By Chris Walker | Photo: NM United
Justin Schmidt returns for his third year to New Mexico United. Schmidt played one match before he would be sidelined for the 2020 season with a lower-body injury. Schmidt returning for 2021 means the backline has more depth than it did in 2020 and it truly gives United flexibility to play in a true back 3 with all centre backs or shift into a back 4.
This announcement alone should give United supporters some kind of visual. One of the original questions we had for Technical Director and Head Coach Troy Lesesne ahead of the 2020 season was if he would consider playing a back 3 to give all three centre-backs (Rashid Tetteh, Kalen Ryden) equal playing time or if bringing in Ryden was to create some healthy competition in the backline. Lesesne said he thought there would be competition in positions, but also that he would consider shifting into a back 3.
The back 3 was something we noticed when we began to watch old footy of Lesesne’s time as an Assistant Coach at Charlotte Independence. Coincidentally, the new players added to the squad in 2020 were all players that have played against Independence during Lesesne’s stint in Charlotte.
The 2020 season gave us a back 3 and some competition in the backline. It didn’t happen the way we thought it would. Tetteh and Schmidt were out much of the season. We also know that Ryden can play anywhere in the backline as well.
Schmidt brings forward an impressive 31 starts in 31 matches and 2,790 minutes from his 2019 season. He also towers alongside Ryden re-introducing some height advantage to the final third. Daniel Bruce is feisty, but Bruce is no skyscraper. Schmidt also had 132 clearances, 24 blocks, and 36 interceptions.
Some other notable Schmidt information for new and old supporters: Comic-Con is a place you may find him and he is an Aqua-Man fan, he likes to read, he plays guitar and sings, he beat-boxes, and has a cannon for a leg if he gets a chance to shoot.
Welcome back, Justin Schmidt.