockey for position for the remainder of the month.
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